I used to constantly run myself ragged. If I saw a friend who was going through a difficult time, I would do everything I could to help them, even offering to do their to-do list! I gave and gave, unable to say "no." I volunteered for every activity that came along, especially if my daughter was involved. I wanted to be the perfect mother and the perfect wife. There was no greater rush than having someone tell me that I was a "lifesaver."
This was because I was absolutely addicted to receiving attention, validation, and understanding from those around me, and it took me decades to realize that this was because I did not know how to provide these things for myself.
And here we go, you're thinking. In the past, I would have stopped reading this post right here. I was swamped—the last thing I needed was another obligation. How was I supposed to find time to spend on myself?
And yet, I'm here to tell you that once I did make time for this—and make it my top priority— the rest of the stress was significantly reduced. Once I was able to care for and praise myself, I became more comfortable setting boundaries with those around me. I didn't have to constantly outdo myself. I was seeking nothing but my friends', daughters', and husband's company, so I didn't need to impress them. I only needed to enjoy them.
So how can you get started giving yourself some much-needed attention, validation, and understanding? Here are some simple ways to get started:
1. Notice How You Feel Physically
The first step is getting in touch with your physical body. Spend some time—even one minute here and there—focusing on slowing your breathing and relaxing any tension that you notice. Are you clenching your jaw? How tight are your shoulders? Give your body a little loving attention.
2. Make Your Basic Needs a Priority
How much sleep are you getting? You need at least 8 hours, and this needs to be a priority. Without enough rest, you will not be able to give your best to those around you. Also make sure you are eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water. Your health and well-being is every bit as important as that of the people around you, so make sure you are treating yourself with the same kindness.
3. Listen to Your Own Voice
Journal writing is an excellent way to begin to understand your own mind and to give yourself the attention that you are craving so much. Buy a nice journal that suits your tastes, and make a daily habit of writing SOMETHING in it. It may take some trial-and-error to find a writing style that works for you. You may prefer an open, free-flowing style, where you do a daily “brain dump” and fill two pages of whatever comes to mind. Or you may choose to write with a goal in mind.
I found it very beneficial to use my journal to give me those very things I was seeking from those around me. Everyday, I write one way in which I've given myself attention, one “atta girl,” celebrating something that I've done well, and one way in which I've gained new understanding about myself. It may help to make a list of the things you are expecting from your relationships with others, and then journal with the purpose of giving yourself those things.
How much time do you spend having fun? You would want your loved ones to enjoy life, so isn't it time to extend that same wish toward yourself? When you make having fun a priority, you will be more relaxed and more able to problem-solve. So budget a little time for play everyday. Make a list of activities that you enjoy or would like to try, and make it a goal to do 3 of them everyday.
When we don't play enough, we seek relaxation through diversions such as watching television or mindlessly spending time online. Your mind wants to relax, and it you don't do it through having fun, it will find other ways to get its needs met. Are you having difficulty finding activities? Google “hobbies” or “ideas for hobbies,” and you will find numerous lists of fun activities that you have never thought of. My personal favorites include reading magazines or mystery novels from the library, coloring, dancing, and listening to Christmas music. Eventually, I intend to spend my free time learning to speak Spanish!
5. Explore the Resources That Are Available
There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Peruse Amazon or the library to find a book with daily activities, such as Five Good Minutes, Starve a Bully, Feed a Champion, The Presence Process, or Radical Acceptance. Download the free e-book from Leading to Love Magazine, to help you get started examining and redefining fears and limiting beliefs. In my own journey, finding a mentor was crucial. In learning from someone who has been-there-done-that, I was able to learn to more easily identify my areas of need and think of creative ways to provide myself with the things I was lacking. In fact, my experience with my mentor was so powerful, that I felt compelled to do the same for others.
Giving yourself attention is a small time commitment that carries with it a huge payout. Make the choice to make yourself a priority this spring, and you will bring a new happiness and inner peace to all those around you.
If you would like help in making yourself a priority and learning to meet your needs so that you can overcome your fears, realize your dreams, and reach you potential, consider a low-cost e-mail, chat, or Skype session.