Do you know your priorities? If not, that’s exactly what we’re going to be diving into – how to prioritize, why you should prioritize and the importance of prioritizing health for a better gut microbiome and overall well-being.
*This is a modified transcript of an episode from my podcast, The Nourished & Thriving show. This episode is titled “The Price of Waiting: Why Delaying Care for Digestive Issues Comes at a Cost (published November 2023), which you can find on your favorite listening platform here.
*This is not medical advice.
First things first, I’m a registered dietitian on a mission to help you increase your impact and legacy on the world while healing your gut and reducing your IBS symptoms. My goal is to inspire you to live vibrantly and provide valuable resources and information that empowers you to take bold action towards your health goals.
Urgency Versus Actual Priorities
I’ve been thinking a lot about urgency and priorities lately… It’s so easy to choose the urgent tasks in the short term, instead of really being able to choose the more important, long term priorities that don’t feel as urgent in the moment.
If you choose the urgent things that are grabbing at your attention every single day, chances are you’re very busy, you’re ending your days very tired, and oftentimes you’re frustrated or feeling like you actually haven’t accomplished anything. When you only focus on the urgent task at hand, you end up spinning your wheels all day and don’t really have anything to show for it. If that all sounds familiar, then that’s a good indicator that you are choosing the urgent things instead of the things that are actual priorities to you. And as a woman, I get it. As a mom, I get it. We have a lot of demands on our schedules, and often a lot of urgent tasks we have to wade through.
So it can be really challenging to keep up with these priorities. Since you’re reading this, I am willing to guess that one of the biggest priorities for you is your health. Despite health being a priority, it’s not urgent. It’s something we tend to put on the back burner… Until we can’t any longer.
Maybe you’re at that point now where you can’t put it on the back burner anymore. Maybe you’re in a place where your health has become an urgent matter, likely because it’s been put on the back burner for months or even years. Maybe you’re in the place where you are having digestive symptoms or other health concerns… But it’s not as urgent as other things in your life yet.
Weighing the Cost of Priorities
No matter where you’re at, I want to ask: What is it costing you to wait to take action? What is the cost of inaction? What is the cost of choosing those urgent themes in your life? What is it costing you to put off making the changes you need to in order to make those priorities actually be treated like priorities? What is it costing you to put off the changes that you need to make to improve your gut health?
The cost might be something you’re not realizing quite yet. It’s possible the cost is in the future. That’s oftentimes the case whenever we’re choosing things that are more urgent, but ultimately less important. In the scenario where my clients are not prioritizing health, I encourage them to ask themselves: Would the me 20 years from now wish that I had chosen that today? That’s a really quick way to put it into perspective and to understand whether what you’re choosing to pay attention to today is actually important or whether it is an urgent thing that I need to step away from because it’s not ultimately a priority.
If prioritizing health is important, but you’re not investing in it today, then there’s a high chance you’re going to be in that situation. It’s really simple – Do you care about your health? If you answered ‘yes’, then it is a priority for you. You must take action towards it. If you choose to ignore it and claim “I’m a healthy person” without doing any of the work, then you’re fooling yourself.
Making Time for Priorities
Every time you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else and vice versa. For example, maybe you got nominated for committee and you don’t necessarily feel like it’s something that is aligned with your purpose, but you feel bad or feel guilty saying no… You wonder “who else is going to do it?!” or “I should say yes”. By saying yes, you’re saying no to other things. You’re saying no to more aligned things. Maybe you’re saying no to peace in your home or more quality time with your family or time to meal plan and prep your food and you’re scrambling for meals because you said ‘yes’ to something that you should have said ‘no’ to.
Likewise, whenever you say ‘no’ to something, you’re saying ‘yes’ to something else. Referring back to the previous committee example, if you were to say ‘no’, then what all are you saying ‘yes’ to?
