Happy weekend!!

Have you ever had the experience of being frustrated when your intimate partner or a family member just doesn’t “get it” and can’t seem to anticipate your needs?

Or, getting so busy with outside commitments that you realize after a total meltdown that you’ve complete neglected your own needs for way too long? (In fact, you can’t remember the last time you did something just for “you”… and no, drinking a bottle of wine doesn’t count 😉

Learning how to get clear on what your needs are, communicate them to those around you, AND prioritize time to make sure your needs are getting met is so important for this journey of increased happiness and health that you’ve embarked on.

You know as well as I do what happens when your needs are ignored for too long. Self-care slides, then stress increases, your spouse might notice you’re short-tempered or snapping more quickly, you find yourself craving the sensation of numbing out or turning off your brain.

The thing is, no one is going to do this for you. You have to be the one to step up and make sure you are taking care of your needs. You can ask for support (more on this later) but ultimately, it’s your responsibility.

I thought I would share a couple of examples of how my clients are learning to prioritize themselves (names changed), and a recent example from my own life, with the hopes these will inspire you.

Penny is very out-going and loves to be social. Yet, on the other hand, she’s a highly sensitive intuitive person. She’s been working really hard setting up her coaching business while also working in alternative therapies. She gives a lot of energy to her clients and the people around her. This week is her birthday, and though it felt a bit “strange” for her to plan a trip by herself, especially with a long list of “shoulds” for her business launch, she decided to treat herself to a mid-week vacation out of the city where she is currently soaking up the gorgeous energy from being in the forest and immersed in nature. (Happy birthday!!)

Jennifer lives a very fast paced life in NYC. While she has a lot of both friend-based and work-related social engagements, she’s learning that she is an introvert and needs plenty of time alone to recharge. She has started saying “no” to certain evening events that will drain her and also give her more temptation to drink. She’s moving in with her boyfriend and learning to communicate aspects of her introverted nature to him (he’s an extrovert). Next month, she has a trip out of state, a Board of Director’s training, and has decided to stay an extra night by herself, even though she initially felt she “should” come back to the city to spend time with her boyfriend whom she will just have moved in with.

Anita works from home and has been having a hard time to feel motivated to do anything other than push through her day until it’s time for the end of day reward: a glass (or 3) of wine. She lives alone and is only accountable to herself. When we first spoke, there were many things she wanted to be doing: exercising again, having more time for creative projects, acquiring new freelance clients, being more productive during her working hours, feeling less lonely. In addition to hiring me as her coach, she has also enlisted a personal trainer a couple of days a week and has let another friend in her building know that she wants an accountability buddy for the gym. They are planning set times to meet in the gym, on the days Anita doesn’t have her training. She is also taking herself on “work dates” to get out of her house and treat herself to inspiring work environments around the city she lives in.  (Really cool side note, Anita did a budget and realized how much money she’s be saving by cutting out most of her wine-drinking, and is investing that money in the trainer and coaching).

Dinner feels like a chore for another new client, Christy. She admitted to me that she doesn’t really like to cook but feel like she should, because if let up to her husband, they’d be eating McDonald’s. Though she has a lot of responsibility with her position as work, she had started feeling that it was monotonous and that she was bored. Coupled with the drudgery she felt around planning dinner, her evening glass of wine while preparing dinner is quite a treat to look forward to. We brainstormed a list of things she could do between the end of her work day and dinner time, which included bike riding, playing outside with her daughter, taking the dogs for walks and maybe most importantly, having a weekly healthy meal delivery and switching off with her husband for the other weekday meals. She still decides what they eat, and gets the ingredients together, but he actually spends the time cooking while she can go out and enjoy other things.

When you start to get clear on what your needs are and start to have conversations with those around you about your needs, the easier it becomes to show up for yourself.

The more alternatives you can create for yourself, the less likely you are to reach for the easy answer (alcohol).

Sure, it takes a bit more work, in the beginning, to get clear on what the needs are that are hiding underneath the craving, but once you start being able to meet those needs in other ways – alcohol starts to lose its appeal. At the very least, it loosens its grip a bit and you have the added bonus of the outcomes of other needs being met.

Making sure your needs are getting met is on-going work for many of us… as women, sisters, daughters, mothers, helpers, service providers, caregivers, business owners…

Ideally, we get so good at talking about and communicating our needs that those around us start noticing whether or not we’re meeting our own needs, and find ways to help us prioritize them.

This happened for me last night when, after dinner, my partner mentioned: “You haven’t been dancing in a long time. Not since before you went to New York. All you do is work and spend time with Luna and do stuff in the house. What if you started going to dance classes again some evenings, instead of always being on the computer? Or, if you want to do things like go for a run in the morning, we can take turns with Luna” (Currently, I’m always with our daughter in the mornings while he goes surfing or for a run)

To be honest, I was more than a little surprised that he noticed. I’ve spent so much time in the past talking about how important dancing and movement is for me and I get thrown out of whack if I go too long without it – yet it’s easy for me to forget this need I have, especially when I get wrapped up with my work (which I do love) and being a mom (which I also love). My guy has seen what happens when I de-prioritize my needs, and as stress builds and I become more anxious, my sleep deteriorates and I get crankier. The cool thing is that instead of it going that far and him becoming reactive to that behaviour, he’s starting to recognize what to do proactively.

Communicating your needs to family members and friends can help serve the same purpose. Again though, coming back to the beginning on this post, you have to be the ones to tell them  – you can’t expect them to guess!

Now, I’d love to hear from you – what are you current unmet needs? What can you start doing differently to make sure these needs start getting met? Finally, what will be the positive outcome from making this shift?