As I was writing another article on self-awareness, I was thinking about how difficult and draining it can be when we put so many others ahead of ourselves. The people that work in jobs where that quality of care is important are often the ones most affected by this type of energy drain.
I wanted to take a deeper look at this for those of you, my clients, friends and followers who are self-employed in a care-giving job. It could be you are a practitioner of a physical or emotional therapy like a Psychotherapist, Naturopath, Masso-therapist, Reiki or other type of Practices. Then there are the doctors and nurses, of course!
Those are the easy ones to identify, and those of you who do other service jobs like Coaches, Mentors, Consultants in almost any field, Virtual Assistants or any other type of assistant that supports someone else. How about parents? Children of aging parents? Are you getting the idea? If this does not describe you then very likely someone you know very well.
Ok, now that we have established that almost everyone puts themselves further down the list than is healthy, we have a clear picture of where we either are or could be if not for self-care. Yes it is possible to take care of your own needs while caring for someone else’s, it’s just taking the time to know what your own needs are. What feeds you and gives you the energy required to support yourself AND others.
Are you caring for others at your own expense? If so, you may not be doing anyone any favours. You may be resentful that the responsibility is not shared. You are likely physically exhausted, making loads of errors or even hurting yourself. Exhaustion leads to illness. I know folks who only stop moving when they are sick enough to be in bed. Usually this also means medication. Not the kind of restful holiday one would want or plan for.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are you doing something for someone else that they are capable of doing or taking care of themselves?
Have you bitten off more than you can chew?
Is it better for you to say NO, and do you know how to?
Can you ask for support from others?
Do you get annoyed that it seems that you are doing EVERYTHING?
These are all interconnected so I will give you a scenario or two.
Doing stuff for others that they could do for themselves, was something I personally experienced. They dropped doing important tasks and I picked them up, barely giving it time to hit the ground. I did not wait to be asked, I just did not trust they would do it or well enough for my liking so I just did it. Problem was it created resentment in the relationship along with a heaping helping of martyrdom and exhaustion. Why do I have to do everything? What about me? Who does stuff for me?
In a job situation, you may find yourself saying yes to another project or client because of financial insecurity or not wanting others to think badly of you. The “I should’s” show up and now one more thing is on your plate. YIKES!
You already need an extra day or week to get done what’s in front of you NOW! How will you get that done along with all of your regular responsibilities? Yes, you guessed it, you go further down your list of priorities and get drained a little bit more, maybe even disappear a little bit more. Not good…
Do you even know who you are anymore? What would you do with a wee bit of free time for yourself?
Consider this, say NO! This is not always easy at the beginning, but freeing eventually so worth the discomfort.
It could sound like this;
I have a lot on my plate at this time, so I will have to decline right now.
That event/request sounds like a wonderful opportunity, thanks for thinking of me. I am not available at this time.
Or with a smile just say “No thanks.” You actually don’t need to defend or explain your reason for the NO, ever! Who knew? People who are used to DEPENDING on you may be surprised at first. They have an EXPECTATION and they WILL get over it eventually. For now if they ask why you said no, you can ask them why they need to know, it doesn’t change your decision.
Sitting on your hands can keep your spring loaded arm from shooting up when folks are looking for assistance or volunteers. But if your plate is full or you just know you haven’t the energy, it is also good to say I will get back to you. This allows you time to check your schedule, check your energy, check your motives for doing whatever it is then you can gracefully decline over the phone, email or text. This also helps if you are nervous saying no at the beginning.
Putting yourself first can be confused as being selfish, but if you are putting yourself last there is less and less of you until there is no self left. This would be a tragedy beyond measure. You have brought the gift of you to the world to be of service to others and now it’s time to treat yourself like the treasure you are.
Taking the time to stop long enough to make a well informed decision about what you want or need for yourself is important. I didn’t know how much until I realized it was the first step to knowing myself. It was hard to say NOTHING to others when I didn’t know what I was saying YES to. I was saying YES to myself. Know what the cost is to YOU when you say YES to someone else.
This may all seem scary but this kind of self-care is a baby-step to self-awareness, knowing who you are at your core. Getting to know yourself can be an adventure if you look at this as a journey with no destination but YOU!
Build up your energy to create a reserve so when big things happen you have some to spare. To start, just be aware of where you say yes, then wish you hadn’t. It IS ok to take a YES back. “I am sorry but I am overwhelmed or over- extended right now and I am no longer available to…”
I know this sounds “easy for you to say” but I learned this all the hard way. It may not have been easy, but it has been worth it to create boundaries for myself. This has led to greater self-care most of the time, although I slip and slide every now and again.
Being responsible folks that care for others is wonderful and affirming. Over-responsibility takes away our energy and we lose ourselves. Sometimes we unwittingly take self-respect from those capable of doing things for themselves. Make today the day to exchange a NO to others for a resounding YES for YOU!