5 Unacknowledged but Useful Truths to Know about Self-Care

Self-care sounds cozy and pretty but often is not. It is made up of those routine moments you need to dig in deep and motivate yourself, when you would rather be doing anything but self-care. Sometimes, it would be a heck of a lot easier to mindlessly zone out on social media, watch marathon hours of TV, or eat a half gallon of ice cream out of the tub. If you find yourself here, no judgment. We all do what’s easiest when we experience extreme stress. If you are ready to incorporate self-care into your routine, here is what you need to know.

Self-care is not easy to do- Doing what is good for you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, often does not come easy. Setting boundaries, eating healthier, and managing your finances are not always fun or relaxing. These types of activities often don’t feel good initially but have long-term benefits.

Self-care takes practice and persistence. When you fall off the horse, dust yourself off and get up again. Self-compassion will become your best friend in moments like these. There is no shame in reaching out for counseling support to keep you on track.

In order to be successful with self-care, you need to become aware of the blocks and obstacles within yourself and in your external world. Once you are aware, acknowledge these and put your self-care plan into action. Self-care means taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions. It is about embracing your vulnerability and being kind to yourself. If I sound like a broken record, this is not always easy.

You may lose some relationships- People who do not take care of themselves cannot support you in your self-care efforts. You may not notice this kind of relationship discrepancy until you set a self-care boundary. Do not allow other’s guilt or manipulation get in the way of your health and wellness.

Self-care is not selfish, it is self- FULL– It may feel unnatural to put yourself first or even include yourself on your list of priorities, when you are a caregiver or empathic helper. The more you take care of you, the more you can take care of others. We all need times of silence to process and integrate. Time away from others means more quality time together. Remember self-care is for everyone, whether you are a man or woman. We all need a little TLC.

Self-care does not require a lot of time– The more you devote time to self-care, it increases your productivity. When you feel better, you become more engaged and mindful with all you do. Take five to ten minutes each day in the morning or right before bed to engage in a relaxing activity, such as deep breathing, writing in a journal or mindfulness techniques.

The person who says, I don’t have time to do self-care, needs it the most. Do not wait until your body or mind breaks down before you start making your health a priority. Sometimes people say they don’t have the time, when they really don’t want to become quiet and sit with their feelings. Your emotional pain will not heal until it is acknowledged, felt and released. If you don’t make time now, when will you?

Self-care does not make your problems disappear- Self-care does not magically erase your problems or pain but it will help you cope better. It helps your body release stress and tension, which left unchecked can make you feel much worse. When the crisis has resolved, you will be able to bounce back quicker.

Activities involving self-care fill your cup. Self-care can help you gain a clearer perspective and detach from other people’s energies. This way you can focus more on what needs to be done in your life. Self-care can help you feel supported by yourself and others, which helps you feel less alone.

Lisa Hutchison LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach. She works for caring professionals, who want to prevent or treat compassion fatigue. Her specialty is teaching stress management, assertiveness and boundary setting. Lisa is the Amazon bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers and the kindle book Setting Ethical Limits for Caring & Competent Professionals. Get a FREE 10 page E-book; Why Compassionate People Run Out of Energy and What You Can Do About It at http://www.lisahutchison.net

Check out my YouTube Channel: Lisa Hutchison LMHC

Compassionate People Need Boundaries Now More Than Ever

Boundaries are essential for those people who have big hearts and a desire to help others. As we approach the one year mark since the COVID-19 pandemic began, continuing political unrest, and an awakening of multiple injustices, our society needs all hands on deck.

When I write about the word boundary, I am describing a professional or personal limit. Some examples of professional boundaries are mindfully self-disclosing, leaving work at work and taking your vacation time. Personal limits are your self-care and self-compassion practices. Whether your boundaries are personal or professional, they all represent self-care and self-compassion.

Warning Signs

Stress symptoms indicate a need to increase your boundaries. Stress manifests itself physically (headaches, muscle tension, digestive disorders), emotionally (irritability, restlessness, concentration problems), in relationship with others (communication difficulties or avoiding others), and through behaviors (overeating, increased use of alcohol or drugs). These resulting experiences can set off more stress, leading you into a vicious cycle.

Little or no boundaries can contribute to burnout, illness, and even addiction. Stress is not a sign of failure but rather a warning or indication self-care needs to be increased. Stress reminds us, we are human and we have limits. You can learn how to manage it and feel better.

When You Care Too Much

Too much empathy is not a good thing for compassionate people. Too much sympathy, or working with empathy without proper boundaries drains helpers of energy. This makes you vulnerable to compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout.

Compassion fatigue develops when you care too much and lack boundaries. Empaths often suffer from this type of fatigue when they cannot separate their energy from others. This over connection, leads to exhaustion. It can prevent you from empathizing or having compassion, towards others and even yourself. To remedy compassion fatigue, any personal energy management technique will work well. A starting point you may consider is the book I created, I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers. You could also benefit from assertiveness training, boundary setting and cognitive therapy.

Vicarious trauma– During and after a trauma or period of intense stress, such as living through a pandemic, it is normal to feel shell-shocked and reactive. We have been and are still going through a lot. For some compassionate people, it is traumatizing to hear about others trauma or too much trauma all day long. You may experience the symptoms of posttraumatic stress, even though you have not directly witnessed the trauma. For example, you may experience nightmares, flashbacks or memories of the trauma you heard about. There are several treatments to help you process and integrate trauma. Some are talk therapy, expressive arts therapy or EMDR. (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Trauma will not go away on its own.

Burnout is the physical and emotional exhaustion compassionate people experience when they have low job satisfaction, feel powerless and overwhelmed at work. This can result from too much work or not enough support from higher ups in the organization you work for. Some people change jobs or their line of work and find burnout goes away. This is different from compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, which would not lessen with a job change. Some other causes of burnout and compassion fatigue can result from perfectionism or being overly involved with other people’s issues. Cognitive therapy works well with this type of thinking.

In order to prevent or decrease cases of burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious traumatization among compassionate people, it is important to receive education on the signs and symptoms of each. This increases your awareness and allows you to recognize any early warning signs. The next step is reaching out to a professional psychotherapist to help you learn the skills to protect, restore and rejuvenate your personal energy.

Lisa Hutchison LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach. She works for caring professionals, who want to prevent or treat compassion fatigue. Her specialty is teaching stress management, assertiveness and boundary setting. Lisa is the Amazon bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers and the kindle book Setting Ethical Limits for Caring & Competent Professionals. Get a FREE 10 page E-book; Why Compassionate People Run Out of Energy and What You Can Do About It at http://www.lisahutchison.net

Check out my YouTube Channel: Lisa Hutchison LMHC