Summer is gone. The leaves are changing. The kids are back to school. For a lot of people, life is picking back up. For some, it never stopped. We understand. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a therapist, a nurse, a librarian, a grocery store employee, or a server … we all need to be reminded to give ourselves some T.L.C. (tender, loving care). Grab a seat and your favorite fall beverage to begin. Then, keep reading as we share 3 ways to consistently care for yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. These are the ABCs of tender loving self-care:
ABSENCE = Self Care
Let’s start here: you do not have to be accessible to everyone all the time. That’s worth repeating. You DO NOT have to be accessible to everyone all the time. I’m sure many of you are already saying “I don’t have a choice. I have to!” Let’s pause right there and ask this question: WHY?
Why do you feel you have to be everywhere? Why do you feel you have to do so much for everyone else? For some, this sentiment may come from a need to be needed. For others, you may feel obligated to be a part of the PTA committee AND the outreach ministry at church AND play mediator for all your family members. There is value in being connected to a great community and giving of your time to great causes. However, overcommitting is like overeating. You get full, you feel sick, and you feel resentful. Next thing you know, you’re taking that resentment out on other people.
Learn to disconnect. Learn to turn the phone off. You don’t have to talk to every person that calls you. It’s okay if: you send that call to voicemail, turn off social media for a few hours (or a few days), and/or say no to that invitation. Seriously, it’s okay! Setting these limitations is called setting boundaries.
BOUNDARIES = Self Care
Boundaries keep us safe. Imagine walking past a yard and suddenly you hear loud barking. You turn and see a large dog rushing towards you. Your life flashes before your eyes. Then, the dog stops thanks to the fence surrounding the yard. What a relief! Am I right? That fence is a boundary. Boundaries keep us safe. Boundaries can keep those outside safe, but more often than not, they really protect what is inside of them. The owners of the dog built that fence so their dog could not run off, get lost, or potentially get hit by a car. The fence just also happens to protect those who are not familiar with the dog. Did you catch that?
Author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace”, Needra Tawaab, defines boundaries as “rules, ideas, needs that help you to feel safe and comfortable”. If you don’t have boundaries, people will easily intrude on your space, time, and mental/emotional bandwidth. It is important to implement boundaries and stick to them. It is not other people’s job to adhere to your boundaries, but it is your job to enforce your boundaries. Some may not respond kindly to your boundaries but remember: We teach people how to treat us. The best way to implement your boundaries is by communicating.
COMMUNICATION = Self Care
As the songwriter wrote, “say what you need to say!”. You must articulate your needs. When I do couples counseling, this scenario happens often:
Partner 1- “What’s going on?”
Partner 2 – “Nothing.” (even though body language says something is definitely going on)
I tell couples all the time that it is not my job to figure out what is going on. It’s their job to articulate what’s going on so that I can assist with creating a path forward.
The same is true in any area of life, whether it’s communicating with a significant other, with family members, or with coworkers. Identify and enforce your boundaries by communicating your needs. “Closed mouths don’t get fed” is the saying. So, open up your mouth if your feelings were hurt by a comment your coworker made. Speak up if you are way too tired to attend that friend’s party. You don’t have to write a dissertation or give any lengthy explanation unless you want to.
Challenge yourself this week. Make an effort to practice these ABCs throughout the week to show yourself some tender, loving care. You are worth it.