When I first bring up the topic of self-care to my clients in individual sessions, groups, or public talks I often encounter replies that range from inhibited giggles to condescending smirks. More often than not, somebody would say “of course I take care of myself! I take showers and brush my teeth daily!” While personal hygiene is defiantly an important and fundamental part of good self care, it hardly scratches the surface of what self care really means.
When I was working at the YWCA St. Louis Regional Sexual Assault Center, I found that many of the survivors I worked with were excellent care takers of others, but didn’t feel that it was appropriate or acceptable to put the same time and energy into themselves as they invested into others. They were running on automatic pilots, putting their minds and bodies through the kind of stress that resulted in physical illnesses. My clinical supervisor at that time encouraged me to talk to my clients about self care as an analogy to a power surge protector. Since then, I have shared this analogy with hundreds of different people, and it always has seemed to hit the mark. Here it is now:
Imagine yourself as a power surge protector. Many different people are plugging into you, demanding your time and energy; family members and household responsibilities, work obligations and work relationships, friends and social organizations – sometimes it just may feel like everyone wants a piece of you, doesn’t it? Now, what good is a power surge protector that is not plugged into its own power source? And what good are we to our loved ones, when our personal energy is depleted and out of balance?To plug into your energy source, do more of what makes you happy.
So how to plug in?
The easiest way to plug in into your power source is to do more of what makes you happy. Yes, friends, fun and relaxations are not all about selfish desires. When we allow ourselves to spend time and energy on things that help us relax and enjoy life – we are refilling our energy source. The exclusion to this rule would be any activities that may result in negative consequences. Common examples would include consumption of drugs and alcohol, over eating, over exercising, and different risky behaviors that might feel good at the moment, but will mess you up in the long run. As someone who is naturally predisposed to depression and anxiety, I find it essential to devote some time everyday for “recharge” of my power source. Personally, I’m not good about sticking to one routine, so through experimentation with different (healthy) forms of relaxation I was able to create a “store” of activities that help me recharge my energy.
I also try to remember to check in with myself become aware of my physical and emotional state at all times, but most importantly, at times of stress.
A good reminder is the acronym HALT: Hungry / Angry/ Lonely/ Tired
These are common states that deplete our physical and mental fuel. By taking care of ourselves regularly (physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually) we are minimizing states that decrease our productivity, putt stress on our relationships, and make us dissatisfied with our lives.Ask yourself a few questions about your self care
A good place to start is by asking ourselves some questions:
- Am I physically “fueled”? – Am I taking care of my basic physical needs? (Am I sleeping well, eating regularly and healthy, etc.).
- What kinds of activities make me feel energized and/ or relaxed? – Do I allow myself time during the week to engage in these activities?
- Whose company drains my energy and whose makes me feel loved, energized, and inspired? – Do I allow myself to spend enough time with the people who bring energy into my life?
- Could I use new ideas about ways to help me relax and feel energized? Am I willing to invest time and energy in exploring these areas?
Remember, we can’t give others energy that we do not possess. If you care about the well being of others around you, start by taking care of your own well being first. You deserve it, and so do your loved ones!
More info: http://www.lifebalancemissouri.com
A big Thank You to my friend Slava Bowman, for the pictures in this blog, Slava is a successful Washington, MO photographer, who first started taking pictures as a hobby. Her fearless exploration and curiosity gave birth to a successful blog “Re-Discover Washington,” that significantly energized Washington’s social and business communities. Slava is a great example of how letting oneself explore may become a benefit to others. You can find more of her photography on www.slavabowman.com