Care For Yourself — First!
It is important to take of yourself. Most people I talk with, agree with this concept.
Where I run into friction is when I tell people I am working with, that you need to take care of yourself — FIRST!
I teach this because I run into quite a number of people who will spend so much time caring for others that they end up feeling like they have no time to take care of themselves.
When someone tells me they do not have the time to care for themselves, let alone the time to care for themselves FIRST, I launch into this story question:
You are on a plane with a child for whom you care deeply. The plane encounters trouble and the oxygen masks drop from their overhead compartments.
Who do you put the mask on first? You or the child?
The correct answer is you put the mask on yourself FIRST, and then the child.
The same thing applies when it come to caring for yourself, Care For Yourself First.
Recently, I was on the phone with a friend a mine — Stephanie Elie. She told me she would be doing some journaling about this very topic. As she told me what was on her heart, I asked her to type up those thoughts so that I could include them in this article. Stephanie wrote wonderful content and I am delighted to share it with you!
Stephanie is a good friend and as she mentions in her article, not only are we friends, but I have served her while wearing my Good Life Sage “hat,” teaching her the Good Life Personal Development concepts that are featured on this website. I have also served Stephanie while wearing my Pastor “hat.” I have learned that when people find out that I wear more than one hat, they often have questions. If you have questions about the various hats I wear, you are welcome to read this article – www.MoreThanOneHat.com.
Now on to Stephanie’s contribution to this article!
My Journey to Self Care
by Stephanie Elie
Let me just start by saying my authority on self care comes from a deeply pained place and the arduous and equally painful way I worked myself back into a healthier place.
This dark place was where my existence revolved around attempting, vainly, to make everyone else happy in an effort to find my own happiness. It’s also where Steven first met me. I was beyond a mess. When I think of this period of my life, I see my physical form twisted, woven in and out of itself, barely capable of function, covered in shades of brown, and army green. I was miserable.
I spent my days running around literally like a chicken with my head loped off—while as overused as this analogy is, this exactly how I behaved.
I had no clear direction and twisted and turned on a whim in a tragic effort to find happiness. Unfortunately for me, I thought that my own happiness lay in the hands of everyone else.
I saw myself as a giver. I would give anyone anything in an attempt to help them. I genuinely wanted everyone to be happy and I thought if I could just solve their problems, fix their mess, then they would be happy and I would be too.
As time lay waste to my life, I only became unhappier. People came to expect me to rescue them, to serve them even when I didn’t have the capacity, to drop my life and needs on a whim to help them meet theirs. I ran nonstop.
I never felt like I had enough time, but was constantly moving, constantly active; I never rested. And let me reiterate I was a miserable wreck. Looking back I’m not sure how I functioned in my daily life.
And then a rather obnoxious pastor type came into my life. To be honest I wasn’t a huge fan of his at the beginning—now he’s one of my closest friends and someone to whom I owe more than they will ever understand. He literally saved my life. But in getting me here he’s said a lot of things I really didn’t like and forced me to realize the chaos my life was truly in.
In one of our first conversations he asked me who I would put the oxygen mask on first if a plane was going down; I instantly, without thinking, said; “my son.”
Steven then said; “No. You put it on yourself first. You can’t save someone else if you don’t first, save yourself.”
Insert emotional and physical temper tantrum. I wanted to hit him and push him down a flight of stairs. I was becoming physically distraught at this thought.
But let’s think about the practicality of his little analogy. If I put my son’s oxygen on first I lose air and perhaps the ability to put my own mask on, which means if my son needs further help I can’t save him—I condemn us both.
Emotional rescue is the exact same thing. If I am an emotional mess, if I can’t take care of myself, I’m not going to have the patience to parent my son, I’m not going to be able to demonstrate to him how to healthfully live, I’m not going to be able to enjoy our lives together.
I had to start caring for myself. And to do that I had to stop caring for everyone else and boy did they hate that!
I felt like the drug dealer that suddenly got sober and the addicts had nowhere else to go, and on an emotional level, I was. Those I had been caring for rather than myself, kicked, screamed and used every manipulative tactic to keep me pulling their emotional weight rather than my own. Luckily I had that obnoxious pastor spurring me on and promising it would get better. Boy am I glad I believed him! Because it did get better! Things improved beyond my wildest dreams!
As I slowly disconnected from always caring for everyone else, I had to learn how to care for myself. I know; strange thought. This is still something that takes conscious effort.
I have to remember and schedule time where I don’t care for children, cook, clean or otherwise distract myself from the totally awesome person I am. I make time to read, write, walk, do my nails, or simply just sit and be with myself. The main point behind all these activities is processing through my own emotions and remaining focused on my life and moving in a healthy, happy direction that I choose.
And now I’m learning to balance my innate desire to care for others and still care for myself. I can only care for others if my cup is overflowing. If my cup isn’t overflowing I’m diminishing myself and neither fully helping myself or others.
Proper self-care and an overflowing cup enable you to care for yourself and others! It’s also the only way to be happy! I can honestly say I physically feel lighter. I can intentionally navigate my day in a way to bring the most joy to myself and those around me. Even the little things take less effort when you’ve taken the time to breath and sorted out the precursors.
Self care is the most fundamentally important component of being happy and living a life full of joy. You have to be intentional. You have to want to be happy and it helps to realize that getting there is going to be a whole lot of dirty work.
Don’t believe the hype that if you care for others they will care for you. This is a tactic that emotionally distraught and incapacitated people use to draw givers into caring for them. It’s a nasty trap—I recommend not falling in, because getting out is a bear!
I wish I could draw, because the picture of the twisted mess of a person I was, is nothing compared to the bright, glitter filled person I am right now. I can embrace every aspect of life with joy and positivity. I can love on my children and help guide them into being happy, self-caring adults. And sometimes when my cup is overflowing I can reach out and serve others and serving from an overflowing cup brings you greater joy, rather than leaving you feel drained and abused.
If you’re life feels constantly drained, and that you are running on a never ending treadmill with someone else controlling the speed you probably need self care.
If you literally feel like you can’t handle the emotions thrown at you on a daily basis you probably need self care.
If you simply wake up in the morning and feel like you can’t breathe, you probably need self care.
No one else, not parents, spouses, friends or children, can take care of us. Only you have the ability to truly manage your emotions, joy and life. And take it from someone that was pretty far down in the other direction—it’s worth more than you can ever imagine!!
And if you need help, that obnoxious pastor is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met: and turns out he’s pretty smart too.
Wow! Thank you Stephanie! Great stuff! I appreciate the honesty and the realness.
As I bring this article to a close, I know that sometimes, when it is suggested that you take care of yourself, a person can end up feeling like they do not have the time needed to do that.
Trust me, you do have the time. As much as it may feel untrue—Everybody has time, even you. Everybody has 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in week. In fact, I have an article for this very concept! www.EverybodyHasTime.com
I am Steven Shomler and I am pulling for you! Go Live the Good Life!
If I can be of further assistance please email me at sshomler@GoodLifeSage.com