In March-May of 2020, I went through an emotional melt down. I know a lot of people struggled during this time, and I’m sharing to let you know you are not alone. I cried all the time. I went on crying walks around my neighborhood. I yelled at my children. I yelled at my husband. I threw things when I was mad (which was frequently). And, I felt like there was no way out. This is not a time in my life that I am proud of...I'm actually quite ashamed of it. One day, I had an especially hard situation with our oldest son, I responded HORRIBLY, and it made me realize I needed to change. For me, it was my rock bottom. So, I talked to my husband, talked to my doctor to get on anxiety medicine, and started counseling. Through counseling, I realized I had been taking care of everyone else for so long and had been neglecting myself. I was hearing hard stories from foster/adopt parents. I was hearing hard situations from CPS. I’m a very empathetic person so I was taking on the stresses of the world and was not doing anything to take care of myself. My counselor gave me an outlet and helped me make some changes in my life.
In the book “What Happened to You” by Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Perry says:
When I tell people that I’ll actually need to work with the adults, too, they’re confused. But if the adults who live with, teach, and treat these children are not regulated, they will not be able to be fully present in a compassionate, regulated way. If we help the children but don’t meet the needs of the adults, our work will have little impact. This is one of the most important principles of any trauma-informed approach: You have to help the frontline adults who will be working with the children and youth.
If you don’t give back to yourself, you simply will not be effective as a teacher, a leader, a supervisor, a parent, a coach, anything. Self-care is huge. Unfortunately, many people feel some guilt about taking care of themselves; they view self-care as selfish. It’s not selfish – it is essential. Remember, the major tool you have in helping others change – whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, therapist, or friend – is you. Relationships are the currency of change. (pg. 284-285)
I wish I would have learned the importance of self-care and what self-care truly is earlier in life. If someone had told me, I probably wouldn’t have listened because I had to hit my “rock bottom” to truly realize my need. So, my purpose in writing this blog is to hopefully convince you to care for yourself before you hit your rock bottom. Please learn from my mistakes, so they were not in vain.
This means setting boundaries in all areas of your life. If your children are older than infants, tell them you are “off duty” after a certain time (it’s 8:30 pm for us). Set screen time limits for yourself on your phone. When you go to the bathroom, LOCK THE DOOR so the tiny humans can’t constantly barge in. These things won’t change overnight, but as you take time for yourself, you are modeling healthy boundaries for your children.
Exercising releases endorphins which make you happy! This could mean going for a 5-minute walk or a bike ride. It doesn’t have to mean a hard-core workout that will kill you (unless that’s your thing), but you can even exercise with the kids. This gives you self-care, and models a healthy lifestyle for your kids!
Oh man…this one is hard for me! I want to do all the things ALL THE TIME, but I have learned over the years that I have to say no sometimes, or I will drown. You can do it…repeat after me… “no”.
If you’re in introvert, this could be something you do at home alone. If you’re an extrovert and want to be around people, initiate it! Take time to read. Take time to go to a ballet class. Start a bunco group. (ok, maybe those are all things I do…) Wipe the dust off your sewing machine. Take a free online class on something you’re interested in. Remember, this is NOT SELFISH! It is ESSENTIAL!
Did you know that “The body doesn’t know the difference between simulated laughter and spontaneous laughter. The body is still going to respond and release the [feel good] endorphins and lower the stress hormones.” (Huffington Post) Laughter releases endorphins and lower stress hormones. So, just laugh. Even if you don’t think anything is funny…laugh!
Ok, I know this is number 6, but it is important. God will fill you up when you don’t feel like you can fill yourself. He is all powerful and the most important relationship in your life.