Anger, Stress and Anxiety Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships
A LACK OF SELF-CARE LEAVES YOU DEPLETED WITH NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE AND NO CAPACITY TO RECEIVE
Are you exhausted taking care of your partner, your family, your extended family, your colleagues and your living arrangements?
Does it make you feel good that you attended to your partner and children, put them first and played the role of dutiful and loving care giver?
Perhaps you think that by making everything and everyone else your priority that you will be rewarded with appreciation, recognition, and admiration.
But there is probably another part of you that is aching to get off the treadmill and feed your soul. You know you are depleted and often not able to enjoy your relationship as much as you would if you didn’t feel burdened with never ending duties and jobs.
You know that most of the day you shut off your feelings and needs because they conflict with your dutiful self. So you kind of ‘die’ inside, feeling less than human.
When you aren’t able to fully enjoy your relationship, you put it in jepoardy. If you can’t fully participate emotionally then the threads of connection get lose and threaten the unity between you.
In order to avoid losing your connection, you have to take care of yourself and others. It’s not an either or situation, it’s a “both” scenario. It doesn’t mean leaving them and going on trips or avoiding chores for a day or two, but rather a recognition of your humanity and the important role it plays in maintaining and sustaining your most important relationship.
What is self Care and Why is it So Important In a Long Term Relationship?
Self-care means you tune into your feelings and needs, and take charge of getting them met. Self-care involves putting your contentment and fulfillment in your own hands, being empowered to create and utilize opportunities to have your emotional needs met – for security, stability, achievement, caring and being cared for.
Self-care is about valuing yourself in an authentic manner and taking your emotional and psychological wellbeing seriously. It’s more than just surviving physically so you can get by on autopilot. It’s about functioning as a tuned in, grounded, centered and flexible person, able to go with the flow of emotional upheavals that would otherwise decimate you.
Self-Care is relevant to both men and women struggling to keep their balance in relationships in same sex and heterosexual connections
The evidence for self-care in maintaining good mental, emotional and physical health
Science tells us that self-care is essential for healthy relationships with good boundaries and realistic expectations. Without proper regular and consistent self-care people end up in abusive relationships, co-dependent relationships, use and abuse substances and are prone to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and psychosomatic conditions like chronic pain, gastric and skin problems.
When we neglect self-care we are depersonalizing ourselves and giving the power and authority to others to value us enough to take care of us.
For example many of my clients will go on till they drop to show their commitment and martyrdom to their loved ones. They do this hoping to get permission to slow down and take care of their need for down time, alone time, play time and soul replenishing time. Then they get angry when those same loved ones respond by saying, ” I never asked you to do this!” Resentment festers on both sides, and distance grows as each party tries to navigate the trecherous waters of isolation versus relying on one another in a healthy way.
Taking Care of You Own Emotions and Needs Makes Less Demands on the Relationship, Making More Time for Enjoying Each Other
How did you get to be this way? How have you become a master at taking care of everyone else and a loser when it comes to taking care of yourself?
Growing up in an atomosphere where your parents needs competed and conflicted with your own sowed the seeds for neglecting yourself. You were probably focused on making sure your parents were okay and were rewarded for it by getting some attention or treat. On the other hand, if you cried out for what you needed or showed displeasure when you didn’t get it, you were most likely berated and or punished. So your needs became dangerous and ugly. You survived by putting all your energies into taking care of those around you, waiting for the praise and recognition, that you were important and deserved care too.
Real life examples of clients who struggle with self-care
A. Joanne, a 37 year old carer in a residential home for the elderly, cannot stop working and has projects lined up so that when one finishes she has another. She gets anxious when she has ‘space’ for herself because it echoes her childhood desperate need to “work” to please and get attention from her mother who was a work- a- holic! Now as an adult she is not able to be emotionally present for her husband, She is drowning in guilt She has to break a toe, forcing her to stop her frantic work/exercise routine and take time for some personal space. As her therapy progresses she is beginning to notice that she gets care from me just for being herself and that she doesn’t need to please me in order to get it. This is the beginning of her entertaining the idea that she is worthy, and deserves to care for herself.
