In our busy lives, we can fall into the habit of taking care of everyone and everything else before we take care of ourselves. When we focus first on taking care of our careers and homes, our friends, loved ones, clients and bosses, our own needs can fall to the bottom (or completely off) of our “to do” lists.
Though we become more and more irritated, exhausted and disillusioned by living this way, we remain prisoners to this pattern by telling ourselves that we would be selfish (meaning “bad”) to take care of ourselves before anyone or anything else is fully handled.
While this misperception is a common one, it is, nonetheless, a fear-fueled lie. I know because I learned the hard way by living this particular lie for more than 50 years, when I finally ended up burned out, 80 pounds overweight and clinically depressed.
One of the problems with not taking care of our health is that the effects of ignoring it are often slow to show up. We continue to juggle family responsibilities, work, and finances until we lose ourselves, waking up one day fifty pounds heavier in body and soul. When we spend our lives not taking care of ourselves, eventually we are no good to ourselves or anyone else. We cannot share anything of lasting value with others by giving from an empty well.
Through healing and self-exploration, I discovered that loving and taking care of myself is one of the greatest gifts I can ever give myself or anyone else, because when I nurture and cherish myself, my very presence encourages and supports others. When I’m not taking care of myself, I’m not able to give my best to anyone or anything. I may put on a good show, but it will be a pale imitation of the real thing. When we learn to treat ourselves with love in every moment, then—and only then—will we find ourselves able to be of genuine service to others.
The solution is to take care of yourself WHILE you take care of others. Don’t wait to handle everything else first, only allowing yourself whatever scraps of energy remain. Instead, make time each day to rest, reflect and play. In the long run, this way of living will not only help you take better care of yourself, it will help you take better care of everyone and everything else you hold dear.
To help yourself remain mindful of this healthier new habit, try incorporating relevant affirmations that anchor your desire for balanced self-care. Here are three of my personal favorites:
- I nurture, encourage and delight myself in healthy ways.
- I do not give from an empty well. I renew and empower my body, mind, heart and soul with rest, reflection and play.
- I live in harmony, promoting sensory balance through mindfulness, wisdom and love.
What do I mean by sensory balance? On my own journey to wholeness, I realized that sensory balance plays a key role in living a balanced, empowered life. Like the framing in a home, our outer and inner senses build on our energetic foundation to provide the day-to-day infrastructure for a life of flow securely grounded in constructive core energy. Sensory balance involves feeding all of our senses in healthy, balanced ways so that no one sense takes over trying to fill voids it can never hope to fill. This begins with mindfully feeding our five outer senses, through which we celebrate our world, and it extends to intentionally feeding our four inner senses of creativity, vitality, spirituality, and belonging, through which we imbue our experience with meaning.
If despite your best efforts, from time to time you find yourself starting to feel out of sorts or worn down, a real-time Sensory Balance Scan can help you identify which aspects of your thinking would benefit from recalibration and what form that might take.
Below you will find a snapshot of the worksheet used for the scan. In my book, Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life!, I provide a variety of scans to help you recognize when you are out of alignment and get yourself back on track, including the Sensory Balance Scan. Click here to download a FREE full-size, color version of my Sensory Balance Scan, along with full-size, color versions of all of the other illustrations and scans included in my book.
The Sensory Balance Scan consists of a five-step process, with each step grounded in caring enough about yourself to do the following:
- Pay attention so that you notice quickly whenever you’ve drifted into a state of sensory imbalance due to starving and/or gorging one or more of your nine senses. Realize that gorging one or more of your senses is likely to indicate starving one or more and vice versa.
- Invest your energy in assessing the root cause of the imbalance, paying special attention to any fear underneath what you are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing.
- Determine what baby steps will strengthen the presence of love in your reality and restore balance to the way you are feeding your senses: quality, quantity, and frequency.
- Hold yourself accountable for following through on your commitment to take action.
- Assess your results and continuously refine and expand your action plan to maximize the presence of love and minimize the presence of fear, thereby restoring harmony and encouraging sensory balance.
Having gotten honest with myself, if the results of the scan indicate there is something significant to explore but I don’t yet feel able to go deeper, I demonstrate respect and compassion by not forcing myself. I relax into exactly where I am on my journey. Caring enough about myself to notice and explore potential imbalances plants the seed for emerging insights. Whenever I invest my energy in conducting the scan, I’ve already taken an additional step toward recognizing unresolved fear inside me and moving myself forward on my personal journey to wholeness.
A powerful way to turn on the light of love within you and keep it burning brightly is to ask yourself many times each day, “If I were my own beloved child or valued client, how would I take care of me right now?” What’s one simple way you will commit to taking better care of YOURSELF today?
Hi Deborah, great insights and technique. I totally agree that self-care isn’t “selfish” but rather intrinsically important. I guess we tend to learn the hard way (I did also) because our mainstream society tends to “expect” us to juggle many hats and be so-called “strong”. If we say we need time out for ourselves, we can easily be labelled as lazy, “selfish” or weak. It takes strength to live by our own code of conduct, ethics and morality. Warm wishes, Sam