Being human can just be so hard. We are complex creatures. The demands of life can be enormous, complex, and overwhelming.
You might be someone who gives everything to others, committed to showing up for others, to always do your best. Maybe you’re the one people turn to for help, for counsel, in an emergency. This is all you have ever known; all you have ever been taught.
Over thinking may be the norm for you anyway, but when life gets stressful (and when it is not?!), you might be someone who goes into over functioning. Whose default is to over function, trying even harder to figure things out, to make things work, to tend to others.
You may suddenly find yourself exhausted, feeling depleted and wonder how you ended up so anxious, so irritable and resentful. Of course, you blame yourself first. You must be doing something wrong. There must be something wrong with you, otherwise you would be able to handle this. You are giving everything out of love but not feeling loving. Everyone matters so much to you, but now you no longer recognize yourself and you have lost yourself to taking care of everyone else.
You know what you want. You want to stop all that noise in your head. You want to feel calm for once. You want to not feel so alone, and you want to feel loving. You want to feel alive, engaged in life and would a little bit of happiness be too much to ask for? You want to find a way to believe in yourself and for things to make sense again.
People tell you to take care of yourself—what does that mean?
Finding your way out from this can take time but it needs to start with valuing your own needs.
One of the most important things I have learned is that when we prioritize our own wellbeing above all else, it is a gift to everyone in our lives. I am not talking about selfishness or turning off your caring nature; I am talking about healthy self-care; I am talking about recognizing the value of giving yourself the same care you give everyone else. It’s not that your wants and needs are more important than those of others—it’s that you own the responsibility of making sure your needs are met.
Someone who makes sure their own needs are met is slower to feel depleted, slower to anger and less irritable; they show up with more to give; they are more present, patient, loving. When we take good care of ourselves, we are healthier mentally, emotionally and physically. We have more clarity and are better problem solvers. We choose our battles more effectively and have greater access to our own wisdom. I know this makes sense to you, so how do we do this? Well… baby steps. We go small at first.
- First, allow yourself to see the value of your own self-care of investing in your own wellbeing. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or you’re not going to second guess yourself or encounter resistance from others. It just means that you acknowledged that prioritizing your wellbeing makes logical sense and you adopt a willingness to move in that direction.
- Second, begin to put it into practice in small ways at first, such as carving out a consistent hour to rest, going for a walk/exercising, protecting 8 hours for sleeping, spending time with a supportive friend, doing something fun, spiritual or nurturing. Years ago, my first step was to buy myself some good quality shampoo. It sounds silly but it marked a shift. Nobody was harmed by my spending a few extra dollars on something just for me and it made me feel just a little more deserving of good care.
- Third, know and expect that you may feel uncomfortable, guilty or even scared but don’t let that stop you. That noise in your head may tell you that you’re being selfish, or no one will love you if you’re not tending to them or disaster will strike if you’re not in there fixing everything. Expect this and keep moving forward anyway.
- Fourth, allow those doubts and that discomfort to be there without judging them, without fueling, or feeding them. Remind yourself that this negative self-talk is natural and expected but that it doesn’t necessarily represent the facts. For example: I know this feels strange or uncomfortable, why wouldn’t it—it’s new. I also know that this might really help me feel better and even be more patient (present, less anxious, etc) with more to give.
- And then you just keep doing it. It can take time to feel the difference. As your self-care improves it creates a foundation for better emotional health. Little by little you’ll begin to experience the value.
- Consider working with a therapist. It helps to have someone to support you in this, remind you that you are on the right track and help you understand any fears you may have around this work. A therapist can hold this space for you, give you permission to value yourself and remind you that your health and well being serves, not only you, but everyone in your life who matters to you.
This may sound simple but it’s also hard and is just one change among many that may be required to get what you are looking for in your life. It’s important to be patient with yourself. Give yourself the grace and care you are always so willing of offer others.
Hi, I’m Linda Rolufs, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples respond to their painful experiences and emotions in ways that bring them freedom and closeness to themselves and others.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Linda