“Never be ashamed to say, ‘I’m worn out. I’ve had enough. I need some time for myself.’ That isn’t being selfish. That isn’t being weak. That’s being human.” ~Topher Kearby
Years ago, my extended family, who I am very close with, migrated from Vietnam to America as permanent residents. Four separate families had a couple of kids in each family. They are nice, kind, and loving people, and their kids were super cute and respectful.
My relationship with my extended family has taught me a lot of lessons throughout my life so far, but this was one of the most impactful ones to date.
Throughout the first few years of their residency here in the USA, they struggled with the language barrier and navigating an unfamiliar setting. As with most people who choose to migrate to another country, it was challenging for them to learn how to adapt to their new normal here in the United States.
I couldn’t bear seeing them struggle, so I decided to step in to help them through this huge transition they were facing. I took them to most of their doctor’s appointments, brought them to work on time, helped them out with school conferences for their kids, and supported them in the completion of other tasks that they weren’t able to do on their own.
I didn’t see this as a burden at all. In fact, I was having fun helping them because I love them so much.
If you’re like me, you will understand this. When I am helping people that I care about, I tend to forget about taking care of myself. Slowly, this began to be the case.
The love I have for my family fueled my energy, which made me overlook the importance of caring for myself. Sure enough, after a while of supporting and caring for my family through their transition, I started to feel emotionally depressed and physically drained.
I couldn’t find an explanation for why I was feeling this way, so I decided to check in with my doctor. My doctor explained that I had nothing to worry about regarding my physical health.
After determining that I was healthy, I realized that there must have been a deeper explanation for why I was feeling that way. That’s when I knew my exhaustion was coming from overly helping and caring for my family. After all, I was taking on responsibility for everything in their lives from the little things to the important things.
At this point, there was a little voice inside my head saying that it was time to sit down with myself and re-evaluate how I was spending my time and energy. Deep down I knew that this would be the only way for me to feel healthier and happier.
For the sake of my well-being, I decided to implement positive change in my life, Once I did, I was amazed at how my physical and emotional well-being began to improve.
I didn’t want to leave my family hanging, so I made sure that I took the time to show their kids what they needed to know so that they could help their parents and themselves. I knew that they had other family members that were willing to step in when they needed assistance with tasks.
It took me a while to make this decision because I didn’t want to leave them without ensuring that they would be cared for. Thankfully, their children were confident taking over some of the tasks and helping their parents and their own families with the transitions that they were making.
Sometimes, setting healthy boundaries with the people you care about also comes with setting a boundary with yourself.
You cannot control how other people will react to your choices, no matter how badly you would like to be able to. With that said, it will bring you comfort knowing that you are doing what is best for you.
In my case, I knew I needed to take better care of myself. I also took comfort in knowing that the choices I made for myself wouldn’t bring harm to anyone else. In time, I hope that my family will come to understand; but if they don’t, that’s okay too.
I will always be wishing the best for them and sending them the brightest blessings in their life, regardless of if it is from a distance or up close.
It was through this experience that I learned that the best way to care for others is to begin with caring for yourself. This may seem selfish or unnatural at first. However, with time, you will find that you are more capable of adequately caring for others when you are well cared for yourself.
Once you master the art of self-care, you will find that you have more time and positive energy to put toward caring for those around you. Here are a few tips on where to begin on your journey toward self-care.
1. Stay in touch with your feelings.
If you’re honest with yourself about how you feel, you’ll be better able to meet your needs. It can be a challenge to be truthful with yourself and others about your feelings, but if you don’t, you’ll end up burnt out and resentful. This was my first step toward taking care of myself: telling my family I was feeling depleted.
Ask yourself: How do I feel about how I currently spend my time? Am I honoring my needs and priorities? How do I feel about how much I give in my relationships? Am I overextending myself or giving more than I receive?
2. Spend time with others.
You can’t spend all of your time alone and remain emotionally healthy. Part of self-care is surrounding yourself with people who uplift, encourage, and support you.
The ideal amount of human contact varies greatly from one person to another. No matter how much of a loner you might be, though, spending time with others matters because human connection brings happiness, joy, and belonging.
When I realized I needed more time for reciprocal relationships, I set out a schedule to hang out with some of my closest friends.
Call some of your friend or relatives to catch up, and ask them to get together. You’ll feel more connected, and if you open up about what’s going on in your life, you’ll be able to receive support instead of always being the one who gives it.
3. Spend quality time alone.
When you spend time alone, you’re able to get in touch with yourself on a deeper level. You get to reflect, introspect, and make a plan for anything that needs to change in your life. This will help you accomplish your goals, and you’ll feel more grounded as a person.
Again, how much time you need to spend alone is an individual preference. It can be hard to refuse requests or say no to gatherings, but if you find the right balance for you, you can stay connected to other people while keeping up with your personal goals.
4. Exercise regularly.
When I decided to prioritize myself, I committed to keeping myself active and in shape. I personally enjoy weight training, pilates, dancing, and taking long walks by the lake. Not only do I feel physically stronger, I have more energy and get a boost of feel-good chemicals every time I exercise.
Any physical activity is better than nothing, but you’ll feel a lot better if you can devote thirty minutes each day to movement, whether you play a sport, dance, or participate in a group exercise class. Your body is designed to move, so when it’s not using its potential, it creates stagnation.
5. Manage stress.
Take frequent breaks throughout the day to relieve tension and restore your energy before tackling your next task. Check in with yourself regularly to look for signs of stress, including physical exhaustion, getting irritated easily, having a lack of focus, and mindlessly eating junk food.
When you notice your stress level rising, practice deep breathing or utilize any other relaxation methods that work for you.
I generally like to get a massage, go for a walk, meditate, and journal. I like to write out all the stress on paper and burn it away.
Another stress relief practice that I often do is chanting. It’s a healing method to help you clear any worries, stress, fears. When I chant for a period of time, my energy always shifts, bringing me back to a more grounded state.
If you take on other people’s energy, you may want to practice energy cord cutting. This can be as simple as visualizing yourself detaching a cord connecting you to someone who drains you.
Practicing forgiveness for yourself and others is also a powerful stress-release method. I highly recommend the Ho’opononopo practice; if you’re not familiar with it, you can go on YouTube and look it up.
The quality of your self-care is a great barometer of your overall well-being, and it can keep you firing on all cylinders. If you’re feeling down and out, give extra attention to your self-care. You deserve the time and attention. A regular self-care practice also demonstrates that you truly recognize your own worth.