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I don’t often write about my work as a therapist. But today I found myself giving the same suggestion to each person I met with. Maybe it’s the season, maybe it’s in the air. And maybe you can benefit, too. What I said repeatedly was, “Take good care of yourself.”
Somehow it’s seems so easy to forget to pay attention to our own needs. We push through, keep going, and ignore ourselves until the well runs completely dry. Then you wonder why you are exhausted, why you feel anxious and disconnected.
Taking care of yourself means counting yourself in. You matter, you absolutely do. And your quality of life suffers when you neglect yourself. You lose a sense of your priorities, and you end up grasping for solutions just to keep your head above water.
Maybe you think that taking care of yourself is selfish. This is a common misconception that is patently untrue.
Being caught up in your own stress doesn’t serve you or anyone else. Commit to taking care of you for you, for your quality of life, so you can live with a full and open heart. Here is the paradox: When you take good care of yourself, you get out of your own way. You are less self-focused. You aren’t captured by your needs, dramas, and obsessions.
Start with you, and you will experience great freedom in being open, peaceful, and awake to your life and everyone in it.
Caring for Yourself Affects Others
Today, I told a client that learning to take care of your own needs and feelings is one of the healthiest things you can do for a relationship.
When you learn to acknowledge your feelings and tend to those fragile places inside, you can show up for your partner full, loving, and available. No longer needy and lacking, you are set up for the simple joys of pleasant conversation and emotional intimacy.
In fact, not taking care of yourself does a disservice to your relationships. You can’t be present for your children, you miss opportunities to support your friends and loved ones.
Tend to yourself, and you have the space to emanate peace and express love. You become a beacon of sanity in an overwrought world.
Takes No Time
There are unlimited ways for you to take care of yourself. Some of them take no time at all – they are simply a shift in perspective. A few months ago, I realized I was waking up thinking about my to-do list and anxiously making it through the day. Finally, I said, “no more.” I got curious about my thought process and saw so clearly that I was half-present while worrying about future events.
Now, when I feel the stress in my body, I happily focus on just what is in front of me. I refuse to put my attention into those anxious thoughts. And the stress has reduced dramatically. No time needed – just a willingness to see the truth and be aware.
Other means for taking care of yourself do take time. You get to spend a few moments in stillness or go to a yoga class or begin to follow a passion.
Obstacles to Self-Care
See what gets in the way of your self-care. You will find that the obstacles are beliefs.
- Believing you should or need to spend your time in a certain way.
- Believing that you have to come last.
- Believing that the world will fall apart if you stop playing out the mental and emotional habits that don’t serve you.
- Believing that you aren’t worth your own loving attention.
- Believing that being stressed is a normal way of living.
The first step to taking care of yourself is to investigate these beliefs. Are they true? Do they bring you what you really want?
Are you willing to try the essential experiment – to let go of these beliefs and take the radical step back to yourself, into self-care?
Self-Care = True Happiness
You might notice that I’m not including a list of ways to take care of yourself. You can find those on countless self-improvement blogs, and besides, I trust that you know how to do it. More important is to wake up to the necessity of it, to understand how self-care unearths your potential for happiness, and how your happiness touches everyone and everything.
Tell yourself the truth about how happiness works, and you can’t help but start with the landscape of your inner experience.
Self-care is always on my radar, and I’ll share with you how I do it:
- Being aware when I am triggered and meeting my experience with deep acceptance. (See “Oh, this.”)
- Taking time to listen to the people I love, especially my partner.
- Exercise – running on the treadmill and yoga. (Yoga is exercise plus so much more.)
- Resting when I am tired or starting to feel sick. Not pushing myself beyond my capacity.
- Letting go of stressful thoughts about the future so I can be present.
- Being still.
- Walking away from the computer when I’ve been on it too long.
- Keeping my home in order; not letting tasks pile up.
- Being open and non-defensive – even in hard conversations.
- Planning enough time so I don’t have to rush and worry about being late.
- Flowing with life especially when unexpected things happen.
- Contemplating the true nature of existence, which puts everything into perspective.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Now it’s your turn. How do you take care of yourself? What are your obstacles to self-care? I’d love to hear…