When my son went to bed last night, he started crying. I could tell something was bothering him in the last 30 minutes because he kept looking at the clock while his sister was playing a song on the piano for us.
Now, to put you in context, you have to know that he is sensitive and caring and has a big, generous heart. He is also an introvert, so to recharge, he needs time alone. He needs time to transition so being rushed does not work well for him, at least not when he is not well grounded. The most important thing to him is connecting with family members, one on one or as a whole, but we need to be present to each other. This is his motto.
Back to the story, my nine year old boy realized that he gave too much of his time to big sis, happily helping her in a project for school, offering to do her chore to lend a hand and listen to her song. Now, he ended up not having enough time to recharge and it was time to go to bed. We talked about setting firm boundaries, about the oxygen mask theory, refilling our cup. Now he has a plan to make sure this won’t happen again (we all know it will, he probably knows too, but we want to do damage control). I’ll be there to remind him if he forgets. I bet he won’t.
In emotional self-care, setting boundaries is something to look for. We need to honor ourselves first and sometimes this means saying no. Now, not that it is not important when we talk about social self-care or what some others call relationship care; it is still something to be mindful of.
When it comes to looking at our relationship with others, we need to remember:
- At times, we want to interact with others. Frequencies and needs may vary from one person to another but still, human connection is something we cannot deny. Who would not like to spend time with friends or family to celebrate their birthday, as an example?
- We are interdependent so we need to interact with others; Nobody can attend to all of their needs on their own. When we are going through hard times or exhilarating joy, having someone to talk to or to spend time with makes all the difference in the world.
There are a lot of other ways to take care of our relationships, as you can attest when looking at this exhaustive list to assess our social self-care. Some seem to be done to help others but they benefit us as the same time, like connecting with friends and family especially those abroad. Others requires us to do what directly benefits us first and foremost. WARNING: Do not see these as selfish. If you think you are when taking care of yourself, think about what would happen if you got cancer or have to deal with depression? Do you think that by neglecting your needs and ending up in a difficult situation you are better equipped to help and support others around you? Are you then able to fulfill your life’s mission? Take the time to read and see where you can improve. The ones I want to focus on today are in bold.
- Developing assertiveness skills, not passive or aggressive ones.
- Balancing social and personal time.
- Developing the ability to be who you are in all situations.
- Becoming engaged with other people in your community
- Valuing diversity and treating others with respect.
- Enlarging your social circle—aka continually being able to maintain and develop friendships and social networks.
- Creating boundaries within relationships, boundaries that encourage communication, trust and conflict management.
- Remembering to have fun.
- Scheduling regular dates with your partner or spouse.
- Scheduling regular activities with your children.
- Making time to see or stay in contact with friends.
- Call, check on, or visit your relatives.
- Allowing others to do things for you.
- Asking for help when you need it.
- Sharing a fear, hope, or secret with someone you trust.
- Remembering who you are in any relationship.
- Creating for yourself a community of support (network of family and friends.)
Creating for yourself a community of support and asking for help when you need it
As much as we need to learn to say no to others more often, we also need to say yes to others more, by asking for help and recognizing our intrinsic need to connect, to give and receive. For some reason, probably from with all the availability of services almost 24/7, the development of consumerism and actualization of our needs, it seems like there is a rise of individualism. In plain words: we became reluctant to ask others for help. So first we need to acknowledge our needs and second we need to ask for help when we need it. Sound simple? When was the last time you asked a neighbor for some eggs or sugar when in a middle of making a recipe?
Here is a quick assignment to guide you through saying yes more often. It part of a bigger picture called the emergency self-care plan:
1-Make a list of people you can contact if you need support or distraction. For example, your best friend, other friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, other relatives, community members, therapist, coach, or any member of your wellness team, etc.
2-Divide the list of people into categories by asking yourself the following questions:
- Who can I call if I am feeling depressed or anxious?
- Who can I call if I am lonely?
- Who will come over to be with me if I need company?
- Who will listen?
- Who will encourage me to get out of the house and do something fun?
- Who will remind me to follow my self-care plan?
Share your plan
Once you have developed your plan and made your commitment, remember that friends, family, peers, and/or colleagues may be good additional resources for exchanging new self-care ideas/strategies and to provide support and encouragement. Chances are by being open to communicate your plan you may be enabling them to feel ok to do the same and add you on their support team list.
Consider taking your commitment a step further by joining or starting a support or discussion group. Our Self Care event could be the springboard to exchange ideas toward caring for oneself.
The ability to be who you are in all situations and remembering to have fun
In order to sell more and make money Big Corps have created and encouraged consumerism. With this, the advent of media are doing a good job at telling us we are not enough of or too much of and what to buy be happier, healthier, sexier. It is as we developed self consciousness to a degree where it looked ridiculous to be ourselves in public without (feeling) people frowning at us.
It seems though there is an ever growing movement to celebrate our uniqueness now. Thank goodness! It is tiring to deny who we are! Seriously, we need to be able to have fun and not worry about what people think. It is of great importance to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Playing tough is not a sign of courage and strength, it is a sign of not allowing vulnerability and genuine feelings to emerge.
When we are able to be ourselves and not be too self-conscious about what people think we are exuding strength. Being vulnerable is the utmost sign of bravery. Now, I am not saying this is easy. I have times when I am totally frivolous to the extent that my teenage daughter wants to deny she share blood with me (this will pass, I know). I have others where I just want to hide. This is part of being human. If I remember even just a tiny bit about the core message from Brenée Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection, this is it: Do not let shame or guilt define what you do with your life or how you feel about yourself. Be authentic, be real!
There might be some need for emotional healing but this is feasible. One day at a time you can recreate the perception you have of yourself. There is a lot of work that can be done to heal our trauma and love ourselves more. Be patient and forgiving.
Do yourself a favor, this week: DO one thing that you want so badly but did not because your self-consciousness stopped you in the past. It does not need to be fancy, complicated or expensive. Do it first in your shower or living room if need be and get acquainted with it until you try to do it with family members and friends and in public. Chances are that when you do this, you will again help someone not there yet thinking this may not be such a bad idea after all!