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Years ago, while going through a cataclysm in the 7th year of a business that I had started, my wife and I found ourselves in an intensive marriage counseling experience in another state. We had found ourselves in a position where external stressors had put our marriage relationship in danger—we were so pretzel-twisted to meet the expectations of others outside of our home life that we couldn’t recognize ourselves or each other. The counseling experience helped us acknowledge the realities of the current circumstances and make choices to lead us out of the unsustainable lifestyle we had been leading.

There was a key moment during that therapy that has come back to correct me several times in the ensuing years. One of the counselors asked me what sorts of activities I engaged in for recreation. As I attempted to answer the question, I began to discover that I often would seek “escape” or “diversion” or “entertainment.” But they kept pressing: What do you do that “re-creates” you? As I began to press into my memory for the activities that I truly find refreshing, I found that I had abandoned or neglected nearly all of them. “Why?” they asked. My mumbling reply was that the financial demands of family and home ownership, etc. made it impossible for me to justify the expenses of the hobbies I had once enjoyed.

“So, what you are telling me is that you are not worth re-creating?”

I had to admit to myself that I had neglected to take care of myself, and as a result my ability to meet the relationship needs of my family had suffered. I had to re-evaluate (measure the value of things) and reprioritize my resources.

In the self-help bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey identifies the 7th Habit as “Sharpening the Saw.” By this he means those things that we do that make us grow, but also those things that bring back our edge. Without re-creating habits or patterns, we become dull and ineffective, and inevitably frustrated.

I invite you to ask yourself these questions for assessment: 1) Are my time-off activities things that refresh me, or do they merely distract me? 2) Are there ways that I used to express creativity that have fallen away, and now I am content with mere “pastimes?” 3) Am I consciously measuring the value of the things that I spend my time on in a way that benefits me (and then others)?

Those who fly on a commercial airline have heard the instruction about what to do if the oxygen masks drop down from overhead: Put on your own first, before trying to assist others. Self-care is essential to being effective in meeting the needs of others.

Give yourself permission to be refreshed—go and recreate yourself!