Taking care of ourselves is not an innate thing for most moms and leaders. I remember when my second child was a few weeks old I was standing in my bathroom staring out the window. In the background, my baby was crying and my toddler was probably hiding in her room. I didn’t care. I remember wondering why I didn’t care. I felt numb.

My gut told me this wasn’t right and something needed to change. It was the first time I experienced such sadness that wasn’t just the blues. This was something more. It was depression. I knew from walking the journey with my mom, I wouldn’t be immune to it but oh how I had hoped it wouldn’t strike me.

The first step in taking care of myself was the hardest. I knew I needed to ask for help. How do you start a conversation with anyone and share how hard life seems to be right now when everything on the outside looks so joyous? From watching my mother, I knew the benefits of taking the steps to care for myself would be the greatest gift to not only my family, but to me. Talking to a dear friend who knew life was hard right now and just listened was my first step.

The next step was doing the things that filled my emotional well-being. As leaders, we tend to give ourselves less grace and time than anyone else in our circle. I realize as a wife, sister, daughter, mother and leader I need to be filled so I can fill others. That may include backing off on doing things so that I can rest, exercise and care for myself. Taking a walk to get outside, feel the warmth of the sun and smell the nature God created is one of the things that refuel me.

These aren’t acts of selfishness but of giving. I have come to realize I cannot give my best to others before I give to myself. I cannot be there for my friend who is suffering if I am in a place of suffering. I cannot lead well if I am not caring for myself. It’s not always easy, but it is always better when I take care of myself along the way.

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Jennifer is the mom of four girls from elementary to college age. Her love language is a good cup of coffee and a conversation. She writes, speaks and works at MOPS International leading volunteers.