Helping Others By Helping  Yourself

Helping Others By Helping Yourself

Rainy Day; pic by Stock Xchange

Rainy Day: pic by Stock Xchange

I was in a really crappy mood early this week.  It started off when I didn’t get the rest I needed from the weekend and from the moment I got out of bed Monday morning I was in a foul mood.  I felt like a storm cloud, my negative attitude raining all over everyone, and I’m sorry to say it continued into a good part of the day.

That’s not typical for me.  As you may have guessed by the title of this blog, Cheerful Focus, in general I’m a happy-go-lucky type of girl.  But I’m human, of course, so I too have those days when everything seems to aggravate me and I just really don’t want to deal with life’s irritations. 
What I know about people (including myself) is that if our basic needs (hunger, thirst, fatigue, safety, etc.) are not met it is impossible for us to focus on the bigger picture (being a good friend, focusing on long-term goals, etc.). 
This was me on Monday.  I was tired, I was cranky, and I didn’t really want to be around people.  My job description is to help others; some days that’s hard to do when I’m wrapped up in my own needs.
Once again I am reminded that taking care of myself is the best thing I can do to be a source of support for others. 
That is worth repeating:
When I’m tired, when I’m hungry, when I feel sick—those things keep me from operating at 100%.  I have to remind myself:  it is normal to have needs—physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.  That doesn’t mean I am high maintenance.  That doesn’t mean I’m selfish.  It means I’m human.  And it is my humanity that allows me to connect with others and be helpful to them, to offer an empathetic ear and compassion.  It is my sensitivity that drains me, but it also allows me to recognize when others are in pain and offer words of encouragement.  It is being fully present with the clients I serve, friends, and family that allows me to maximize those relationships, but it also can deplete my emotional and physical energy.
So, what’s the solution?
Rest and refreshment. 
I needed a “time out”.  I needed to recharge my batteries, distract myself from the hard parts of life and give myself permission for rest and nourishment.  There are a lot of ways to do this; there are many behaviors and strategies people use to deal with life.  For me, it meant taking a walk with my dog, basking in the sun for awhile, receiving support from people I care about, and scheduling a day off of work next week. 
Am I back to 100%?  It depends on when you ask.  Today is a much better day than Monday, but I’m still looking forward to spending some time with friends this weekend and taking that day off of work! 
The truth is, caring for people is hard.  It takes time, energy, and effort to listen to others, focus on them, and be a supportive presence.  It’s easier for some people than others, but even those who choose to work in caring professions get burned out.  And we are all caregivers in some capacity, be it with friends, children, romantic partners, parents, clients, pets….the list goes on and on.  We need to allow ourselves time and space for reflection and renewal, not just to be helpful to others, but to be good to ourselves.
How do you cope with the struggles of life?   What things are effective for you?  What do you do to get to your 100%?
About bridget

I was born and raised in upstate New York, where my parents still live, before escaping the cold weather to settle in North Carolina in 2008.
I am a Gemini, a middle child, a dreamer, a lover, an optimist, and a Social Worker. I have a cheesy sense of humor, a belief that all people are basically good, and a desire to improve the world around me.
I live in NC with my husband and our dog.

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