January 03, 2017 | DR. SCOTT D. ROSE, SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR
Treat yourself first, so you can help others.
“Rest & self care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn
Is your cup full or empty? Well, fill it up and fill it up first, so that your cup may runneth over and you may offer the surplus to others. This is not the same lesson of the glass that may be half empty or half full; that is more a matter of perspective. This is filling up your cup of self-care, and making choices to do so as a priority. But our society teaches us that taking care of ourselves first is selfish and a negative. When someone is trying to give of themselves and they are depleted, they just can’t pour from their empty cup. Taking care of your self first is a novel concept. The most important time in the world is the time you make for yourself.
Rest and self-care are essential, especially in our fast-paced, stressful times. Many people do not get adequate rest to restore and replenish their bodies on a routine basis. The immune system declines in its ability to fight infections effectively without adequate rest. The hormonal system is deranged with increased cortisol production, leading to weight gain and increased inflammation. Diets low in fiber and nutrients but high in unhealthy fats, a lack of routine exercise, and use of alcohol, nicotine, and prescribed/illicit drugs are all examples of unhealthy self-care lifestyle choices. A saying in Chinese philosophy states, “lead a qi (universal life force) producing lifestyle, not a qi-reducing lifestyle.” In other words, fill up your cup.
Self-care refers to the care and cultivation of self, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self. There are a number of self-care fundamental determinants of health. For example, humans need sufficient air, water, food, and sanitary elimination of excrement. There must be a balance between rest and activity as well as between solitude and social activities. Self-care includes keeping safe and participating in social groups. The self-directed performance and mastery of self-care activities and choices are a requirement of maturity.
Each action taken to nourish yourself and meet your own needs pours a little love into your cup. If you do not fill your cup or keep it full, who will? And if someone deposits into your cup with no return, then they run the risk of running deplete, making you an energy sucker.
With the new year upon us, and many vowing to hold themselves to some resolutions, it is time to focus on improving your life and thereby others’. Fill your cup first, and you will create an abundance in your life from which to give to those around you. This is a practice in mindfulness and a choice to change a mindset to one of growth, where you can change and adapt beyond your current capabilities.
Some do a good job of filling their cup; others do not. Some individuals and professions such as caregivers, doctors, social workers, teachers and parents tend to give of themselves with little expectation. These people can benefit most by filling up their cup and keeping their cups full.
When the cup is empty and the giving continues, they end up taking with negativity, or sharp words or by putting up a wall that feels impenetrable to those around them. These individuals, yourself or anybody can continue to make payouts to others more easily and sustainably by investing in themselves first.
Get past the unwritten law that taking care of yourself is selfish, and put yourself first once in a while. It may actually be selfish to not take time for yourself, because doing so denies your own importance. Fortunately, there are many ways to fill your own cup and there are no membership fees involved.
Physical self-care consists of eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of clean water daily, achieving adequate sleep, and engaging in regular exercise. Add good hygiene to the list for an increase in self-confidence when one has a well-kept appearance and better overall health.
Aside from the aforementioned physical attributes of self-care, the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our self need to be cared for as well.
For emotional self-care, surround yourself with individuals who build you up, not bring you down. It is tough to soar with eagles when you flock with turkeys. Just being able to tune into and be aware of your emotions is important, and being able to experience them and working with tools like breathing techniques for emotional regulation and balancing is key to good emotional health.
For mental self-care, you must ask yourself if you are stimulating and challenging yourself enough mentally. Writing, Scrabble, intellectual conversation, etc., all challenge your brain to grow and fill up your cup.
For spiritual self-care, recognizing and feeling a part of a greater something outside of your self helps to fill your cup. A belonging, and giving back to community is imperative. Finding meaning and purpose to life can lead to finding your reason for being on this Earth. Operating with an attitude of gratitude, or being happy for what we have and not focusing on what we don’t, helps to fill our cup.
There are many ways that you can fill your cup, but the idea is that you must fill it and keep it full on a regular basis. One way is to slow down and take time for yourself. Nobody is going to give you this time; you must carve it out — even if only 10 minutes a day to start, it is the regularity and what you do with that time that counts. (Meditation is a regular practice that nurtures all four aspects of self-care for filling your cup.) You are worthy of being able to spend time as you choose. You deserve it. You don’t need to meet any expectations before allowing yourself to take a breather. You don’t need a reason or an excuse. Make it a priority. Find balance by taking time out.
“I don’t have time for a time out, there is too much to do.” Do you truly lack time or do you carry around an unrealistic, self-imposed standard of perfection that won’t allow you to relax? (“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra) The to-do list will always eat away at you every waking moment if you let it. Before you can “take” your time out, you need to be comfortable letting your standards of perfection slide a little.
An empty cup is a step toward burnout. Fill up your cup with things that light you up inside. Most of us know we need to do this, we either just choose not to, or end up not making our happiness a priority. This is not good. You have to live with you for the rest of your life. Why would you choose to allow your happiness to fall low on the priority list? Negativity is quick to follow, and no one wants to be around a negative person all the time.
In contrast, a cup that runneth over gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. When your cup is overflowing, you experience an intense happiness that can spread to those around you. You feel more confident, your thoughts are more positive, and you expect positive results. You are able to extend yourself to others and not feel depleted after doing so.
When you take personal time to do things for yourself, you are filling up your cup and “recharging your battery.” Give yourself permission to take those few mindful minutes each day to be peaceful … you can worry for the other 23 hours and 50 minutes. Taking care of yourself equals keeping your cup full. If you don’t do things to keep your cup full, you have nothing left to give or share with others. By consciously focusing on our own self-care, we choose a richer life for ourselves and those around us. Bring yourself back into focus for this new year.
“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” – Mandy Hale