My friends often tell me that if you’re taking care of other people you have to take care of yourself first, but when people need you it’s often tempting to pay lip service to what that means.
It’s so easy to see how the external world needs you, and allow that to override what you need yourself. In my case it’s my clients and students that get the best part of my attention. For you it might be people who rely on you for their well-being, and you put their needs over your own. It’s also hard to actually know what you own needs are, because to look inside yourself is often like trying to see the dark side of the moon. The outside needs of those around you seem so bright and urgent, that they can push your own needs into the shadows.
For a long time I didn’t fully understand what taking care of yourself really meant. I thought it was a good night’s sleep, some exercise, eating well and taking some time out. All of those things are true and although they go some way to keeping you in balance, they don’t go the whole way. Often when we keep a lot on our plate, we don’t leave room for the things that come out of the blue that life can throw in our direction. These things can tip us out of balance; we might not even know we have tipped. We might just find ourselves irritated with our partner for no good reason, snapping at the kids or over reacting at a work colleague. These things happen when we are in a place of overwhelm, how we get there is by not looking after ourselves. Looking after ourselves isn’t just the external basics, it’s in our psychology.
When you are your normal self you are in balance with your personality. A balanced personality is a mix of awareness of the current moment and engagement with that moment. The best of you is somewhere in the middle of a fully functioning self. Being tipped out of that alignment can come from a lack of self-understanding. Looking after yourself is knowing the cause of the tipping points in your personality. It could be something as simple as being cold, hungry or tired. It might be not enough alone time, or too much. Knowing what pushes your buttons means that you can look after yourself by not pushing yourself too hard.
In our society we are focused on growth, and feel that growth should be the normal reality of all people. But even the earth itself goes into winter – there is a natural time of stillness, calm and renewal that comes from that winter. Yet we seem programmed to believe that we must keep going and growing as individuals and as a society; then we are shocked when the balance is tipped and something crazy happens. Maybe if a bit of inner reflection time was acceptable, our cities would be happy places and less aggressive.
Usually when I finish seeing clients in Covent Garden, I take a train from Paddington back to Bristol. I fight my way through the shoppers on to the tube, with a wheelie bag, trying hard to protect my small dog who is usually with me. By the time I get to Paddington I usually feel tipped over the edge by the public. So in the greater scheme, I have spent all day healing and loving people in my appointments, yet in the 45 minute trip across town my exhaustion and stress has sent out a huge volume of dagger eyes and frustration to complete strangers. So not just my balance, but the balance of those around me has been affected.
This Saturday, I got a taxi. £15.00 well spent, and the world is now a better place because of it; as we are all responsible for our own balance and the energy we give out to the world because of our balance, or lack of it. Looking after yourself is about looking after the world. We don’t realise the knock on effect of our actions, dagger eyes, frustrated sighs and irritated tuts, they all go into making the world hit its own tipping point, making it a darker place for us all to live. Living in balance and looking after yourself, isn’t just a gift you give to yourself it’s one that gets passed onto everyone you come into connection with.
Look after yourself, because were ALL worth it.