Caregiver's Corner: Living Self-Care
Does a guilty or shameful feeling ever bubble up inside you at the words ‘self-care?’ I often ask my clients about their relationship with self-care. What usually follows is a glassed-over look as the quiet word ‘nothing’ whispers from their lips. Guilt and shame are stuck all over ‘self-care.’ I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be so. You do not have to feel guilty or shameful any longer.
Struggling for self-care is not in our human nature, nor is the guilt associated with it. What I experience is a lack of understanding about self-care in our culture. It appears everyone from life-coaches, pastors, psychotherapists, yoga instructors, physicians, and more are talking about self-care right now. My facebook and instagram feeds are flooded with quotes about it. What is strange is that few are really doing it and it appears to be getting worse. Self-care is for you, me, your neighbor, your sister, and your friend. It is possible for everyone. If you are reading this, you were drawn to this blog to reclaim what was lost. Nothing needs to be made better because there is nothing in you to be fixed. Please join me and many more as we reclaim ourselves and learn that self-care is the answer and attainable for all.
“You cannot love others more than you love yourself.” This phrase was in Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. It is not an opinion. It came out of Brene’s 10-year research on shame and wholeheartedness. She interviewed thousands of participants before coming to this conclusion. I remember when I first read this, it felt like a punch to the gut. Have you ever felt that? On a soul level I knew her research was true. I did not love myself. I liked myself just fine, but love….that was something unattainable. How many times in my life did I miss out on loving more deeply than I thought? Many, I am afraid. This saddened me to my core. There was a limit to how much love I could show others and a limit on how much love I could receive.
I was not born this way. My true nature is to love wholeheartedly. But for me, having a mother that did not bond with me and a non-existent father, I assumed there must be something wrong with me. So the protective guard went up quite early for me. Like me, there may come a time when you are punched in your gut. It’s called your goddess intuition and you know on a soul level there is a better way. Readers, you may not want to hear it. If you want to love your kids, your partner, your friends wholeheartedly, then you will need to take the journey of loving yourself.
You are enough
If your inner narrative is ‘I am not enough,’ guess what? Your children, spouse, and friends are not enough either. We all know those parents who overly push their spouse or children. If the inner narrative is ‘I am not lovable’ or anything similar, then there is a limit on the depth of love you can give.
How many parents are reading this right now, knowing they neglect their own needs? Do you push for worthiness? You don’t need to; you already are. Nothing can change that. Does this sound familiar: ‘I will push through,’ ‘I will rest tomorrow,’ or worse yet, ‘self-care is a luxury, I just cannot do that.’ You proceed to wear sleep-deprivation and back pain as a badge of honor. You can’t give others what you don’t have. For me, this is still a work in progress. What I know is I want my children to have all of me. Not a half-mom and I know I am not alone.
What does self-care have to do with all this self-love stuff?
Neuroscience now confirms what many sages and prophets before us already knew. The heart is the access point to your soul or spirit. Your heart is the center of Self. Your heart is intelligent, intuitive, and knows what is going to happen before the brain. Taking this into consideration, I slowly began to treat myself like a friend. It was not enough to think about self-love, write it down, or recite mantras, I had to DO it. I had to DO love in my body and inside my heart. What I have come to believe is that self-care is taking time to be with your soul (heart). Self-care is coming home to your heart over and over. It is feeling the connectivity to Self, other people, and the world around us.
For many modern women, it is not the journey of coming home that is fearsome. Rather, jumping all in, the actual return to home, the change that is most scary. It is really hard to go, to hand over whatever we have been so busy with, to ask for help, and just leave and come home to ourselves. When we stay away from our own hearts too long we lose our creativity, our sense of self, and our bodies become weak and focus is nil at best.
Take a moment to reflect. Do you ever find yourself saying, “as soon as I finish this project then I will take care of myself.”? “When the kids are older, I will then have more time to myself.” “When the summer’s over, I will have more time.” “After the house is completed, I will be happier.” “When the kids are in school, I will practice self-care.” “After this semester, then I will live.”
Yet, women continue in their day-to-day routines. “Yes, yes, yes, I know,” they will say to me. “I should but, but, but… “Then I think, “oh dear they have been gone too long.” These women may not be used to letting other people do things. “Work needs this and my kids need that, et cetera...” She does not realize that in sacrificing her needs for her children, she teaches her children to make the very same sacrifices of their own needs once they are grown. The cycle continues.
Where to begin the journey
How do you begin the journey to self-care? First, it is many different things to different people. I have a friend for whom ‘coming home’ is being with the trees. Walking with them, feeling them, imagining them. They remind her of how strong her heart is. It reminds her of home.
Self-care is any practice where you experience finding or being with your own heart. These are the feelings to cultivate daily: wonder, creativity, peace, freedom from demands, and love. It will take time and a strong commitment. If you are tired, your body is sick, you're struggling with lack of joy, or afraid to leave the kids or to take time off work, it is time to take time off, or to get away for a while. Jump towards home.
For some, cultivating these feeling include many small things. For instance, singing again, taking guitar lessons, starting to paint, quiet time every morning, and baking. For others, home is the forest, ocean, and a long rest. It is not always quiet or resting. Finding your heart again may mean learning to play again. A few months ago my son asked me to skip with him on the sidewalk to the door at our local YMCA. I almost said “no, grown woman do not do that.” I considered rather it would be too shameful to have others judge me and think I was weird. Instead, I skipped with him laughing like a child again. It was fun and it touched my heart.
Through self-care how long does it take to return home?
The answer is: until you have yourself back again or you have found your full heart for the first time. This is even more necessary if you are sensitive or active in the outer world. It is learning about yourself, what your needs are, and how to stay with Self. We begin to learn to pre-plan self-care into our life. No worries, if it is not easy at first. There is definitely a learning curve. Just keep looking and learning.
Regardless of the amount of time you spend at home, you and your child will miss each other, but will be glad when you return. You will have to have some uncomfortable moments saying ‘no’ to things in order to say ‘yes’ to your heart. Your dog will try to make you feel guilty, but in one second forgive you. Your partner will get grumpy. They’ll get over it and learn to find their own heart. The to-do list will grow. Work will have to struggle without you. It may mean letting go of things you don't really need anyway. But going home, feeling connected to yourself, other people, and the world around us, is the best thing you can do for the world.
The next Family Caregiver University class will be held on Thursday-November 30, 2017. The class will focus on Taking Care to Give Care; the class will continue this conversation about learning to love oneself. Raechel Morrow will be our local expert and will share advice from her years of experience as a front –line social worker, yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.
For a full list of Family Caregiver University classes provided by the Caregiver Resource Network, please call (888) 456-5664 or visit www.caregiverresource.net.
Caregiver’s Corner is provided as a public service of the Caregiver Resource Network. The Caregiver Resource Network is a collaboration of West Michigan organizations dedicated to providing for the needs and welfare of family and professional caregivers within the community. Funded by the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan with Older American’s Act Title IIIE, Family Caregiver Support funds.