Big week. Very big week. I had some larger than life meetings with some people who can actually help me make my ultimate career dreams come true. It’s exciting and can be overwhelming, but I’ve realized the importance of one thing.

I need to step back and take care of myself when I’m busy. It’s the best thing I could ever do for myself.

Take a client of mine who recently had a launch of her new product. There were the parties and the fund raisers. There were the meetings and the press events. There was excitement, and the fulfillment of a dream that she had been working on for many years. After the big event, she was sick for a month. Colds, flu, congestion, aching, you name it, she had it. And as soon as she got well, she jumped on a plane and did a tour promoting her product. She ran and ran and ran herself into the ground and it’ll be no surprise to anyone to hear, she got sick once again.

Another client I work with dealt with another stressful event which ultimately caused her illness. This lady is a manager and had to cover during work for a few employees who were out with pregnancy and a surgery. My client is completely capable and able to do the jobs of her co workers well, but the stress got to her. She ended up caving and fell ill at the end of her ramped up time. She ended up missing several days of work in a row as a result, which ultimately did not help the department. As a matter of fact, it COST the department. It slowed down the work because of the several sick days.

What these two clients had in common was that they put their work before themselves. They put the goals of their company before their own, and sacrificed over and over until they made the sacrifice of their health. They ended up having to take off a lot of time from work after the fact and their work probably suffered while they were there because both of them worked while they were sick.

Putting ourselves first often sounds selfish. It sounds like we’re self important or too good to work too hard. Nothing can be further from the truth. If we value the company or our work, we’ll value ourselves first. If we take care of ourselves, we’ll be strong for our company. If we take care of ourselves, we won’t get sick after the busy time, or stressful times.

Taking care of ourselves means different things to different people. To me, it means getting in exercise several days a week and eat healthy foods. It means getting lots of down time, to be alone and to read and write. To me, it means getting to spend time laughing and playing with my son and reading to him or drawing with him. To me, it means connecting with my husband and getting to hear about his daily events that take place. It also means, connecting with my family and my friends via phone or in person. Lastly, it means that I have prayer time, and complete quiet time where I can just listen.

I find when I do these things, and take great care of myself, and have a lot of time just alone or being with my close circle of friends and family, I feel more productive. I’m more creative, and I’m happier. I feel more centered, and more balanced. I lose the anxiety, and the stress. I can also handle more stress because I feel stronger.

It’s taken me years to find the formula that works for me. I know immediately when I’m out of balance. I start losing things and my clothes pile up in my closet. My desk gets overly cluttered and my house looks messy. I start getting a bit pudgy and my clothes feel tight. My nails and my hair start to look worn and I don’t feel the inner spark that I love to share with others.

So like today, in the midst of my excitement, I took the morning off to spend with my dog. She needed me. She had a cough. So I took her for a walk. I read my bible and I wrote in my journal. I spoke with my mom a few times and emailed and called a dear old friend. I spent time out on my porch just reading and soaking in the sun shine. Later, even after work, I felt good. I handled some “parental stress” that is a part of a working mom’s day such as dinner, bath time and assisting getting a splinter of a screaming child’s hand. I handled it all with grace and ease. I felt fine that even though there was a bit of chaos around me, it didn’t affect me. I was in the flow and it felt right.

When we finally get this lesson about taking good care of ourselves, we’ve usually already done it wrong for a good many years. I sure did. I used to live on adrenaline and was a complete junky. As a result, I never felt really good. I was overweight and out of shape. And, I’d prefer to not go back there.

So to challenge yourself, just review for yourself what YOU need to do to feel good about yourself. Do you need exercise? Do you need a special meal? Do you need to bask in the sunlight or get a massage? Whatever it is, make it happen. Trade massages with someone else if you have to, but figure it out.

Your body will thank you. Your mind will thank you. And ultimately your life will thank you, and reward you, just for taking care of yourself.