This is a guest post by Debra Woog, creator of the Brilliance-Based Businesswoman’s Success System™.

We women are under a tremendous amount of pressure in this day and age. We comprise the majority of the workforce, yet we earn less, on average, than our male counterparts. We are still, in most cases, doing the majority of the housework, and typically we are the primary caregivers for our parents and/or our children. We are naturally nurturing beings, yet too often we find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, out of shape, and subtly (or not-so-subtly) angry about all of it. It is imperative that each of us women takes time to discover and deliver what we need to be healthy and happy individuals. Once we identify these things, we must build our lives and time not just around taking care of others, but ourselves as well.

Pay yourself with time

As entrepreneurs, we pay ourselves first, not only financially, but also professionally. We know that means setting aside focused time to build our businesses — working both in our businesses (serving our clients and customers) and on our businesses (managing our teams, marketing our companies, etc.) That said, it’s equally critical that we also set aside time in our weeks to meet our personal emotional and physical needs.

Time is as valuable as money, and it can be another way of paying ourselves. Start paying yourself today with “me time.” If you don’t, you won’t be able to offer your best to anyone else, either. And if you already set aside “me time,” chances are you deserve a raise, effective immediately!

Granting yourself time takes more than just saying, “I’ll take a break when I have a moment this afternoon.” As you pre-schedule client time and office time on your calendar, add recurring blocks of personal time too.  If you don’t make conscious choices about how to spend your time, you’ll do so by default, and you might not be pleased with the results.

Prioritize in a fulfilling way

To begin functioning at your full capacity, prioritize your top needs. We can get through life without having all our needs met, but to have a rewarding life, we must address our most important ones.  (Just as it is impossible for one person to meet all the needs of another, it is impossible to meet all expectations for every aspect of your own life simultaneously). Beyond the basics of food, shelter, and physical safety, individual women’s top needs vary tremendously. Begin by prioritizing yours. I recommend taking the time to identify your top four needs. Some people need freedom and flexibility, while others need order. Think broadly about what kinds of things turn you on or set you off. If those are powerful factors for you, they might make your top four. Other examples of needs include honesty, respite, certainty and power.

Once you have identified your top personal needs, build systems in your life to get each met automatically. Having a system involves setting clear and strong boundaries, asking for help from the appropriate people, and raising your personal standards. Action items can include systematizing anything that’s important to you: morning runs, date nights with your significant other, a six-month cushion of living expenses in your bank account, or simply half an hour to read each evening. If you choose to add activities to your schedule, consider where you might save time for them. For example, do you currently treat email as an interruption, a leash, or a way to break up the monotony of a day? Resources to draw on might include anything from a day planner, to a supportive spouse, to an assistant.

We sometimes strain to field all of the demands and requests that come our way on a daily basis. Life can feel daunting and sometimes overwhelming. Take time to discover what you need and focus on you to meet them, every single week. Potential suffering resulting from not taking care of yourself can be massive: demoralization, depression, and even physical illness.

Once you discern and systematize your needs, they won’t feel like enigmatic monsters chasing you down.  When your top needs are met, everything in life will feel easier, including the stressful decisions about what activities to prioritize going forward. As a result, you will be truly happy with the life you’ve constructed. Then, and only then, you will be able to serve others fully.

This is a guest post by Debra Woog, creator of the Brilliance-Based Businesswoman’s Success System,™ which guides professionals to achieve their unique definitions of success with prosperity-enhancing communications, technology, operations and personal best practices. Debra earned her B.A. in Psychology and American Studies from Wellesley College and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.