Why Self-Care Matters

How to pay attention to your inner emotional barometer, nurture yourself, and avoid burnout

Do you feel drained at the end of the day to the extent that you feel you have nothing left to give to your family?

Do you find yourself snapping or yelling at your spouse or your child and then feeling awful afterwards?

If so, chances are that you are out of balance.  It may be a sign that your own needs are not being met- basic needs, such the need for rest, support and love.

If you are a working woman and the mother of a young child, it’s all too easy to get busy and put your needs on the back burner.  You may run yourself ragged by taking care of your family and your job.  It can get to the point where you are looking out for the well-being of others at the expense of your own.  The problem with this is that eventually, you will not have much left to give if you continue this way.

If you find this is happening for you, below are some ways you to increase your self-care in small ways that can make a huge difference in your overall health and happiness!

Differentiate Between Caring and Over-caring

If you find yourself neglecting your needs and over-caring for others, don’t torture yourself, as this is pretty common. Doing more for others than for yourself is a trait of many women.  We are socialized to value our contribution to our family and our social group more than we value ourselves.  And yet, true caring for others cannot come from a healthy place unless you are feeling strong yourself.  Healthy caring comes from a  place of love and makes you feel good.  It should feed you and make you feel stronger.

Over-caring and burnout result from not including yourself on the list of people who require care.  Burnout depletes your batteries and can destroy your mental and physical health.  Over-caring is often motivated by a need to please, feelings of guilt, feelings of not being good enough or sheer habit.  The way to tell the difference between caring and over-caring is to ask yourself how giving or caring makes you feel in the long haul.  If you get to the point where you feel exhausted and unhappy, it is likely that you are over-care-giving.

Identify your Emotions

Make a commitment to honor and respect yourself by being willing to listen and learn from your emotions.  Often, we don’t have time to process our emotions during the day, so we hold them in, not fully aware of what they are, and eventually, lose it with our spouse or child at the end of the day. To avoid doing this, you will need to be more aware of and process feelings as they come up.

”Be there” for your body and your emotions, just as you would for your child or anyone else you love.  If you feel suddenly overwhelmed by your sadness or anger, choose to stop and identify the feeling, rather than react to it- acknowledge the feeling, “I feel sad” or “I feel mad.”  Research shows that the best way to “free” negative emotions is to let yourself experience them fully.  The process of identifying and labeling your emotions may not always be comfortable, but is a way of letting them go.  Resist the urge to take action on anything when you are upset.  Wait until you are in a calmer state where you can make more grounded decisions.  Writing down your experiences in a journal has been proven to be effective in helping identify and express feelings.

Listen to your Body and Your Inner Voice

Your body sends constant signals, telling you what’s good for you and what’s not working.  It has an inner guidance system that tries to get you to pay attention to any adjustments you need to make in your life.  For example, your headache and tense shoulders may be a sign of an unresolved issue that’s causing you distress.  Inconvenient as they are, these pains are your allies, begging you to look up and see what’s not working in your life.  It’s easy to become too busy and ignore any discomfort in our bodies until it becomes worse.  Don’t ignore potentially important messages from your body!

Another way our bodies attempt to cope with over-giving is to resort to little or big addictions that make us feel better.  For example, over-indulging in comfort food; excessive shopping; or drinking too much wine.

Any of these can be signs that something in your life is out of whack.  What would you do if your car was running out of gas and the red lamp was on?  If you ignored the red light , the car would not run any better, in fact, it would eventually stop running.  So, don’t do that to yourself.  If your inner red light starts to come on, it requires attention.  The psychotherapist, Carl Jung, explained that the hardest person to confront is the self; also the hardest person to have compassion for is the self.  In fact, we often have more compassion others than we do for ourselves!

How to Make Changes

Unfortunately there aren’t any fairy godmothers to help you find peace and balance with the swish of their wand.  It often takes time and work to make changes in your life.  Yes, it may be difficult at first, and you will not have the same instant gratification as you do when you eat that piece of cake, but the good news is that if you invest the time in paying attention to your inner voice, you can make lasting changes.

If you are like most women, you may have a list of several things that are draining your energy.  Why not pick just one and make a plan to improve it?  Even if each one takes some time to address, you may feel much better in the long-term.  Every time you resolve something from your list, you are getting rid of a burden.  Eventually, you’ll have more energy to do what’s really important and you won’t have as many stressful and reactive moments in your life.  You’ll feel better, sleep better, and have better relationships with your loved ones.

Emotional and physical well-being depend on the balance between giving and receiving.  The receiving can also come from you, by paying closer attention to your body and your emotions.  Remember the safety instruction when you fly: “If there is lack of oxygen put the mask on yourself first before putting it on the minor.”  Taking care of yourself is not just good for you, but it is also the beneficial for your family.

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