Kindness Goes a Long Way…. Especially When We’re Kind to Ourselves

I’m honored to have the opportunity to share about my work and myself.    I’m equally grateful for the chance to reach out to a multitude of women in hopes of empowering each of us to nurture our mind, body, and spirit as we’re challenged in our many roles as mothers.

 

I’ve found that I’m able to navigate life’s difficult times much easier when I stay mindful of the goodness that surrounds me and when I’m taking good care of myself.

Self-care is a new phenomenon for many women in our generation.  Most of us didn’t grow up seeing our mothers, aunts or grandmothers making time to care for themselves.  Our role models typically expended their energy caring for their children, husbands, pets, extended family, and working in or out of the home while little energy was spent on the caring of their self.  My mother, grandmothers and Aunts all seemed to focus on the needs of others before focusing on their own needs or desires.

And yet, in my own journey as “mom”(or “mum”) and as a therapist to many moms, I’ve found that the most important relationship we can have is the relationship with ourselves.  If we want to truly love ourselves and accept ourselves, we need to take the time and energy to know all of the parts of ourselves and care for ourselves.   When our minds are at peace, our bodies are healthy and we’re nurturing our spirits, we not only experience greater happiness for ourselves, we also strengthen our relationships with the people we care about most.

As I focus on the goodness in my own life, I’m most grateful for my health and my healthy family.  I’m also equally grateful that I love what I do.   I realize it’s a gift to find a career where one finds pleasure and fulfillment in their work.   And while there are times when being a therapist is emotionally exhausting, most of my days I honestly love my work.

I love helping people become their best selves. I enjoy watching the process of their self-discovery and self-acceptance and watch as they progress towards greater happiness and peace.

I knew at an early age I wanted a career where I could help people sort through their struggles and understand their feelings. My role in my family was at times, the moderator, the caretaker, the peacemaker and the nurturer.  As a teen-ager, I would spend hours on the phone with friends, listening to their hurts, disappointments and frustrations.

My father discouraged me from getting my BS in psychology, but encouraged me to get a broader degree in business.  This was probably because he made the choice to be an entrepreneur after he struggled for several years to make ends meet for our family being a high school teacher and basketball coach.  So, I took heed and studied communications in college and began my career in Public Relations, and then Hotel Sales Management.  After 5 years in the business world, I knew I needed to follow my passion for helping people.   I gave up my business suits and my sales position in a “posh” hotel to pursue my real dream.  Looking back 21 years later, I’m extremely happy I took the risks and challenged myself to do something that matches my authentic self.

Being a mother challenges us in so many different ways and at times it can be difficult to find our true self.  We are influenced by the voices of our family, our friends, the media, our neighbors, teachers, health professionals and even opinionated strangers.   As we try to do so many “good” things for our children, we can get separated from what might be “good” for us.

Many mothers feel constantly depleted or worn out not only from the pressures of being a great mother, but trying to be great at everything.  Most women are fantastic at “uber scheduling” their kids, families and themselves so they’re just flat out spread too thin.  To what end?

As we naturally fall into the role of “family manager” our challenge is how to balance all of our responsibilities not only as a mother, but also in our role as a wife, partner, daughter, friend, and career woman.  Managing all of these roles can be overwhelming and many women have reported feeling depressed, anxious, and completely depleted from being pulled in so many directions and wanting to please everyone.  This comes at the risk of not being present for ourselves.

Being our true self means being honest with our self and being congruent with what we say and what we do.  Sometimes we may commit to activities or events because it’s easier than saying “no” to someone.   Saying “yes” to avoid someone feeling disappointed or angry or avoid feeling guilty ourselves may cause us to feel resentful or anxious.   Being true to ourselves requires us to stay connected to our feelings and authentically respond to others.

Making space and time to care for yourself helps you feel good and it’s the one thing we can do that’s in our control.  When we’re feeling strong, we can handle the stresses of being a mom much easier because internally, we feel more peaceful.

