I have a question for you.

Do you take care of others at the expense of not taking care of yourself?

Maybe you can relate:  I used to be the kind of woman who was so busy wanting everyone to like me that I’d do what they wanted, take care of them and meet their expectations without any attention on what I needed or wanted for my body or soul.

(this is me, just 3 years ago trying to be everything to everyone, while my food, body and health were wildly out of control)

You might not even be aware that doing so is a convenient way to avoid caring for yourself or facing your own internal beliefs about yourself.  But very often it is.

Being a caretaker (at work, at home or with family & friends) has largely been synonymous with being a woman in this culture. Although this has begun to change,  the enculturation of it is still very much alive and well in our belief systems and the way it impacts women’s individual lives.

We are expected to be nice, sweet and consider our impact on others before we consider ourselves.   And we so often DO want to care for others, be there for them and support those we love.

That is a normal & healthy desire.

But harm gets caused, to ourselves and others, when we don’t put our own oxygen mask first.

Have you ever “forgotten to eat” because you were running around doing things for others?

Or after a long full day of meeting deadlines at work, meetings with co-workers or clients on top of being there for your sister, best friend, mom or children and helping them through the emotions and daily experience, do you “relax and unwind” with your favorite food or bottle of wine (and then regret it the next morning)?

How chaotic is your financial life?
Or the state of your home?
How often do you do something for yourself that recharges your own battery?
Do you berate or beat yourself up for your food habits, but never truly slow down to take care of yourself?
Or do you operate under the belief that you have too many obligations to take time for yourself?

And besides, you’re good at taking care of people, right?

Wrong.

Here’s a not so pleasant truth to swallow::  if you are taking care of others and not taking care of yourself, no one is getting quality care.  Not them and definitely not you.

The people who rely on you suffer because what you’re giving them is coming from fumes, drawing on funds from an empty account.  You under eat or overeat or neglect yourself because you are running yourself into the ground. It is a destructive and self perpetuating cycle that can be incredibly challenging to step out of it.  But it IS possible.  And it is the key to you having the life, health, body and wellbeing that you dream of.

What happens when we don’t change the oil in a car or fill it with gasoline?  It stops running.  The engine locks up.   This isn’t unlike what happens to us as women when we show up with depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders and obesity.  We are burnt out, fried and at dis-ease with ourselves and our current way of doing life.

We have given ourselves no healthy outlets and our bodies simply can’t do the overload anymore.  And maybe we do give ourselves indulgences like too much sugar, fast food or alcohol, but we never get that true deep in the bones rest that our body and soul really really craves.

If you’re one who neglects yourself for others, the best way to get off that crazy train is to start small and build the muscle of self care, attention and love.

That same love that you give others is available and necessary for you, too.  Your body and soul are screaming for it.

Perhaps the first step you have to take is simply meeting yourself at your own front door, as the poet Derek Walcott says. To acknowledge your humanness and that you deserve love, attention and care just as much as any other person on the planet. That you were given this one life and this one body and it is your divine right to do your best with it.

If after you’ve been able to step into a small sliver of belief that you deserve it, next is to do something.

Again, we’re starting small here::
-Take just 15 minutes to do something really easy, really simple:  Journaling, listening to music or making a lunch you really really love.
-Buying a fun new lipstick that makes you feel good.
-Reading a chapter of a novel that you love
-Taking a walk for pleasure and reflection

Small changes, day by day, can add up to a huge shift in re-charging your battery and giving your body and soul the love, nourishment and attention it is craving.