B. Brody a 39- year- old banker is permanently stressed out. He travels for work, has a large team to manage, and feels overwhelmed when he is at home and the demands of a wife and young children get to him. He feels guilty if he spends time with friends, sleeps too long or responds to work calls when he is home. He tries to organize activities and do practical household repairs and such to take care of his family, but never feels that he earns some “me time.” He keeps waiting and hoping that his wife will see the pressure he is under and take him off the hook. But she doesn’t, making him feel inadequate. Instead of taking care of his emotional needs he doubles down on doing things in the home, and then in the guise of ‘fitness’, goes for bike rides, in an effort to free himself of the vicious cycle.
C.Helen a 45- year- old personal assistant and single parent of a teenage boy has a hard time with self-care. Keeping house and home for her son, earning her way in life and managing co-parenting with a difficult divorcee she is easily overwhelmed. She gets exhausted, depressed, angry, protests and then drops off the world into a bubble and does nothing – giving herself back to herself in a way. She also develops pains and ‘fainting’ that make her stop being a robot and take care of herself. Otherwise she numbs herself with food.After a period of therapy when she has allowed me to nurture her, she then takes care of herself by joining dance, photography, and other creative arts classes, as well as being with friends.
D. Tyrone a 32-year-old self made business man worried about his three young children all the time. He didn’t trust his wife to treat them with care and kindness becasue of her harsh personality. He put all his efforts into ensuring that his kids had good nannies, extra-curricular activities to which he accompanied them, and most of all he made himself available to adddress their emotional hurt, anger, frustration, desires and fears. He went overboard on the latter because he didn’t have those important things when he was young. He knew the toll it took on him and went all out to make sure his children didn’t suffer in the same way. But while doing this, he completely ignored himself. He was tired all the time, pushed himself when he was exhausted and irritable, He hoped that his wife would notice, and learn from him so he could let go a little. But that was a pipe dream. He was always at hand to help his mother and siblings when they needed something, and they never hesitated to ask because he was so willing . Similarly with cousins and other extended family figures He was known for his unselfish devotion to duty, except that it was killing him. He didn’t have any sense of self-care until his health started to deteriorate. His blood pressure rose with his weight, he started drinking and suffered insomnia. Finally well into his therapy he began to see the value of self-care. He was feeling empty and cut off from his loved ones. He gave of himself, but got nothing in return and was angry and bitter. We worked on him saying ‘no’ when he didn’t want to do things. At the same time, we worked on his guilt about it, and his fear that he would be alone and shunned if he didn’t take care of everyone the way he had been doing.
Beginning The Act of Self-Care: Setting up strategies
One of the most important aspects of self-care is to realize when you need to depend on someone for something. Self-care involves knowing and allowing yourself to ask for help and support for as long as you need it while you are dealing with difficult issues.Recognizing your energy limitations, stress overload, need for sleep or solace is a vital component to self care. Waiting till you get ill and incapacitated or someone rescues you to ease your guilt and suffering is the opposite of self-care.
1. Develop a hobby and or interest outside the family and make it part of your life, not just fit it in if you suddenly have a few free minutes.
2. Work on being aware of and in tune with your body without trying to push yourself into exhaustion just to feel the ‘burn!’
Yoga, running, hiking, biking, swiming, dancing, tai chi, etc.
3. Make sure you have healthy boundaries with family and friends. That means not getting sucked into other peoples needs and treating them as kids, while being encouraging when they begin to take care of themselves. Healthy boundaries includes developing a skin that takes care of what you are experiencing in ways that honor yourself, without panicking or leaking out for others to mop up.
4. Make time for personal ‘check-ins’ to discover what’s going on inside you so that you plan for and take care of your needs before they reach a crtical point. A 30 second check in several times a day works and when it becomes automatic, your awareness will ensure effortless maintaining of boundaries and satisfaction of need. That means you won’t be over dependent or have others be overly dependent on you.
5. Express your feelings when they come up in the moment. That ensures that you don’t stuff them, become stressed, ill and angry. Expressing your feelings in the moment educates others and maintains authenticity on both sides. Being true to yourself means you take responsibility for yourself, another term for self-care.
How do I as a therapist help clients engage in Self-Care?
In addition to helping my clients understand their mind-body connection, I help them view the repeated patterns of relationship interaction that create co-dependency rather than mutual inter-depenency.
I have used art therapy – specifically collage to give them a chance to get in touch with and talk about their feelings, processing their experiences rather than just going at it. In addition I have found giving clients permission to step out of their routine and go to a museum, hike, spa, tea shop, farmers market etc. has been enormously powerful in developing habits of self-care.
copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2016
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