Guest Blogger: Melissa Delizia, MSW, LSW
Most of the time, I forget to take care of myself. I get so absorbed in making sure everyone else is okay and taken care of that I let my own needs slip away without showing them any love or attention. I even work at a store called SELF CARE COVE, and still often forget to practice what I preach. I’ve learned in the past year or so that no matter how much I want to help or take care of others, I cannot put anything above the need to take care of myself.
Not that long ago, I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life. It started with a small thing triggering me & quickly escalated into my brain telling me i was dying & my body trying to compensate. Panic attacks are unique, and present differently for different people. for me, I cry, I shake, my arms, legs, & face go numb, my breathing becomes really shallow and uneven & I almost always think the worst is going to happen to me.
Despite this happening, I went on with my day and did all the things I had planned. I pretended it didn’t happen, but it did. It was real. My brain may have caused the physical symptoms but it was real. Despite knowing I wouldn’t die, in the moment it was hard to convince those intrusive thoughts otherwise.
Most people don’t know that I have anxiety & panic attacks and how serious it can be. I’ve been working on it for a long time now, despite hiding it well. But, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not my fault, it’s not anyone’s fault. It happens and I get passed it & I’m still me.
Despite my panic attacks being out of my control, I don’t always take the time to care for myself the way I need to after one happens. I shouldn’t have gone on with my day, I should have listened to my body and rested and taken care of myself the way my body was begging me to. I was afraid I would let people down if I didn’t get up and go on with it like nothing had happened, but that was wrong.
As a kid, I felt like I was always taught to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, but was anyone ever taught how to treat ourselves? I want to start hearing kids be taught to say treat YOURSELF & others the way you want to be treated. Take care of your heart and soul and treat it as kindly as you would want others to treat it, or how kindly you might treat someone else.
Whenever anyone around me goes into a crisis situation or feels any kind of negative emotion, I’m the first one to get up and help. I do whatever it takes to help that person feel better, sometimes even at my own expense. Now, by no means is it a bad thing to want to help others, but something I always forget to do is help myself.
There is no way for me to be fully present and able to help others if I don’t help myself first. We can’t fill from an empty cup. We must be our best, fullest & most healthy selves in order to help others. This applies to everyone, parents, therapists, anyone in any helping profession, teachers, even kids. How can we expect anyone to be able to do what they’re supposed to do in their everyday lives if we don’t teach them that it’s just as important to take care of themselves (if not more important) as it is to take care of and be kind to others.
Here are some ways I take care of myself so I can be my best self.
1. Spend an hour of time (maybe even less) doing something by myself that is just for me. (getting my nails done, reading my favorite book, yoga class, sitting on the beach, meditation, etc.) This can be anything that makes you feel at home with yourself.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes states in Women Who Run With The Wolves (amazing read) that, “Home is a sustained mood or sense that allows us to experience feelings not necessarily sustained in the mundane world: wonder, vision, peace, freedom from work, freedom from demands, freedom from constant clacking. All these treasures from home are meant to be cached in the psyche for later use in the topside world. Although there are many physical places one can go to “feel” her way back to this special home, the physical place itself is not home; it is only the vehicle that rocks the ego to sleep so that we can go the rest of the way by ourselves. The vehicles through and by which women reach home are many: music, art, forest, ocean, spume, sunrise, solitude. These take us home to a nutritive inner world that has ideas, order, and sustenance all of its own.”
2. I pamper myself with things I feel I need at that moment. Most of the time, I head over to the self care cove (bethkaya.com/selfcarecove) and I spend a little money on whatever goodies I feel will help me take care of myself at that time.
3. When it feels right, I spend time with people who make me feel like myself. Those who encourage me rather than take my energy, it’s hard to find those people that support you in that way, and maybe this kind of thing won’t work for you (it definitely doesn’t always work for me) but if you find the right people this can be really powerful.
4. Journal your feelings, and make a list of everything you love about yourself & things or people you feel grateful for. A gratitude list. Keep this for the future & refer back or add to it whenever you feel you need to.
5. Make a schedule for self care. Add it into your busy calendar so that you don’t forget to practice it. It might feel silly in the beginning to write in your planner “take a bath” but I know for me, if it’s written down it’s a set plan and I have to follow through.
*Take these suggestions as they are, but most importantly, find what really works for you. take care of yourself! Make yourself a priority before your body forces you to do so. Treat yourself the way you treat others. Love yourself, nurture yourself, and take note of the difference within.
Melissa Delizia, MSW, LSW currently blogs at meditatingmermaid.wordpress.com. She also spends her time as a photographer and working at Self Care Cove located in Brick, NJ.