Balancing Self-Care With Caretaking – An Essential Endeavor
".... Some of us focus so much on the needs of others, we lose sight of ourselves. Stop, for one moment. Take a deep breath. Be still. Refocus. Concentrate on improving your life... You can't be much good to others if you're no good to yourself."— Carlos Wallace.
Many of us think of self-care as a kind of premium to be collected only after we have cared for those in our lives who need us or finished all that we have on our to-do list.
Here's the thing, though – self-care isn't a reward for getting it all done – it's a crucial part of the process of getting it all done.
As women, we often feel that our needs don't count. Or, at a minimum, they should be relegated to the back burner, attended to only after the needs of others.
Many of us take care of other people's feelings without regard for our own.
Often we are preoccupied with the needs of others to the detriment of our own self-care.
Whether it's your kids or life-partner, a colleague, your parents, a friend, or some other, putting the care of others before yourself is harmful to your overall well-being.
Let's face it: if you're not okay, how can they be okay in your care?
Now, I can hear many of you out there saying things like, "But, Tonya, If I don't do it, then who will?" or "What kind of mother/daughter/partner/friend would I be if…?" or "Yes, but if I don't handle it, everything will fall apart."
This may be hard to hear, but the tough-love truth is that you are not the be-all and end-all to the well-being of others.
Sometimes it is essential to let go and let Universe, God, Nature, others – or them – take care of them.
Now, that's not to say that you should detach and walk away from all responsibilities and caretaking that life has lovingly placed in your hands.
However, you must take care of yourself first.
What is self-care?
Think of it as the fine art of loving yourself.
Self-care necessitates practice, commitment, and sometimes a tough-love stance.
Self-care looks different for every woman and is practiced differently by all of us.
For some, self-care may be your form of self-talk. For others, it may be taking a moment out of the day to practice mindfulness meditation. To others still, it is knowing, setting, communicating, and maintaining boundaries.
When your love, time, and energy are given to your work, your loved ones, or others, you may find yourself feeling as though you have nothing left over for yourself.
You may also feel unsure about how to practice self-care or what exactly it is that you need.
Holistic self-care involves intentional acts. Here are several ways to incorporate self-care into your life and practice taking care of others while taking care of yourself first.
Setting Boundaries With Others And Keeping Them
Setting boundaries is about protecting and preserving you, your limits, and your capabilities.
The act of communicating boundaries can prevent you from becoming exhausted and overwhelmed, feeling burned out, or taken advantage of.
Most importantly, boundaries can ensure that you’re maintaining space for yourself.
Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable. You may worry about coming off as unfriendly, selfish, or even rude.
Establishing your limits, defining your likes and dislikes, and identifying your needs are continuous practices. Each time you set or communicate a boundary, it will become easier and more comfortable - but don't beat yourself up if you don't become an expert overnight.
Every boundary is progress. It will take time to carve out and navigate this new position.
Setting boundaries can help you take care of others, too. Ensuring that you can dispense enough time and energy to the people or activities you committed to will help you refrain from last-minute cancellations or half-hearted involvement or participation. Boundaries can help your best self show up.
Being open, upfront and honest can also ease frustration and facilitate communication, which will benefit everyone involved.
Learn And Practice The Art Of Saying, "No"
Women often find themselves having to make excuses or apologize for being unavailable or uninterested. It's okay to simply say, "no, thank you," and leave it at that.
You don't need to explain your way around declining an offer every time- and you need never feel obligated to say yes.
Saying no can benefit you and others in the long run. For example, saying no to that in-person client meeting might mean you have enough time and energy to enjoy your family, take care of yourself, and attend the meeting online feeling refreshed, present and productive.
Save the energy of explanation or obligation for yourself and allow your best self to show up when you’re 100% willing to do so.
Caring for your body increases energy levels, makes you stronger, and boosts your self-esteem.
Take the time to create and enjoy good food for yourself – don’t just grab anything from the fridge and eat as you rush out the door because you’re too busy caring for others.
If necessary, take time to create meals in advance so that you spend less time in the kitchen and more time for yourself and those you love.
Make movement a sacred time- hiking, yoga, dancing, the gym, going for a walk – just move. Beneficially using your body doesn't have to mean exercise or working out – it doesn't have to feel like a chore or something you dread. Instead, it can be a beneficial way to appreciate your body and all the things it can do.
If you feel as though you just don't have the time of day to exercise, stretching at your desk, standing up every hour, or taking a few seconds to practice breathwork can allow for intermittent movement and mindfulness.
You can incorporate self-care throughout the day as well as during designated "me" time.
Body love also can mean getting massages and regular checkups with our doctor, or it can mean a weekly pedicure.
Self-care means listening to our bodies- what is she telling us?
Getting Good Sleep- No Matter What
Self-care means resting, too.
Sometimes we feel bad about taking a day off or neglecting our “duties.” This is a detrimental outlook to have. Your mind, body, and soul need rest so that it can function properly and think, move, and love the next day.
- Have a regular bedtime.
- Protect your sleep time by saying no to late-night commitments- especially if you know you have a big day following.
- Invest in good sheets- you deserve them!
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.
- Pamper yourself with an essential oil diffuser and soothing sleep music.
- Try paid apps like Calm or Aura for sleep stories, meditations, and sound therapy.
It means setting boundaries with lending money to adult children, friends, or family members, setting boundaries with ourselves about spending frivolously on things we don’t need or even really care about, and letting others care for their own finances.
Ask yourself: how is my spending serving me? How is it serving others?
Be honest and open about your financial situation and your relationship with money. This is especially important when your money helps support your kids, friends, partner, or others.
Your money mindset matters- gratitude, appreciation, understanding will influence how you feel about money, and how you treat it, spend it, save it, and share it.
Money can be emotional. It can foster feelings of success or shame and is often a source of stress.
Financial self-care treating your money with the respect you deserve.
Practicing emotional self-care allows you to be more compassionate with yourself and others.
Nourishing emotional self-care gives you a better understanding of yourself, grants you the ability to cope with challenges, and enables you to develop and foster healthy relationships- especially with those for whom you are caretaking.
Emotional intelligence is awareness and recognition of your feelings, mood, and mental state of being. When we are conscious about our feelings, we can embrace our emotions, accept them, and let them go if they don’t serve us – or those we love and care for.
Self-Care: The Most Loving Endeavor For You and Those You Care For
We live in a culture where women are expected to put others before themselves; personally and professionally. Too often we blindly follow this construct without question, and we suffer as a consequence. We self-sabotage through giving too much to others and not being kind enough to ourselves.
Sadly, we do ourselves and those we care about a disservice by not recognizing the need for change.
Take a break. Take care of yourself. When you do, you’ll find that at the end of the day, everybody benefits.
The Self-Image Manifesto
You’re Invited To Live An Extraordinary Life!
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