No need to look up “self-fullness” in the dictionary – you won’t find it. And it’s also not likely to be in the vocabulary of women who are pulled between their careers, children, parents, spouse or even grandchildren. No matter what age women have attained, many still act the part of the ‘good girl,’ responding to the needs of others first. It’s fitting that these multitasking women are called the Sandwich Generation – since a sandwich often means a quick bite to eat on the run for those who don’t have the time for a sit-down meal.
No matter what challenges you face in your career and at home with children growing up and parents growing older, it’s not selfish to set aside time for a taste of healthy self-fullness. Vow to put your feet up and think about yourself for once. What brings you happiness? What relieves the stress you face every day? What will bring balance to your life? These ten tips will guide you as you make plans to nourish yourself.
1. Whether you are changing jobs, having a baby, facing an empty nest, welcoming a boomerang kidult home, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or anticipating your spouse’s retirement, you don’t have to cope with it alone. Find others in like situations or a women’s group and gain emotional support as you share ideas.
2. As caring for your family-in-flux requires more and more of your energy, you may not be able to spend as much time with your friends. Resolve to stay in contact with them – even though your to-do list keeps growing and your calendar is full. Friendships and the social support they provide can be a potent antidote to the toxins of daily hassles.
3. Schedule in some quiet, private time and do something that gives you pleasure – take a walk by the water, enjoy the beauty of a sunset, immerse yourself in a good book. Think of this as a personal retreat that provides the opportunity to reconnect and re-center yourself.
4. Guilt runs rampant among caregivers who often worry that they’re not doing enough for their loved ones. Remind yourself that you’re dancing as fast as you can, given the realities of your life situation. You don’t have to be the perfect mother, daughter, or wife. Set your own reasonable standards rather than falling in the trap of trying to live up to others’ expectations.
5. Work to release additional areas of negativity – both in thought and emotions. When you are afraid of what the future holds in store or angry about what you need to cope with on a daily basis, acknowledge these as normal reactions and accept that they will come and go. Your frustrations and resentments make up part of the tapestry of your life but they need not be in the forefront. Once you understand that they are common responses to a difficult situation, you will find it easier to let them recede.
6. As you free yourself from negative feelings, begin to replace them with a more positive attitude. In your journal, write about what you are grateful for in your life. End each evening by reviewing three pleasant things that happened that day and savor the warmth these memories generate. Let your creativity emerge as you explore new interests.
7. Develop personal stress relievers to counteract the burnout that at times overwhelms you. Practice techniques of deep breathing, relaxation or your own form of meditation. Begin an exercise program that you will enjoy – commit to a schedule at the gym or take in the great outdoors, walking with a friend, biking in the neighborhood, hiking in the countryside on weekends.
8. Give yourself the gift of laughter – look for humor in your daily life, share a funny movie or television show with a friend, participate in activities that bring you joy. After you read the news section of your daily paper, turn to the Comics page to lighten your mood and release endorphins. Recent studies have found that a positive mood creates the atmosphere for better decision-making.
9. Ask for what you need from your family members and seek out professionals for their expertise and guidance. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Let your spouse, children and siblings know exactly how you feel, what you want from them, and how they can do their share.
10. Recognize that it is healthy to receive as well as to give. Taking help when it is offered doesn’t diminish your abilities. Accept and integrate the admiration that others express for you. Relish the gratitude and love that your partner, parents and children demonstrate.
As you decide to take better care of yourself, you will discover the strength to find balance in your life. Develop a firm core of self-fullness – it will sustain you as you continue to nurture your growing and changing family.
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