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We All Deserve Some TLC

Give yourself permission to take it!

Source: iStock

People are busy. Be it at work or at home, we switch from one role to another, all the while juggling a million responsibilities and trying to live up to the innumerable expectations of people in our lives as well as our own standards. Women especially may seek “balance” and yet strive to be it all – a perfect wife, a caring mother, a supportive daughter and a reliable friend! There aren’t enough hours in the day to be so good at everything. And, with so many things and people requiring our constant attention and care, it’s nearly impossible to get much time for ourselves.

While selflessness may be considered a laudable quality that makes you a “better person”, just like everything else done in excess, it may entail a number of negative repercussions. In their selfless pursuit of keeping others safe and provided for, and often ignoring both physical and emotional discomfort, man neglect their own needs, not to mention their dreams or desires.

There are those that don’t care about your selflessness; they may either take advantage of your kindness or let it go unnoticed – in fact, in some cases the selfless behavior may condition others to do just that – then your selflessness can backfire and leave you thinking “who is taking care of me?”

Selflessness always has its upside so, like any quality, there are times it works very well and fuels a person and sometimes it can be a cross to bear. What’s important is to stop and refocus, in order to avoid feeling burnt out and resentful towards the very people you work so hard to take care of. Think of this – if those other people deserve so much of your time, energy and effort, why don’t you? Don’t you think your spouse, children, parents or friends would like to see you happy and taken care of as well? The practical matter is that you stop being able to care for others if you, yourself, are not cared for and in good emotional and physical shape.

Selflessness and self-care are not mutually exclusive, but maybe we should consider that one comes before the other: Only when you have taken care of your own needs will you be able to properly address the needs of other people. Both selflessness and self-care are essential for emotional wellness.

If you are in a place where you see that you give too much, and don’t ever seem to get that break to take care of you, consider whether any of these seven steps may help you gain a little needed TLC (tender loving care):

  1. Revise your priority list. If you don’t have one yet, it might be hard for you to decide how to best spend your time and divide your attention. Having a priority list can help greatly with realizing your goals, making the right plans for the future and moving forward in life. “Taking good care of myself” should at least appear on your list, as pretty much everything else that you do in life depends on your ability to function properly. Be sure when you add TLC that you have specifics about how you will do this. Being clear and specific helps to take the steps necessary. Being vague and saying “I’ll get to it someday” will ensure that it stays unaddressed!
  2. Get comfortable with saying “No.” It might be hard to do, however, if this word is not a part of your vocabulary. Saying “no” for some means upsetting or hurting others, so they avoid saying the word out loud; at the same time they don’t realize that it’s exactly what they have been telling themselves all the while. Saying “no” is not very difficult when your priorities are crystal clear to you, and that is why Step 1 is so important. There are variations on “no,” such as “Not now” or “I have said ‘yes’ to too many other things” or “That’s just not possible for me right now.” Practice language that works for you.
  3. Stop feeling guilty already! You deserve rest, comfort and care as much as the next person. If your body tells you that you need a break, then take it! When in doubt, think of your priorities – what is more important to you in a long run; but after you have made your decision, don’t fill every minute of your existence with guilt for it. Don’t let others manipulate you into feeling guilty, either – some people might try it in order to make you change your mind. You need a break. You deserve a break. You deserve some TLC. Continue to remind yourself of the truth of this.
  4. Don’t let others’ problems become yours. You don’t have to make someone else’s problems, hardships or pain your own in order to help them. You can empathize with them but don’t make the mistake of living someone else’s pain – it doesn’t help anyone. Also, sometimes there isn’t much that you can actually do to aid the situation, and if you let other people’s problems or suffering become your own, you will feel guilty and miserable when your efforts prove inadequate.
  5. Reframe your experiences. If you remain uncomfortable with the thought that instead of helping someone you need to take care of yourself first, working on reframing. Think of it this way: If you keep neglecting your well-being while helping your parents or kids, who is going to look after them when you end up in the hospital, down with exhaustion or something worse? When we switch “frames” we can see our experiences from new angles, identify faults in our assumptions and understand problems from a new perspective.
  6. Don’t waste your time. Your “me” time should be really about you and the things that you enjoy doing. Running errands or planning your spouse’s birthday party doesn’t count as your time. Read that book you wanted to read for so long but couldn’t find enough time, go to a yoga class or an art exhibit – whatever soothes your soul –do something for your own pleasure. Think of the potential obstacles that might sabotage you ahead of time and decide how to deal with them, so that they don’t steal your time. Just as importantly, though, plan for it. Time escapes without a plan. Put it on your calendar and commit.
  7. Speak positively to and of yourself. The messages many people receive throughout their lives are negative ones – you haven’t lived up, you don’t deserve something. You have to learn to be your own best friend. If you don’t carry confidence about your desire to prioritize TLC, no one is going to do it for you. Practice random acts of kindness – on yourself.