Self care is a really sticky subject for a lot of people these days. It seems that our ever moving, faster and faster paced culture has created in us the notion that taking care of ourselves is a bad thing; in fact, a very selfish thing to do.
Really? Let’s be clear that there is a good, positive selfish and a not so appealing, negative one.
Have we become so attuned to trying to meet the needs of others that we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t matter, that everything and everybody else comes first? Is this truly the self image we wish to model to and reflect for our kids, co-workers and the world?
Bosses will have a field day with an employee with a “you first” mindset. They can work you to near death and suffer no consequences. Our kids learn that they are entitled to receive immediate attention and wishes granted. Is it any wonder that common courtesy and, basic manners are not things of value to them?
Could it be that we have self bullied ourselves to the point that our own self esteem and self respect have climbed to the top of our personal endangered list? Yes. I would consider constant negative self talk as bullying! All this proves is that a little codependency can go along way.
Both kinds of “selfish” people have a skill that I admire; they know how to put themselves first! Their reasons are different, to be sure, and so goes the outcome of this behavior.
The fact is that those who take care of themselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually – will be better able to handle what life throws at them because they are striving to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. This is the best case scenario. Those of us who do not take care of ourselves, because there is always something more to be done for someone else, are headed for the physical, emotional and spiritual quicksand. Once there, some of us will not be able to return. And then there are those who only take care of themselves. Enough said.
The gift that no one else can give
Caring for one’s self is the one gift only you can give to you. No one else can give it to you. They can show you how it’s done; they can guide you, but they cannot bestow it upon you. That has to come from within. You must believe that you are important, worth it and deserving of it.
Start by taking baby steps – new behavior requires practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will begin to feel. Pick one self caring thing and faithfully practice it everyday for 3 weeks. You will notice a difference and so will others. Then pick something else to do, and so on.
When you give care…Take care.
Most caregivers seem to have a hard time making time for self care. Know this: there will always be something more to be done. However, that does not mean that you are the one who has to do it! Do what you can; that is all and it is enough.
Helpful suggestions for getting through the holiday season:
1. Give yourself a wellness gift.
Give yourself a health and wellness gift. Get an overdue medical checkup and a massage. Join that yoga, stretching or craft class you’ve wanted to take. Set aside a nap time or go for a daily walk. Taking care of your own personal health is the first step toward reducing any stress and strain of the season ahead.
2. Ask for help and be open to accepting it.
Just do it!
3. Find a friend or make a friendship even richer.
Engaging a friend for conversation, support or assistance for holiday activities is a wonderful approach to self care. Sometimes a friend is all we need. A safe sounding board can help alleviate stress.
4. Learn not to take things personally.
No one can push our buttons quite like family members! Their words, though hurtful, may have nothing to do with you. Would you rather be happy or right?
5. Identify a community of support made up of friends, families or spiritual gatherings.
By finding and engaging with a community outside the family, caregivers know they exist in a community of loving people who want to help because they care.
6. Plan your family’s activities with thought throughout the season.
Understanding roles and responsibilities is extremely important to maintain a healthy family dynamic. Holiday family conferences are like tune-ups for the family car. This car needs to drive well, efficiently and for a long time.
7. Keep a gratitude list in a holiday journal filled with wonderful affirmations.
Make gratitude your personal goal throughout the season. Exercising gratefulness lightens the load and shifts your focus away from darkness and worry. Gratitude empowers you to see the great abundance that there is in being alive.
8. Don’t forget to laugh!
“Laughter Is the Best Medicine” is an old expression popularized by Norman Cousin’s book Anatomy of an Illness, in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he “laughed” his way to recovery. Laughter is a great tension-releaser, pain reducer, breathing improver, and elevator of moods. Humor is a great elixir to get us through difficult or stressful times. Make sure you find your own laughter to keep smiling in your own life.
Personal and heartfelt wishes for a joyous holiday season and prosperous new year.
Dr. Jamie Huysman,