December 7, 2015

5 Heartfelt Tips to Care for Our Caretaker Selves: I Think I Needed an Early Christmas Present.



Am I the Only One that Struggles With Self-care?

I have all the advice in the world when it comes to caring for other people but when it comes to myself, I can be a bit of hard ass who has trouble understanding the words softness, break, appreciation, gentle or breathe.

One of my first memories of being a child is looking up at the world around me and thinking how badly these people needed my help. It was at about the age of three that I started to tell myself that I must be the person who takes care of everyone.

It has been quite the journey for me since then to reclaim the focal point of my life as moving from my center, rather then from everyone else’s. Being there for others feels like my natural first response and embarrassingly enough, taking care of myself sometimes, is not.

I thought I had made leaps and bounds in the self-care department. I teach people how to do this; I should know how to do it myself (see just how gentle I am?).

Recently I have been under new stress, deadlines, changes in season, changes in hormones, changes in schedules—and, bam!

My balance went out the window and I became the person who just keeps pushing. I was worried that if I took time for my own self-nurturing, I might never get back up or worse, the world might crumble down around me. My most dreaded of all fears as a caretaker though was that if I focused on myself I might lose all my close relationships along with every one of my successes, too.

But, for the last three days I have been waking up wanting to cry and this morning I really didn’t feel like I could get myself out the front door. I had been consistently hearing my heart pleading for attention, pleading to be seen, held and treated with care.

And still I choose to ignore it.

So finally this morning I said, “OK! OK, I will look at you. OK, I will hold you. OK, I will love you.”

By this point my heart had gotten quite sad, so when I did slow down, that is exactly what I felt. Sad. It was the deep, deep sadness, tenderness and the vulnerability of someone that has been ignored by their partner for a little too long.

I was having an experience of self-neglect and when I saw what I had done, it seemed even harder to be gentle on myself. How could I be this indifferent—me, the agile caretaker?

When I stopped to be with myself today, the intensity of sadness that was here almost overwhelmed me to the point of brushing myself off, jumping back up and immediately focusing on other people and other tasks instead. They seemed easier to take care of then I did.

Being a journeyed caretaker, I knew that this was not a helpful way to support someone in need. I knew that a better thing to do was to take myself by the hand and tell her that she was the most important thing to me again.

I decided this morning that something had to change, that I had to unwrap and understand the words that had baffled me before, and that now that I was in my 30’s I was actually old enough to do it. Softness, break, appreciation, gentle and breathe, here I come.

It would be an early Christmas present to myself and a preparation for a nurturing new year.

These are the 5 things I realized that my caretaker self needed in order to do this:

1) Love:

By choosing myself first, I am demonstrating the act of true love to myself and the world. Understanding that self care requires first a softening and the realization that my container must be filled before I can help others to fill theirs.

2) Permission:

By accepting that I am human and I have limits, I am offering myself the permission to take breaks. Sometimes I understand that this means that I will need to slow down before I can speed up.

3) Acknowledgement:

By giving myself kudos for being me, I can understand that it is through appreciation of the self that I begin again to move through life from my own centre.

4) Compassion:

By asking myself regularly what it is that I need and want, I show compassion for my true desires. When I do this I understand that self-care is the act of placing gentle and clear attention on my purpose.

5) Space:

By giving myself space in my schedule I can touch base with my needs. I am reminded how good it feels to just sit and breathe. When I spend time with my tender places, I can better regulate my experience from one of sadness into one of joy.

Being a born caretaker is not a curse, it is a blessing—in fact, it is my personal super power. It is this very super power that I cultivated first through taking care of others that I will now learn how to master in my self.

It is with love, permission, acknowledgment, compassion and space I set my most recent and very adult intention. Even though it makes me shake in my Birkenstocks to say it, my new Sankalpa (yogic intention formed in the heart), is to be my very own caretaker first.



A No-Nonsense Guide to Self Love.

Author: Sarah Norrad

Editor: Erin Lawson

Images: Kozzi/Sergey Nivens  //   Flickr/Katia Romanova

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