“Take care of yourself before attempting to take care of others.”
“You are the person who teaches everybody else in the world how to treat you.” - Elena Brower
Seven years ago, when I first started teaching yoga full time, I was constantly exhausted but I didn’t know how to “fix it.” I sensed I needed more ‘alone time’, but I lived in a tiny apartment with my best friend and my boyfriend who worked from home. I decided to seek guidance. When I elaborated to my therapist Jen on the details of my fatigue, she nodded knowingly. “Of course you’re tired,” she said, “you’re a healer now. As healers, we have to live the same rule we do when we’re on airplanes: ‘Always put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.’” Ah-ha!
In my opinion, this theory is not just prevalent to healers, but to everyone. The jist is: take good care of yourself before attempting to take care of others. Thanks to many years of working with Jen, I am a practitioner and an advocate, of Self-Care.
Dr. Christine Meinecke defines Self-Care as “...choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors: exercising, eating healthy, getting quality sleep, practicing yoga, meditation or relaxation, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets, engaging in psychotherapy.”
In Cheryl Richardson’s 2009 book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Richardson says to “become aware of how and why you feel deprived,” as a first step to practicing “Extreme Self-Care.” Richardson asks, “When do you feel over-whelmed, frustrated, burdened or resentful?” She says these are the moments to ask, “Where do I feel deprived?” It’s best to be specific with your answers. So rather than just saying, “I feel deprived of alone time,” say, “I feel deprived of quiet alone time where I can meditate, journal, or watch a favorite movie.”
Richardson also highlights routine as a very important part of self-care, “When you go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday, you support your body’s adrenal system by keeping your hormones stable and balanced.” One of the ways I addressed my lack of alone time was to wake up earlier. In that tiny apartment, when everyone else was still asleep, I could wake up early and meditate, plan my classes or read something inspirational. Now I’m a die-hard morning person. I wake up early to take good care of myself and I build energy reserves to help others take care of themselves.
The holidays are a challenging time to form new practices and that’s exactly what makes them powerful time to do just that.
At a recent training, the great Restorative Yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater gave me an assignment, which I’d like to pass on to you:
“Make a list of 3 things that disturb your ease and 3 things that restore your ease.”
During this holiday season, give yourself the gift of moving in the direction of ease: try not to overbook, forgo the extra glass of wine or say no to rushing and take a nap instead. If you’re well taken care of, trust me, you will be more present for your loved ones and therefore more able to experience the point of the season: joy. I wish you a joyful and easy season.