Why do we over commit and say ‘yes’ to things we don’t actually want? As women, we tend to be overly responsible for things. We step into other people’s duties and responsibilities and shoulder that burden, whether that’s due to society’s expectations or our own misconceptions. A lot of women have this idea that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. First of all, is that true? Second of all, is that a bad thing? Now let’s take a step back… What if by stepping in you’re robbing somebody else of the opportunity to step up and take this responsibility on and experience that personal growth. So by you being responsible for this thing and saying ‘yes’ when it wasn’t aligned and thinking that you’re serving somebody or something really well, you’re actually doing them a disservice.
All of that being said, are there any areas in your life where you’re doing things that maybe aren’t yours to do or your load to carry? Are you possibly dis-servicing somebody in that way?
How one mom shifted her mindset from “duty” to prioritizing health
Now that we’ve covered the difference between urgent tasks and actual priorities and the pros and cons of saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’, I’d like to share a client story. I have a client who has four kids. Her oldest is 18 and her youngest is 10. This particular client was not eating breakfast or lunch because she was a short-order cook for them in the morning, making their lunches, making their breakfasts, and doing all of these things for all of them. Due to the urgent tasks in front of her, her own health was suffering. She felt like she had to do these urgent tasks first because she was their mom and that was her job.
I encouraged her to shift her thoughts. Ultimately, cooking all meals for your kids and not teaching them how to do those things on their own is doing them a disservice. Eventually her kids are going to leave home and if they don’t have those skills, they’re not going to magically gain them whenever they leave the nest, right? As parents, we’re preparing our children to become adults.
With this fresh mindset, she took action. She met with her kids and asked them to take on the morning chores as a family. In the end, they were so excited to pitch in and help out. They even enjoyed the meals more, because they were more invested in it. Overall, it was a really positive experience for everyone.
Before she was under this belief that it was her duty and responsibility as a mom and as a wife to do all of these things at her own expense. Afterwards, she realized that was not the case, and her family was actually grateful for that additional responsibility. It brought them all closer together as a family.
While that’s a pretty black and white example, it’s hard to see it in our own lives. So I encourage you to examine your life and explore those things. Maybe spend some time thinking or journaling.
Write down all the things you spend your time doing in a day and question whether those tasks are your loads to bear. Is it someone else’s job to do these? Are these tasks important? Does it actually matter if they get done in the long run? What are my real priorities?
Boundary Setting Exercise
We talk a lot about setting those boundaries, but if you don’t know what your priorities are, how can you set those boundaries? How can you know when to say ‘no’ if you don’t know what is important to you? Don’t get so caught up in saying ‘yes’ and managing all of those urgent things coming your way that you forget to take a step back and really determine what’s a priority and what matters to you most.
As an exercise to help you with boundary setting, I encourage you to make a list of five to seven different priority buckets. Then as new opportunities or new things are presented to you, ask yourself if it falls in one of these buckets? If not, it’s an easy no. If yes, it’s something you’re going to try and figure out how to work into your routine.
If prioritizing health doesn’t fall into one of your priority buckets, let me try to sway you otherwise… Consider if you are not healthy 20 years from now, what is that going to mean to your life? Could you have trouble moving around? Chronic fatigue? Exasperated health problems? Serious conditions? Inability to participate in the things that bring you joy? To me, my health is a non-negotiable. As women, we need to stop negotiating our health. We need to stop negotiating our well-being at the expense of others. We need to stop ignoring our symptoms or pushing aside our needs simply because we can get by.
What is not prioritizing your health ultimately going to cost you? Is there going to be a time where you have a physical, mental, or emotional breakdown in the future because you haven’t been taking care of things that need to be taken care of? Are you going to hit a wall? Will there be a time when your health has gotten completely out of hand, and it’s going to take even more energy to get better than it would have if you would have to have just dealt with it whenever it first appeared?
Conclusion: Prioritizing Health: What It Actually Takes
I know I am offering a little bit of tough love for you. I encourage you to try the exercises above within your journaling or meditation practice. See what comes up. Implement your priorities and take action towards them in your day to day life. If you find yourself struggling to reach your health priorities, then my signature program Gut Rehab might be a really awesome solution for you. In this program, I give you a playbook with step by step guidance and accountability and guidance. Best of all, I can help you make those mindset shifts so health becomes a priority, and you can finally show up more fully for those around you.