Can Caretakers Take Care Of Themselves
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
Emotional and physical well being depend on the metaphysical balance between giving and receiving. Both the Jewish mystical work, the Kabbalah, and the Dali Lama’s Book of Transformations assert the same principle: Each one of us needs to establish a balance between giving and receiving. Easier said than done for women who throughout the ages have been ascribed the role of caretakers and nurturers! The balance scale has always been tipped towards the word, yes. Many women literally become sick and tired before they can say, the word no. When we do not honor our true feelings, or suppress them, we become ill. Our disease usually symbolizes the underlying emotional condition that we are blocking out. That is why chronic fatigue syndrome occurs predominantly among women.
Then why do women say, yes, when they mean no? The good little girl syndrome, the accommodating woman, the need to be perfect, indicate that a woman needs validation and is afraid that she won’t be liked by her significant other, her boss, her children and her friends. However, it is a healthy sign of self-esteem, creativity and accomplishment to say no! In order to regain her balance, the good little girl needs to live more on the edge. No great contribution was ever made through conformity.
If we intuit that something is wrong, or that we are too busy to attend to everything superficially, we must not suppress our feelings, the inner voice that changes our wording from should to could. How much better to say, “I choose to do it, or I choose not to do it!” If your schedule becomes overwhelming and burdensome, saying no helps you to prioritize and select the duties, projects and activities that you will focus on and accomplish with profundity. When you are distracted by too many tasks, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “What am I distracting myself from facing? What am I running away from?” Carl Jung explained that the hardest person to confront is the self; also the hardest person to have compassion for is the self. In fact, we have more compassion for our pets than we do for ourselves!
Let us become self-ish and not self-conscious. When we don’t establish our boundaries, we become overworked, anxious, numb and tired. Those people who depend on us suffer and soon everything seems to fall apart in our lives. Let us insist on doing things at our own pace and to speak on our own behalf. We can delegate much more than we think we can. We can be assertive, without being aggressive, in revealing the true inner self.
There is a difference between the end of the day fatigue from a job that is satisfying and the end of the day fatigue resulting from being boxed in a limiting mindset, job or relationship. By recognizing this difference we can intuit when to stay and when to walk away. However, sometimes we cannot walk away or control what happens to us, but we can control our perception. Some people let defeat ruin them; others let victory ruin them. It is neither the win nor the loss that makes you triumphant, only your feelings about yourself.
To help restore balance in your life try to distance and objectify difficult situations by using humor. Perceive the conflict as though it were happening to someone else in a sit-com—surely you would be laughing. Try not to take yourself so seriously. Worthy to note: humor boosts the immune system. Smiling, even just turning the corners of your mouth up, raises your serotonin. Also, smiling is contagious; your smile will undoubtedly be returned to you.
On a physical level, exercise away your stress to restore balance both physically and emotionally. Exercise releases endorphins, mood elevators, as it rids you of cortisol, a stress hormone that courses throughout the body doing physical and emotional damage when it has no outlet. When you exercise, you lower blood pressure, strengthen your heart, bones, muscles, reverse the aging process, activate your immune system, and oxygenate your brain—need I say more? Exercise increases focus for the mind/muscle connection which transfers to daily life, increasing your power of concentration at work and at home. Therefore you can accomplish more. Even when you think you are too tired to exercise, working out for even just ten minutes will increase your energy level. Also, exercise helps you organize your day in a healthy way which will cause you to pay more attention to your diet.
Exercise should be balanced: cardio, strength training and stretching. I recommend when your day is difficult or destabilizing, find your balance on inflatable stability pods. Just standing on them is intense, for it requires you to hold in your abdominals tightly, press your heels into the middle of the pods as you focus straight out to the horizon. This exercise strengthens your core. And then when you progress into a squat on two stability pods, you are working your lower body intensely. For the most advanced move on stability pods, squat with two dumbbells rising into a shoulder press. Aim for three sets of eight to ten repetitions. If you are really motivated, try doing it all on one pod! Imagine if you can achieve balance on these pods or pod, an unstable medium, how you can achieve and maintain balance in real life!
Eat a balanced diet (meeting your specific physiological requirements) of proteins, complex carbohydrates (brown foods, like seven grain bread, brown rice, etc) a rainbow diet of fruits and vegetables for all necessary phyto-chemicals, fiber and drink about eight cups of water per day to rid the body of toxins. No deprivation allowed! Our bodies need to be constantly fueled to function efficiently as does the mind. When we skip meals, particularly breakfast, or eat white processed, greasy, sugary foods, we grow irritable and are more likely to be stressed by every little thing. And those little daily stressors, as opposed to the major catastrophe, cause the most long lasting physical and emotional damage.
Each day find a balance between earth practicality and spirituality. When you find your personal balance, you are ready to have a love for something or someone—to express your personal creativity which could mean writing, painting, gardening, reading, raising children, or cooking. Each one of us has a mission to fulfill and simply stated, striving to be the best person we can be. Each day to offset routine make a point to learn something new for personal stimulation. Nothing deadens the heart and soul like routine.
Through positive perception we heal and grow. Don’t let negativity invade your life. Living is hard enough. Get rid of negative self-talk and personal doubts. Visualize yourself achieving your goals. Persist in your passion. Surround yourself with positive people, media and books. Meditate on the good things in your life—what you used to appreciate, but now take for granted. Be in the moment, one hundred per cent present in all your activities. Enjoy that moment intensely.
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540 AM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com