Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day #28 & #29: I have the right to take care of me.

I have been talking to quite a few people about the idea of self care. Call it occupational hazard, but burn out and martyrdom is a reality for most care providers. The desire to take care of and coddle everyone else overpowers the innate need to care of self first. I'm not sure when taking care of oneself become synonymous with selfishness, but it's a phenomenon that needs to be put to an end, and as quickly as possible.

According to the Webster's dictionary, a martyr is defined as the following: 1)a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion; 2) a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle; 3) victim. The part of the definition that strikes a core with me is the idea of sacrifice. It remarks about the sacrifice of something for the sake of principle. I'd like to dispute is it of any value to sacrifice the care of oneself at the expense of everyone else? How can this make anyone a good care provider? Caring for others begins by caring for oneself first.

We are made to feel that self care is narcissistic, selfish, even arrogant. This only creates guilt and self-doubt, and destroys can esteem or spirit that we have. The fact of the matter is, there is nothing wrong with taking 15 minutes in the day to read, to write, to polish our nails, to do whatever it is that brings us happiness and takes care of our spirit. We must nurture ourselves first, because the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we will ever have. We've all been in that horrid relationship that is destructive and creates self-loathing. Imagine having a destructive relationship with yourself...not a good basis for anything in life.

Buddhists believe that meditation brings self-awareness, and that from self-awareness comes inner strength and the ability to help others who are in need. Chuang Tzu wrote "The perfect man of old looked after himself first before looking to help others." There it is...taking care of yourself is NOT selfish, and allows you to care for others more effectively and with more heart and compassion. So, everyone, take time to care for yourself. Do what it is that you love, whether it's reading a book, cooking a meal, or perusing the Internet; it doesn't matter, as long as the activity is good for you and for your spirit. I'd like to leave you with an article by Cindy Ricardo, LMHC from In it, she provides 5 exercises to improve self-care with assertiveness:
1. Engage in a personal growth activity such as attending therapy sessions geared towards exploring your inner thoughts and connecting with your needs.

2. Learn to say no when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.

3. Pay attention to your body and make sure that you are meeting your own needs for sleep, nutrition and exercise.

4. Learn to incorporate time for play, fun and laughter into your life.

5. Pursue your interest and the things you have put off doing as a result of placing other’s needs before your own.

Let's all practice these principles, and see how important and fulfilling it is to love self, and then enjoy sharing that love and joy with everyone around you.

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