Fitting the “Self” into a Busy Lifestyle

Everything we enjoy is a way to care for ourselves and lower our stress. You know what to buy when shopping for clothes, a certain type of music exists on your iPod, and a night out with the guys or girls is a way to unwind from stress. The behavior patterns we engage in to lower our stress also keeps us happy while we’re among our family and co-workers.

This is a healthy way of life for most people, but oftentimes this world does not exist for caretakers. Caretakers overly-exert themselves when helping their family and friends and place their needs second or dead last. In the world of a caretaker, their reactions are often determined by someone else’s actions. Starting a relationship as a caretaker or living a lifestyle as one will inevitably cause extreme emotional distress, resentment, anger, and mirror a pattern of self-destruction. A caretaker is not always involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. The behavioral patterns of a caretaker may have formed during childhood.

I am going to offer three common situations and solutions that may help caretakers put on their brakes, realize they create more bad than good by being a caretaker, and offer solutions so they can bring their individual needs while continuing to help others. All you need is paper and a pen to get started.

The situation: You’ve gone so long putting your needs second or dead last you need to get back in touch with what you enjoy. The solution: Make a list of your favorite things you once did and new opportunities you want to try. Remember, this list involves what will specifically focus on you. Its best to focus on things that are healthy and feed your personal and spiritual growth. It is okay if you struggle with this. When I made this list for the first time after years of being a caretaker, I remember staring at a blank sheet of paper for 10 minutes!

The situation: Accepting that self-care is not selfish. If leaving the house to do something for yourself gives you as much guilt as eating multiple desserts, I have a solution. The solution: Have a family meeting and let your partner and children know you are going to start the new activity. It will be nerve-racking to let go of your family for a few hours a day but you may be surprised as your family may be excited to see you try new things. It is also excellent that your children watch you engage in a healthy, creative activity as your children will likely pick up the learned behavior in their teen and adult years. Therefore, choose something from the list of things you enjoy and never look back.

The situation: You realize you’ve been engaging in activities you no longer enjoy and they leave you feeling drained, depressed, and unfulfilled. The solution: The best way to attack a serious issue like this is make two columns on a piece of paper; one labeled, “not me” and the second labeled, “me”. As an example, cooking dinner everyday of the week may leave you hating the cooking you once loved. Therefore, have your kids and partner pitch in and cook some days of the week so you can go enjoy your new activities and come home to a cooked dinner.

After following these tips, if anyone in your circle of influences, whether family or friends, is hateful, negative, or unsupportive of your personal growth, you may be involved in an unhealthy relationship. If it is worth the effort, such as with a partner, you may want to consider seeing a licensed counselor to discuss your situation. I am here to encourage you to make healthy decisions and always take care of yourself just as you love your family and others. Have fun and good luck!