So I'm out of the office this week, and as I notified each of my clients most of them made comments hoping that I was having a relaxing week off. Truth be told, it's not a relaxing week whatsoever, but it's still fun. See, in my "spare" time I'm a basketball fanatic. More specifically, I'm a UNLV fan to the core. I grew up watching UNLV, my nephew plays basketball, and everyone in my family has been involved in doing the statistics for UNLV men and women's basketball. My dad was the one who started working stats for them, and over time he became in charge of the stat crew and hired my mom, my sisters, and myself (gotta love nepotism!). I was the only one out of my sisters that really stuck with it, eventually becoming in charge of the stat crew once my dad retired. I've been doing it for 23 years now, and I absolutely love it. That doesn't mean, however, that it's relaxing. I've been working the conference tournament for nearly as long as I've been working basketball, first with the Big West conference, then the WAC, and now the Mountain West. I used to do the stats but now just volunteer with media relations, working in various capacities. And yes, I said volunteer...I don't get paid, that's how much I love doing it (I get paid by UNLV during the regular season but I volunteer with the MWC for the tournament). But it's long hours, I'm on my feet and walking all around the arena the entire day, I don't see daylight or get fresh air from 10am (ish) to 10pm (ish), sometimes even as late as midnight. The food isn't all that great. The days run together. But as I said, I love it and wouldn't trade it for the world. However, I've learned the hard way that no matter how much you might love something, it can still wear on you and you have to learn self-care, you have to put yourself first. That's not selfishness. That's self-preservation. I call it "oxygen mask theory." When you're on a plane and the flight attendants are giving their schpiel, when they talk about what you should do if they lose cabin pressure and the oxygen masks drop down, what do they say? "Put yours on first and then help others than need assistance." Self-care. But everyone has different self-care needs, and it's important to know what yours are. For me, it's sleep. It's always been sleep for me, but it's become noticeably more so since I was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery and radiation. If I don't get 8 hours of sleep each night, I notice a very clear difference. If I get less than 6 hours, I start to feel ill. If I have 2 days in a row of less than 6 hours, I might as well call in sick...I'm in (literal) physical pain, nauseous, I can't think straight, I experience depersonalization & derealization, and I'm definitely more emotional. So when I work this tournament each year, as much as I love doing it, I have to be extremely cautious with my self-care. I tend to want to come home and veg out to some TV shows, but if I do that, I'm sacrificing sleep. If my friends want me to meet up with them for a drink or some food, I have to be cognizant enough to say no, no matter how much I may want to. In America we are so fast-paced, goal-oriented, achievement-driven. That's why our nation is so powerful in this world, but I feel like it's also why we suffer so many illnesses. Nearly every single client who sits in my office has talked about struggling with self-care. They have a hard time putting themselves first, they think that makes them selfish. Again and again I teach the value of taking care of ourselves, giving permission to them to put their needs first, and telling them to give themselves that same permission. So during this week while I'm having fun but also focusing on self-care, ask yourself how often you put yourself first or how often you defer your own self-care needs in order to achieve a goal or take care of someone else. And start thinking about and discovering what your self-care rituals are. I'd love to hear from all of you what they are, or what struggles you find in implementing self-care. But always remember...put your oxygen mask on first.