Speaking of strong, I STRONGLY recommend trying these things on my top 10 list of nurturing our mind, body and spirit:

  • Exercise every day.  Our bodies need to move, stretch and sweat.  Exercising at least 30 minutes every day is crucial for both our physical health and mental health.  Exercise keeps our bodies fit and healthy and it’s an excellent tool to decrease depression and anxiety and “distress”.
  • Meditate for 10 minutesa day.  This doesn’t have to be sitting in lotus position with eyes closed and hands resting on our knees.  This can be sitting quietly in a chair or at our table and taking slow deep breaths for 5 – 10 minutes.  Quieting our minds each day helps us relax and creates the space to let our minds rest from the “chatter” that occupies our brains.
  • Practice yoga once a week.  Yoga is an excellent way to stretch and strengthen our bodies, while practicing focusing our minds on our breathing.  Yoga has been proven to build a healthier immune system.
  • Train your brain to use positive self –talk.  Replacing our critical voice with kind and compassionate self-talk helps us become more accepting of ourselves.  Using encouraging and affirming words to ourselves allows us to feel more positive and relaxed. Instead of saying: “I’m such a bad mom, I forgot my child’s doctor appointment,” we can say, “I’ve got a lot on my plate, it’s human to forget sometimes.  I’ll simply reschedule.”
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid eating any processed food products.  Every piece of food we put in our bodies affects how we feel.  Over eating processed foods, sugary foods, and high-fat foods can affect our digestive system, which in turn can affect our mood.  Eating fresh foods and eating the right portions is something that is in our control.  While it’s very tempting to eat junk food, or processed foods, we’ll feel so much better when we put real food in our bodies.
  • Get a therapeutic massage once a month.  Getting a massage is the very utmost way to let someone nurture you for an entire hour.  All you have to do is lay still, relax and let someone take care of you. (Oh, and you have to pay the bill.)  The physical touch of massage triggers the “feel good “ hormone, oxytocin, which boosts our mood and relaxes our muscles.
  • Cuddle, laugh and be playful with your children and husband/partner.  Isn’t it the greatest when our children make us laugh?  Or when we make our children laugh.  Being playful and silly and finding ways to create laughter will help us cope with life’s stressful moments.  Hug, kiss and cuddle your family as much as possible…. it makes everyone feel loved.
  • Spend time in nature.  Spending time outside in the sunshine or in the crisp winter’s cold can rejuvenate your spirit and lift your mood.  Hiking in the forest, walking on the ocean, skiing down a mountain or even laying in an open park with trees is a sure way to help us focus on something bigger than ourselves.
  • Make time for your hobbies.  Taking time to yourself to enjoy something you love is an excellent way to nurture your soul.  If you’re not sure what hobbies you like, try something new! There are joys that come from taking risks and trying new things, so continue explore the possibilities.
  • Connect with friends.  Women need the camaraderie of other women. There is a feeling of safety and security we derive from having friends who we can count on.  Developing close friendships is an important source of support. Studies have shown that women who have a handful of good friends, live longer and stay healthier.

Our journey in motherhood will take us to unchartered waters and trigger emotions that we didn’t even know existed.  We probably couldn’t have imagined the joy that would flood us as our child looks lovingly into our eyes; nor could we have anticipated the anger that explodes when our child won’t stay in bed and it’s way past mom’s bedtime!

As we shift our thinking from believing that  “selfish” (as in looking after our self) is a bad or negative thing, and honor that it’s an important thing, it could mean the difference from living our life feeling out of sorts, or living our life being in the moment and feeling more grounded and content.  And, being good to ourselves surely allows us to bring more good into the lives of others.

Michelle DeCola is a licensed psychotherapist who founded Life Counseling, Inc. to focus on her passion for addressing the needs of the whole, healthy being. Her specializations include women’s issues, depression, anxiety, and relationship issues.

http://www.lifecounselinginc.com/

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