When health deteriorates, the downward spiral begins
One of my dear friends is experiencing health issues and it has been the case for a long time. From recurrent stress, lack of sleep and digestive problems, his health is deteriorating seriously. Conscious that he is trapped in a downward spiral, he doesn’t know what to do about it and he continues to hope that his current stressful situation is going to change, that the pressure he is under will disappear. However there is a good chance that things will not change anytime soon, and it means that the pressure will continue.
Givers are focusing on helping others and they tend to forget about themselves
He is a generous person, always thinking about the well-being of others, but he does not think a lot about himself, about his own well-being. Sometimes he feels sorry for himself when he spends long empty hours in bed hoping for some sleep to come to relieve his growing anxiety. But instead, his anxiety level rises and sleep continues to escape him. Frankly, he does not know what to do, and although he knows he should do something, he does not really know where to start. It all increases his anxiety.
The situation is so intense, and has been going on for so long, that he is at risk of burnout or some other major problem.
Self-care is essential even more so if you are a giver!
It is time for him to realize that self-care is essential, in particular when life becomes so stressful. I am not even certain that he knows what self-care is about, apart from washing his teeth, taking a shower every day, shaving and eating as best he can.
Self-care cannot be outsourced and should not be delayed
Self-care is something that needs to be taken seriously; it is not something that you can delegate or subcontract to your doctors or anybody else but you. It is something that we have to take responsibility for. It does not mean that you cannot receive help! On the contrary, being able to ask for help and finding the one you need is important. But first and foremost it concerns you, your life, your health, your own decisions and your learning process. So my first recommendation would be to start now!
“To be curious about the world is great, but to be curious of how our body works is indispensable”
There is a learning process to understand how the body works. From the day we are born, our tendency is to reach out for the exterior, to be curious about what is happening around us, as if what is happening inside is a given. In most cases what happens inside ourselves remains secondary except when it becomes too dysfunctional.
When the body deteriorates, it is NOT too late to reset our priorities
Quite often, we start to be really serious about ourselves when our body deteriorates, when our health has degraded badly, We are then confronted with the necessity of resetting our priorities.
To focus on ourselves is not a call for narcissism
Yes, because we had a good (or good enough) health to focus on the exterior, our family, our friends, our work, the world, we tend to forget about ourselves.
The necessity to refocus on ourselves is not a call for looking at ourselves in the mirror to improve our looks – although sometimes it might be a good idea. It is not a call for narcissism! No, I am talking about health and well-being, well-balanced internal strength, happiness and joy from inside.
From aches and pains to new adventures and discoveries: the need for a change in attitude
Even if we have some health issues, most of the time we perceive them as a disturbance, a hindrance when in fact they can be an opportunity. Quite often they are perceived as something that need to be overcome and forgotten as soon as possible. This is quite comprehensible. However, there might be another way to deal with it all. What if instead of a nightmare it can become an exciting adventure? And aging with its aches and pains can certainly become the opportunity for this change in attitude.
Self care is not part of our education but it should be
Givers like my friend spend their life geared towards the outside world, geared towards helping others and making a difference, often completely oblivious of themselves. The resulting story is often serious health problems due to putting oneself at the bottom of the priority list and not having enough knowledge on how the body works.
Most of the time, it is not part of our education to learn about ourselves unless we become a psychologist or a member of the medical/health professions. Apart from some basics, self-care is not taught, in particular among previous generations like the baby boomers. In addition our Western medicine tends to produce highly specialized knowledge, depriving us of the knowledge of our body as a whole.
Givers forget about themselves and, sooner or later, they encounter a situation in which they have nothing left to give because they are exhausted, because they cannot function anymore. They have forgotten about their own maintenance. In other words, if you want to give and make a difference in the world, start by developing a sustainable self-care practice for yourself.
Emergency in the plane: when a mother needs to look after herself before her child
When flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Paris, during the safety recommendations made by the crew, a video was often displayed about oxygen masks: “Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose.” In this particular video, a mother is asked to put her oxygen mask on her face FIRST, before putting the other mask on her child’s face, and NOT the reverse.
When I watched this little warning for the first time, I was totally shocked. How is it possible? How can a mother look after her own safety first before that of her child? It is completely against nature! It was completely against my basic instincts and ethics.
But I quickly realized the truth in this video, a truth that was going much deeper than a simple safety recommendation on a plane, a truth that I needed to address.
“To look after oneself is a necessary priority. It has nothing to do with egoism or selfishness”
Of course the first reaction of a mother is to put the mask on her child before even thinking about herself.
Well, the video was telling us the opposite, this video was telling us that our instincts and education could lead to big mistakes.
I thought a lot about the video. Many of us have been educated to sacrifice ourselves to take care of others and in particular of children or oldies or ones that need our help.
However, after having been through a burnout myself later in my life, after having dedicated my life to others, I realized that nothing was left inside of me, nothing left to give. I could not help anybody anymore, not even myself. I was empty.
If you are exhausted or ill or sick, it becomes very difficult to do anything for the ones you love, for your family, for your friends, for the rest of the world. Sometimes it is too late when you realize that, but sometimes it is not. Then it is time to reverse the clock. And start a completely new adventure…
So, Givers, start practicing self-care and start reorganizing your priorities!
My 10 best self-care practices
If you do not know where to start, here are my own 10 self-care practices priority list. For the moment it is just a list. I will explain in more detail what they are about in the coming posts.
- Initiate and enhance the realization process (affirmations and visualizations) before falling asleep and first thing in the morning
- Take one hour for myself to start the day off
- Practice Conscious Breathing regularly and often
- Nurture my Sleep
- Transform my diet and lifestyle as much as necessary
- Exercise (walk, run, swim, fitness, etc.), Cultivate Energy and develop body – mind practices of my choice (yoga, meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, etc.)
- Receive and give massages (YES!)
- Reinforce my link to nature
- Ask for help either personally or professionally when necessary
- Develop/reinforce my support group to enhance my transformation