Updated: Jul 20
When we are drowning, we are not able to help the people around us! We have to be on stable ground first before we are any help to anyone else. Connect to ourselves, regulate our emotions, and care for ourselves; then we can be helpful to others.
Most often when I hear people talking about self-care, the sentiment is that it is selfish and self-serving. It is prioritized last because we find the needs and wants of the people around us more important than ours. This is actually the opposite of what is true! If we want to be there for others in a meaningful way, we have to make sure that we do not leave ourselves in the dust.
Let's look at this scenario
My partner has a lot of anxiety in the morning when trying to get the kids out of the house. I start to feel anxious too because I come out to the living room and everyone is running around with their heads cut off! I tell my partner "calm down!" because I want to get rid of the anxiety I am feeling. Is that helpful?... most often the answer is no.
At that moment, if I were to put myself first. I would take a step back, do a self-soothing skill to regulate the emotions I was feeling, and then walk back into the living room. What do you think happens then?
I would most likely say something like "It looks kinda chaotic in here. How can I help?" This statement is going to be way more helpful for my partner than telling them to calm down. (Being directive in moments of high emotion can actually be very invalidating and escalate the situation)
Ways to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others!
Regulate your own emotions
We are in control of how we feel, yes, and we are also influenced by others. It is natural! When we see people who are sad, happy, or frustrated, we start to feel it too! That is part of being a human. We are social beings!! We do not have control over how we feel, but we do have control over what we then do with that feeling. We can let it run wild, or we can check in with it.
We can let it wash over us while we just observe the emotion rather than trying to stop it. (Do not interact with your environment! Just pause a moment and let yourself have the emotion. Depending on the intensity of the emotion it could pass in a matter of seconds or up to 10 minutes, but it will pass!)
We can see what thoughts we are having that might be leading to the emotion and see if they are accurate.
We can even approach the feeling with curiosity. ("hmm, I wonder where this is coming from. I was fine a minute ago.")
We can do something that is self-soothing to reduce the emotion. (breath, muscle relaxation, do some jumping jacks or squats, smell a candle, drink some water)
Regularly do your hobby
If we have regular positive moments, we will feel more positive! If you know going for a hike once a week really helps you stay balanced, but you have missed 3 weeks in a row because someone has made plans over your hike... you will probably not be at your best. If you know that going to therapy, going to your yoga class, or going out with friends keeps your mental health in check; make these a priority! Yes, as all things are, easier said than done.
Connect with yourself
How are we supposed to know how to care for ourselves if we do not know ourselves?! If we try to run for exercise and we can't seem to ever be able to stick with it, maybe the issue isn't that you can't stick with something, the issue might be that running is not a good activity for you!! Take some time to step back and see what you like, don't like, need, and want! When you connect with yourself, you might realize that the reason you are not running is that every time you run all you think about is the massive to-do list waiting for you at home! When you know this about yourself, you can then pick something that is a better fit. Try something like boxing! Not only is it harder to just be in your head, but you are also taking out some aggression in a healthy way!
Connect with yourself, know yourself so that you can advocate for yourself! Set healthy boundaries, communicate effectively (because you know clearly what you want) and when you take time for yourself, it is actually something that will recharge you!
Connect with your loved ones
I've said it before... and I'll say it again! We are social beings!! In order to have balance in our lives, we need to have meaningful and positive connections in our lives! This looks different for everyone. Someone might need a lot of connections, whereas others only need a few really deep connections. Figure out what you need and find build and maintain those relationships!
Have a ritual of connection with your partner, friend, sibling, or child. Make it a habit to have planned positive interactions with the people closest to you. This might look like reviewing your day with your family around the dinner table every night. Calling your sibling or friend on your way home from work. Reading a book to your child before bed. Saying encouraging words to your partner when you part ways for the day. Make little moments, moments of intentional connection!
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing compassionate and tailored mental health support for moms at all stages of motherhood. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!