Where are you on the list of people to take care of? There was a time that I didn’t even register as someone who needed adding to the list. First of all, I’m a (recovering) fixer. That in itself probably tells you a lot if you are anything like me. (Hint, a lot of women are.) Mostly I fell into that category because for a very long time I wrestled with low self-esteem. It’s taken many years, heck, decades even to overcome this issue. It also took a lot of digging and reckoning with myself to discover the root of my low self-esteem. And like many issues that we as humans work on to improve, I still catch myself and work on planting seeds of affirmation.
So, back to my question. Where are you on the list? Do you even make the list? The needs of others seem to be endless. But where you put yourself on the list makes all the difference in the world. Not only your world but everyone in your orbit! Now that’s the thing that took me the longest time to get. I used to think that I was being selfless by putting other’s needs before my own and that it was selfish to think about what I needed. That worked out great for me and my fixer mentality. It meant I got to run around and tend to everyone else with nary a thought about myself.
The truth is, it’s EASIER to take care of others first! I know that sounds counterintuitive, but think about it. We have all of these demands on our time between family and work and all of the things. Sometimes we just pick up the ball and start running, and WE NEVER STOP. Kind of like Forrest Gump- run Forrest, run! Taking care of yourself requires thought. We’ve got to stop and think about what it is we NEED! It’s so easy to say “put your own oxygen mask on first”, but what does that even mean?!
If you are a recovering fixer like me, maybe you know you need to make the list and you just don’t know how to start. Recognizing that you are running yourself ragged and that something needs to change is pivotal. Nothing can change unless you are aware that it needs changing. Next, give yourself a healthy dose of self-compassion. Meet YOURSELF where you are! Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is a self-compassion researcher. Her research shows that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll be “self-indulgent”. This is another way in which our culture has conditioned us. Self-compassion allows us to share in our disappointments and inadequacies and to be as kind to ourselves as we would be to a friend.
And now comes the big one- ask yourself some important questions. And then take the time to LISTEN! Sitting. Breathing. Listening. BEFORE DOING. We’ve all got the “to-do” list. How about the “to-be” list? As in BE STILL. And BE QUIET. I know how I made the changes that it took for me to finally put myself on the list and move up the ranks, but only YOU know what it will take to make those changes in your life.
Maybe you need to create some boundaries. Learn to stop saying “yes” when you mean “no.” Putting yourself on the list also requires asking for help. This was another big one for me. I don’t like to be a “burden.” But here’s the thing that I have learned when it comes to asking for help- most people are only too happy to help! It’s like a gift! When you ask someone else for help they feel needed and it allows them to ask for help when THEY need it! And they will. We all do. I am also guilty of doing things for others that they can do FOR THEMSELVES. Sometimes it’s so much easier to operate on auto-pilot and just do, rather than stop and think about how you can empower someone else to do for themselves!
So now that you’ve spent some time being still what next? Here are a few ideas to get your self-care juices flowing. The idea being that self-care is individual (it is SELF-care after all.) What I need today may be slightly different tomorrow. But it is our consistent practice that changes our brain and body for the better!
1. Eat real food for most of your meals (I like the 80/20 rule.)
2. Move your body every day (do what you enjoy and also what challenges you.)
3. Get to bed! Create a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Sleep helps to detox your brain and build important memories, as well as regulate your hormones and appetite.
4. Spend some time getting quiet. If you don’t currently have a meditation practice it can be as simple as setting a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and focusing on your breathing. There are also a lot of great apps available (Calm & 10% Happier are two examples.)
5. Get outside! Spending time in nature is a great self-care practice. Going for a walk in a forest (We are called the "city in the forest" for a reason) has been shown to reduce depression and build our immune system.
6. Play & creativity are two underappreciated ways that we can take time for ourselves. Somewhere along the line, we started telling ourselves that we just “aren’t creative” or convinced ourselves that we don’t have time to play. Or that as adults play isn’t valuable. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
7. One of my personal favorites is laughter! Look for opportunities to laugh every day. Laughter really is good medicine!
8. Gratitude is another self-care practice that creates a ripple effect, spilling into all areas of your life. Journaling or writing letters of appreciation to those people you are grateful for may have long-lasting positive psychological benefits.
So begin to plant those seeds of self-care and watch them grow! Before you know it the fruits of your garden will be overflowing, creating an abundance from which to share with your family and community! And that is exactly what being self-centered is all about.
With Love & Gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel