Self Care isn’t Selfish

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” ~ Deborah Day

 

A friend of mine has finally taken time out from her crazy over-giving-to-everyone-else-but-herself life to focus on her health. She’s run herself ragged, and her poor body is suffering from years of neglect, so she’s taking a month off to go to a health retreat and get some new strategies in place to turn her situation around.

Another friend has recently quit a long-term social group where she has been the President for over fifteen years so that she can spend weekends working on her art.

A mutual acquaintance shocked me when she said of these two women, “It’s a bit self-indulgent, don’t you think?”

Excuse me?

Since when has it been okay to forgo your own health, emotional well-being and dreams, forever putting your needs on the back burner while you collapse in a heap  from being there for everyone else?

Self care isn’t a natural act for most people anymore. Too many of my friends and clients have confided to me that they feel guilty about pursuing their own interests or taking time for themselves when they have jobs, partners, families, elderly parents and social obligations.

But if we keep drawing on our own energy to support others without ever filling ourselves back up, eventually we end up empty.  We lose ourselves.  We look in the mirror and don’t know who we are any more.  We become little more than machines.

 

When we don’t make time for ourselves the end result will never be pretty.  We burn out, we break down, we stop maintaining the habits and relationships that contributed to our wellbeing, and we often end up walking away from things that were actually good for us or that we were once passionate about.  I see this so often that I call it ‘burned out practitioner syndrome’ – people who worked at what they loved so unsustainably that they came to resent their work/art/relationships and became totally disconnected from their passion and purpose.

Self care isn’t selfish.  Self care is the single most important gift you can give to yourself and the relationships around you. If you don’t know where to start, here are some simple suggestions:

10 ways to be kind to yourself

Remembering to take care of you

Are you setting yourself up for failure this week?

 

Simple Antidotes to Resentment

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ~ Carrie Fisher

Resentment – it’s a corrosive emotion that causes damage to the container, no matter how cautiously  you try to hold it in.

Why do we get resentful? You might not have ever been consciously aware of it, but resentment always comes down to time.  We feel resentful when we believe we’ve wasted time on something or someone.

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Most of us start out in a relationship or activity giving willingly of our time.  In fact, all of us have been in situations where we consciously choose to put our own needs, wants or interests to one side BECAUSE of what we consider to be a higher priority. We want to invest in a new relationship, we want the person we love to achieve their dreams, we want to give a new job our best shot, we want to give everything we can to the raising of our children.  We make sacrifices. And at the start we are glad to do that, even though it means we move into a place of imbalance.

But over time, if we don’t begin get a pay-off for the sacrifice we’re making (enough money, appreciation, acknowledgement etc) we start to get that niggly uncomfortable feeling that reminds us we are off our path.  In fact, if we are still neglecting the things that are important to us longer term, even if we are now well remunerated or appreciated, resentment will show up in our lives.

As a society we deal with resentment in one of three main ways, and usually in this order:

  1. We swallow it down and become a ‘martyr’, carrying on in our unfulfilling life and always putting others first.  We keep a lid on resentment, or worse: begin to live a colourless formless life that is all about function and never about heart or art.
  2. We simmer with anger and crankiness, which pops up unexpectedly in our lives as over-the-top reactions to people and situations, or as passive aggression.  We develop a fondness for muttering under our breath or closing doors just a little too hard.
  3. We slide into depression, despair and apathy.  We begin to give up on ourselves and our dreams.  We lose faith in ourselves and our abilities.

So what are we going to do about it?

If you suspect that you are burdened with resentment in any area of your life I’m going to ask you to do something radical.

Stop for a minute, and invite Resentment to come have a chat with you.  Don’t be intimidated by them, or scared.  Resentment looks like a five year old stompy-footed version of yourself…

Image from www.sheknows.com

Image from www.sheknows.com

The stompy-footed five year old inside you is very clear about what’s not working in your life right now, so why not let them get it all off their chest.

The best way to work with your Inner Child directly is to have a conversation between the Big You, and the Little You. You can do this through what is known as Left Hand – Right Hand Dialogue. It’s an easy thing to do! Simply find some different coloured pens or pencils. Use your dominant hand (the one you usually write with) to be the Big You, the conscious awareness of you as an adult. Choose one pen for this hand. Then use your non-dominant hand to represent your Little You, and let that hand pick a pen, or pens to write the responses.

Have your Big You write a question for your Little You, and then let your Little You respond. The writing will be awkward, so don’t worry about spelling or vocabulary. What you’ll get is honesty, and love, and isn’t that all we really ever need to get clear about life?

Here are some suggested questions to use with your Inner Child work:

  • Why are we so angry?
  • What’s the worst thing about right now?
  • What would we prefer to be doing?
  • What would make us happier?

Of course, your Inner Child will have a list of hurts and complaints, but don’t expect it to be all everyone else’s fault.  Your Inner Child has a lucidity and an honesty that will get right to the heart of your situation, and it might not be what you think!

I’ll share an example from my own life (about fifteen years ago) at a time when I was just starting to get hugely busy with my spiritual and psychic work.  I still had a corporate communication business, but my spiritual work was taking more and more of my time. I was becoming ‘very professional’ and ‘successful’ as a psychic, and my quiet love had become a business in its own right.  I was also feeling a little burned out, and my initial enthusiasm was waning:

Big Nicole: Hi Little Nicole, why are you so cranky right now?

Little Nicole: It’s just not fair! We never have fun anymore.  You only ever use your cards for the other people.  When do we get to play with them?  Why don’t we just play with the crystals like we used to, or go sit in the garden with all the fairies? You’re always too busy. I hate that. And Mr X is so mean and stupid to you at work.  It doesn’t even pay good money!!!

 

Oh.  I hadn’t expected that. I thought the problem was that my husband left his dirty dishes on the counter and could never get them into the dishwasher.  I thought it was my never-shrinking to-do list and the things I never got time to get to. I thought it was all these other things…

When you have finished writing with your Inner Child, go make yourself a cup of tea or get a nice cold drink (yes, take the time to have a five minute disconnect from the process you just worked with – you  need to be firmly back in your adult brain for this next bit ) and then sit down and read over what you wrote.

Your Inner Child has given you a magical list of resentment remedies.  Take a pen and underline the important parts of what they said to you.

Little Nicole: It’s just not fair! We never have fun anymore.  You only ever use your cards for the other people.  When do we get to play with them?Why don’t we just play with the crystals like we used to, or go sit in the garden with all the fairies? You’re always too busy. I hate that. And Mr X is so mean and stupid to you at work.  It doesn’t even pay good money!!!

Now you need to put your Inner Child’s guidance into action. Start by finding some small windows of time just for you. Following my own Inner Child’s advice I gave myself the gift of ten minutes (that’s nothing! – anyone can find ten minutes!!!) each morning to choose a daily card, reflect and write a few insights, and play with my crystal collection.  One day a week I took a half-hour walk out in nature. Even though the amount of time I was gifting back to myself was small it made a huge positive change in the sense of freedom and expansion in my everyday world.

Little Nicole was also right about the mean man – I had a corporate client who was hugely demanding, calling me at home on weekends and expecting me to work 20 hour days to complete projects to his insane deadlines.  I finished my contract with his organisation and walked away, knowing that I had enough clients to work at my spiritual ‘job’ full time.

And I asked my husband to please put his plates in the dishwasher, and after asking him, he did!

My resentment melted away because I was honouring my own needs and making space for them in my life.

We feel resentment when there is not enough time for our own dreams and interests.  Of course our resentment will find a place to focus our attention, so we end up thinking it’s our annoying boss, or our ungrateful husband, or our demanding children who are ruining our lives.  But in fact, it was us and our choices all along. And in the beginning we were happy with those choices.

By making time for ourselves  and our dreams, our lives become more fulfilling and sustainable – and we find that the unbearable becomes tolerable again.  We might even regain our zest for the things that are currently dragging us down.

Resentment always has simple antidotes.  It is about reclaiming a corner of your life for YOU!  Life is short, and precious.  Don’t taint it with resentment – it’s just not worth it.  There’s always a better way.  Today I’m holding the intention that you find clarity, and the courage to take action to make your life more aligned with your Soul.  ❤ Much love to you xx

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How to deal with Toxic People

“Toxic relationships not only make us unhappy; they corrupt our attitudes and dispositions in ways that undermine healthier relationships and prevent us from realizing how much better things can be.” — Michael Josephson

What is a toxic relationship? It’s one that diminishes you, that erodes you, that defeats you.

We all experience conflicts, disagreements and difficulties in our interactions with others. That’s a normal part of relationships, and one of the things that helps us to grow, learn patience, acceptance and better communication skills.

Sometimes relationships cause us to feel bad because we have hurt someone, or let them down. Sometimes we just can’t see eye-to-eye on something. That’s normal too.

What’s not normal or healthy are the sort of relationships that are poisonous to you – the ones that inevitably leave you feeling upset, angry, unloved, despairing, stressed or drained. The ones that leave you doubting yourself, giving up on your dreams, feeling stupid and unworthy and changing or limiting yourself because of someone else.That’s a toxic relationship.

How do you recognise a toxic person? A good yardstick is to simply use your own feelings. But here are some personalities you may recognise:

  • Look at ME, Look at ME, Look at ME. These people are self-absorbed.  They thrive on drama and being the centre of attention. They have an ability to turn everything back to being about them. You could be telling them your husband has just been diagnosed with cancer and they’ll say, “Oh my God, how terrible. You know, I knew a woman once who was diagnosed with…” and suddenly your important sharing is lost as this person plays one-upmanship, offering no true compassion or empathy. Sometimes they suck you in with pleas of needing help, but you’ll find that they are never really interested in taking action on their problems.
  • Manipulators.  These people are usually narcissists.  They are skilled at using a combination of flattery or friendliness followed by anger, judgement and put-downs if they don’t get their own way.  They see themselves as better than/superior to you.  They are Masters of emotional blackmail. They disempower you with insidious put-downs (often in front of others), insults, belittling, shaming and embarrassing. They may threaten certain consequences or behaviours if you don’t conform to a certain way of behaving yourself. At the extreme end of the scale they may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and you may get trapped thinking it’s your problem, and that there’s something wrong with YOU, when actually it’s them with the issues.
  • Criticisers and Comparers. These people assure you that they love you, and then they try and ‘fix’ you.  You are never good enough, and they always know how you should be doing it. They have a fixed idea of who you should be and how you should behave and it will make you feel devalued and misunderstood. No matter how you try to explain yourself they can’t accept your position or choices in life. They may be know-it-alls or bullies.
  • Perpetual Downers.  These people suck the joy out of life. They are often angry at the world and down on everything. They believe that the world is against them and they have a victim mentality.  They can’t keep their promises, and life never works for them, but it is never their fault because there is always something or someone else to blame.
  • Crazy Makers.  Crazy Makers are unstable. They may be emotionally immature,  suffer from mood swings, behavioural issues, undiagnosed or uncontrolled mental illness, or substance abuse. You can’t rely on them because from day to day you don’t know how they will react or behave.
  • If it suits me.  You’re their second best. If there’s a better option, you’re always dumped. They are in this for what you can give them. There is no respect. They are insincere. You want the relationship more than they do, and they know it, and take advantage of it.
  • Abusers.  Whether it’s physical, emotional or intellectual abuse, abuse is abuse, and no-one deserves that. Get help, or get out. Or both!

In almost every situation, the best thing to do with a toxic person is to remove them from your life, or to remove yourself from theirs. It’s not your job to save them, or fix them. And you sure can’t change them – that’s something they have to want for themselves, and do for themselves.  It’s your job to look after YOU. In the workplace, report bullying, and get support.  Here are some posts that can help you work out if moving on might be an option for you:

Using Your Internal Compass to Navigate Life

Writing Your Way Out of Stuckness

Knowing When to Walk Away

People Will Be Who They Are

Are You Too Nice?

Listen with your Eyes

But what if they are family? What if this is a situation where you can’t just unplug and walk away?

The truth is, sometimes even with family, we need to cut those ties. It might be for a short time, it might be for good. A skilled counsellor will be able to help you get clear about your options. In the end, this is YOUR life, and you deserve every chance at success and happiness.

If you need to stay, here are some strategies to help you cope better:

  1. Stop needing them to be something that they are not. One of the most important reasons that we feel unfulfilled in family relationships is because we needed the other person to be different. Accept them as they are, and come to grips with that. Grieve that loss if you need to, and then look for the guidance, love, acceptance and support you’re seeking elsewhere.  Once we let go of wanting our mother to be wise, or our father to be accepting of us, or our sister to share their emotions with us, or our brother to include us, we let go of being constantly disappointed. You can get to a place of grace with this, so that you can truly understand that this is just who they are, and sit without judgement on that. Acceptance is something we all want. You can love them without liking their behaviour.  Often by getting to this place of unconditional love, the dynamics of the relationship actually start to change.
  2. Limit your exposure.  Find reasons to stay a shorter time, to end the call sooner, to avoid one-on-one time.  Meet in public places if necessary.
  3. Put on your psychic raincoat. Visualise yourself surrounded by a shielding bubble of light before you connect with the other person.  Let it all wash over you – their words and behaviours. There’s no need to change them. There’s no need to engage. Just come from kindness and be polite. Listen a lot and talk little. Direct it all back to them so that they are the one talking. Maintain your privacy and create strong boundaries.
  4. Find a relationship counsellor.  Trained professionals can give us strategies for better handling conversations, confrontations and expectations. Instead of being ‘handled’ and manipulated by others, we can move back into a position of balance and empowerment.
  5. Bless them and release them.  This doesn’t mean walking away.  It means that mentally we bless them with love, and we let go of any and all expectations and responsibilities. They become like a stranger to us. We treat them with respect, and love, but not with intimacy and deeper connection.

Your life is YOURS to live. Life is too short to waste it being someone you’re not, doing things that don’t make you happy, and spending time with people who are posionous to your self-worth. By stepping away from unhealthy relationships we make room in our lives for new, better connections. We renew our hope, restore our freedom and open ourselves to fresh possibilities. Today I’m wishing you strength, real friendships, and true love.  Bless ♥ xx