You open your eyes and see the sun peeking through the blinds. You realize it’s morning, although your body feels like you laid to rest just 30 minutes ago. Granted, it’s only been 5 hours since you went to bed, but that’s better than the night before. You think about the day ahead, your anxiety goes up a notch, and then you get up and head to the bathroom to brush your teeth before someone needs you—because someone always needs you.

I’ve been there before: tired, overwhelmed, and stretched beyond measure. I know what it’s like to give the people you love so much of yourself that you barely have anything left to make it through the day. It’s not only stressful, but it’s emotionally draining and can leave you feeling defeated. Struggling to survive, wondering how to juggle all the balls without failing epically. It’s such an unsettling feeling. And it’s that type of unsettling feeling that rarely lets up. You feel it when you lay to rest at night, and when you awake from your slumber, that damn feeling is still there.

When I started my entrepreneurial journey almost 3 years ago, I didn’t know what would come my way. At the time of my first launch, I had a full-time job, a husband, a 2-year-old, I was pregnant, and although my mother wasn’t in great health, she was managing pretty well. Fast forward just one year and I found myself still working full-time, making peace with a dissolving business, and caring for two kids under the age of 4 as well as a mother who just suffered a stroke. My life changed drastically.

I want to tell you that I handled it all with tremendous grace but that would be a lie. I didn’t. I cried—a lot. I was cranky and frustrated often. I had doubts about everything, from my parenting skills to my ability to be a business owner. Some days were good days and I  know that’s just because I am optimistic by nature. Other days were downright painful to navigate. I felt overwhelmed and giving up on my dreams of being an entrepreneur felt like the rational thing to do. The idea of giving up came up often.

So why didn’t I give up? Why did I have the audacity to start another business and keep pushing forward with my dreams? The honest answer is simple. I could see the alternative as clear as day. I knew—with a great deal of certainty—that giving up on what I knew I was meant to do would leave me in a very painful place in years to come. I just couldn’t sit back and watch my life unfold that way. At my core I truly believed that God would be disappointed in me if I allowed my story to happen that way.

Caring for loved ones is something that comes naturally for most of us, but the level of care our loved ones may need has a tremendous impact on how we live our lives. Without the right support and mindset, giving up on caring for ourselves and pursuing our dreams can soon become our reality.

From caring for our children, to an aging parent, to an ill spouse–it can often feel like you are barely keeping your head up above water. You may be thinking, How on earth can I survive let alone thrive. That drowning feeling becomes too real to combat, and you are left wondering what you should do to save yourself so you can care for the ones who need you most.

I’m here to tell you that caring for the people you love does not mean you should stop caring for yourself and your needs. It’s not how your story will end. Here are 3 things I have learned in the last few years that I think all female caregivers needs to know. I hope reading them helps you do far more than survive. I hope they help you thrive.

Failing to do what you love can destroy you

Giving up on your dreams so you can care for the people you love may seem like the noble thing to do, or your only option, but please don’t buy into that. Whether you choose to see it or not, when you have a dream in your heart and you ignore it, it eats away at you over time. The damage may not be immediate, but one day you will look at your life and wonder what could have been. And that wonder will come with such immense pain and disappointment. Your dreams make not come to life at the speed your imagined when you are responsible for the care of others, but every step you make towards your dream is a step towards choosing yourself. It’s a great choice to make. 

You must ask for help 

Many of us have trouble asking for help. I know I did at some point (and I still struggle with it occasionally). But doing it all alone doesn’t prove to anyone that you are strong. It simply proves that you will lose your mind soon. If your spouse, friends, or family are available to help with caring for the people who need you most, and you just don’t want to ask for help because you feel like you should not have to ask, get over it. And if it’s because you don’t want to be a bother to others, get over that, too. Sure, we can play this whole game of, “you should just know I need help,” or “I hate bothering people,” but everyone suffers when you do that. Swallow your pride, ask for the help you need, and spare yourself the pain that comes with doing everything on your own.

The little things matter… a lot 

Your responsibilities won’t just drift away. Your situation won’t change overnight. But I am here to tell you that every little thing your do to care for yourself and pursue your best life–well, it all matters. If you want to publish a book, every page you get to write matters. If you want to focus on your health, every push-up matters. If you want to pamper yourself more, every bubble bath matters. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by what lies before us, we think only something huge can make things better, but that isn’t so. Do something little and keep doing little things. Don’t let up. The little things matter.