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Are you cancelable?

When I was being certified as a health coach, I live-streamed the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s live events, which are weekend long extravaganzas of top speakers from the world of health and wellness. Once, I was surprised to see that one of the speakers lined up for the day was Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post fame. What could she possibly have to say about health and wellness?

It turns out that she is very knowledgeable about the relationship between sleep and health, and part of the reason she stepped away from HuffPo was to work on her book, The Sleep Revolution. During her talk at the live event, she spoke with great passion and humor about how she brought awareness of better “sleep hygiene” and opportunities for staff to rest (on the job!) to HuffPo.

It’s not news that we are living over-committed, over-scheduled high octane lives and that getting by on less sleep is a badge of honor whether we are harried professionals, stay-at-home-moms, college students, and now—to my complete dismay—even high school students.

Our school district recently polled the community on whether or not to push high school start times later, and naturally there was a flurry of discussion about it on social media. There are a lot of considerations: Is it dark when the kids drive to school? How will this affect sports practices? What about older siblings who need to help out with the transport and care of younger ones? Etc.

I watched with horror as the discussions degenerated into a recounting of how little sleep my daughter’s peers get, how they stay up until the wee hours, crawl out of bed, grab an enormous coffee/dessert for breakfast (@Starbucks, I’m calling you out!), go to school, go to practice, come home, collapse, then wake up to do homework and start the cycle over again.

Yes, I guess I’m that mother—the one who requires her teen to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night or surrender the car keys, allows her kids to sign up for one and only one after school activity, makes them eat family meals nightly, confiscates technology at 8:30pm (yes, that applies to sleepover guests as well), and insists on a reasonable (by my standard) bedtime.

And yes, I actually have said—more than once—”Because I’m the parent here.” (File under “things I say that I swore I would never say as a parent.”) In my defense, I do model the behavior I preach.

It’s a cross my children bear, occasionally with good grace but more often than not with the if-you-do-that-enough-your-eyes-will-stick-back-there eyeroll.

But the way I see it, we owe it to our kids to teach them that they are not cancelable—taking care of themselves is something they need to learn before they go off to college: good food, sufficient sleep, regular physical activity, healthy relationships—these aren’t optional.

Let me say that again: taking care of yourself is not optional.

And when you say, “I don’t have time to …,” I hear “I don’t prioritize … in my life.”

I see you rolling your eyes, and let me tell you, if you do that enough, they’ll stick back there.

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But seriously—it comes down to this: if you wouldn’t cancel on your work, your client’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your kids’ needs, why would you cancel on yourself?

I love this blog post by Holly Southerland, with whom I am co-hosting a women’s workshop series in March: it’s a great testimonial to what can happen when we stop canceling our sleep, our exercise, our commitment to home-cooked meals, etc.

I often get asked what I do as an Integrative Nutrition® health coach. The most succinct reply I can give is: I give you permission and support to take care of yourself in the midst of your crazy life…just until you are ready to do that for yourself.

And as a health coach, even when someone isn’t a client and I run into her after having one conversation about self-care, I often hear, “You know what??? Ever since I talked to you, I’ve started [exercising/eating better/sleeping more/fill in the self-care item here]!!!” (Yes, all the punctuation.)

Having trouble keeping appointments with and for yourself? Join me and Holly for a Month of Margin—permission and support, coming up!