Do you find yourself spending a lot of time offering support to others? Do you look for ways to be of service? If so, that’s great! Up to a point, that is.
It becomes problematic if you’re ignoring your own needs because you’re too busy helping out. Don’t be nice at your own expense. Be kind to yourself, as well. When you’re supportive of yourself, you experience the benefits at home, in the workplace and in all aspects of your life. Here’s how.
Focus on Feelings
Do you ever squelch your emotions, especially those you perceive as negative? Maybe you think there’s not enough time to handle anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, guilt, despair, grief or frustration. Perhaps you find dealing with those feelings just too painful. The thing is, repression doesn’t make them go away — it just lets them build up. Eventually, people react. They explode, become ill, eat or drink too much, abuse drugs or even break down.
If you were trying to help a friend, would you suggest quashing emotions? Of course not. You’d say it was unhealthy. Well, the same goes for you. Let yourself feel — even if it’s unpleasant. Emotions aren’t inherently right or wrong. The problem — and the solution — comes with how you handle them.
Punching the wall when you’re mad isn’t helpful, but neither is pretending everything is fine. Acknowledge your feelings, figure out what’s causing them, and then do something (pro-social!) about them. Unless you examine your emotions, they’ll stick around and continue to brew trouble.
Know When to Say “No”
You like to help others. It’s kinda your thing! So when someone needs a favor, a volunteer or an extra hand, you automatically say “yes.” Do that too many times, though, and you can find yourself stressed, resentful, overwhelmed, frantic — or all of the above. You aren’t automatically responsible for solving problems or picking up the slack when things start falling apart. When helping out causes problems for you, it’s time to rethink your generosity.
Would you want a friend to become frazzled from supporting you? Obviously not! So it’s okay for you to say “no.” It’s important for you to be supportive of yourself too. If a request is too much to handle, politely decline. Understand, though, that people are used to coming to you for help. They might ask — or push — you to change your mind. Hang tough.
When you’re not feeling well, it’s hard to be at your peak. If you take care of others’ needs, you might be neglecting yourself. You know the basics for good health. You probably remind family and friends to follow them. Maybe it’s time for you to take your own advice. This often involves a bit of planning and scheduling, but your body is worth the effort.
- Get enough sleep. Staying up too late or getting up too early to accomplish everything means you’re overextended. Remember to let yourself say “no.”
- Eat a nutritious diet. Too much or too little food won’t fuel your body properly. You’ll end up feeling sluggish or exhausted.
- Exercise regularly. It’s not only beneficial for your body — it helps relieve stress, too. It’s a two-for-one deal!
- Don’t self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. You might feel good in the moment, but it won’t last. Negative effects can build up in your body and your life.
Unwind Your Mind
Relieve stress and relax with yoga, tai chi or mediation. Don’t say you don’t have time — just start small. Even a few minutes a day helps. Once you feel the benefits, you might find yourself stretching the session out. There are lots of alternatives, including classes, CDs, DVDs and books. Try one, and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Types of meditation that help clear your mind include:
- Focusing on breathing or word repetition
- Visualizing a tranquil environment
- Deep breathing, with slow and full inhalation and exhalation
When you’re super-busy, it’s easy to postpone doing things that bring you pleasure. You may see fun as a luxury. You’d be wrong, though! Part of being supportive of yourself is having fun. Engaging in enjoyable pastimes promotes relaxation and reduces stress, so you’ll function better overall.
Dedicate some time each day to personalized recreation. Make a list of both quick and sustained activities you enjoy. Reading? Walking in the woods? Doing a crossword puzzle? Listening to music? Write down your favorites, and refer to them daily.
On days when you’re really pressed, squeeze in a little fun. Play one game of solitaire or crank up the tunes and dance for five minutes. When you’ve got more time to spare, watch a movie or take a hike. Don’t just hope this diversion happens, though. Make a plan each day, and stick to it.
Take these five suggestions, and start treating yourself as well as you treat other people! Being supportive of yourself will help you feel better, and that’ll make it easier and more enjoyable to be the helpful, supportive person you want to be.
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