For as long as I can remember, I KNEW I wanted to teach and coach. I used to line up my barbies and dolls and “play school”. I organized my (then little) brothers to go on scavenger hunts, make new recipes and even…. Learn choreography for the backstreet boys “I Want It That Way” song…. Who wants pics?
But I never understood that in order to reliably show up for them, I had to take care of myself, too.
I burned out a lot. Got mono multiple times. Called out. Had breakdowns. Cancelled plans last minute because I was too overwhelmed.
It wasn’t until losing Leyden, and being completely shattered, that I truly learned what self-care was. It’s not fancy robes and vacations. It’s not a shopping spree or an extra piece of cake. It’s doing things that fill your heart and soul and taking emotional “rest” days where needed. It’s setting boundaries, being present and continually checking to make sure the way you are spending your energy is serving you well.
I took a hot minute off from writing (cue: podcasting, MOVE. and MOVE.ing) but I am back at it and in my latest blog post, I share 5 tips for care-takers to take care of themselves.
It was inspired by 2 things. A conversation I had with a woman who is pursuing an intense career path in caring for others and was seeking advice in how not to burnout. And secondly, by myself. I’ve added a lot of coaching these past months (insert childhood and adulthood #passion) and a lot of speaking about grief (#shineon Ley) but realized I haven’t been matching the input. So these next few weeks I am slowing down my schedule, upping my own yoga practice, scheduling writing time and heck, maybe sleeping in a little bit.
Here are 5 strategies that can save care-takers from that all too common burnout:
1. Understand the difference between showing up for someone and doing the work for someone.
We can’t do anyone else’s homework for them. We just can’t. And sometimes, even when hurting, broken and struggling, the ones we are supporting need more time, space and learning before being able to create change. In an effort to support, not enable, the people we are taking care of we have to encourage them to be as independent as possible. This might mean a little more patience, persistence and communication but it’s going to help both you and the other individual in the long run.
2. Set boundaries for yourself.
I used to think that boundaries were cold or harsh. I am now…. well…. obsessed. It’s a way of caring for ourselves and for others. It keeps expectations clear. When I coach people to set boundaries for themselves there are hundreds of way to do so. But most commonly it’s around allowing ourselves the space we need to strengthen and push or to surrender and recharge. Specifically for care-takers it’s also about separating our experience from the people we are supporting. We cannot go into a meeting or experience and “feel” everything the people we are supporting are feeling. It would be irresponsible because it would limit our ability to show up FOR them, to help them see out of their experience, to find growth and clarity. When others are in a storm, we have to set our own energetic boundary to not jump in with them.
3. Set boundaries for others.
Yes, I think boundaries are loving. Very loving. I used to be afraid to tell people I wanted time off or to myself. While it sounds like I am concerned about them… I was actually protecting myself. Confused? Let me explain. I was too worried about how I would feel disappointing someone or too concerned about chancing someone thinking less of me that I didn’t set boundaries. In truth, I wasn’t protecting others (though I convinced myself I was) I was protecting myself. Let people know the appropriate boundaries. Empower them to access your time and resources in a way that works for both of you. Let them know how and when you can support them. They will appreciate not having to waste energy guessing or wondering if you are available. And your consistency and reliability will offer space to reduce angst.
4. Have input accessible. Very accessible.
When we are exhausted and depleted it’s not realistic to expect that we will have the skills to spend time thinking long and hard about what we need. Input and output is a real thing. When we are constantly offering output, we have to know what types of input are going to serve us well. I coach people to make a list- to literally write down 20 things that they can do to fill their tank. The trick is we often over-complicate it (thanks consumer society media), and think that to “recharge” we need expensive massages, luxury products or even a long vacation. I want the people I coach to be able to access that calm and recharged feeling from something as simple as 5 quiet minutes in the car, putting their phones on “DND” , taking a bath or (gasp) sleeping in. The more aware we are around what makes us feel human, the easier it is to stay feeling human. Keep it simple. And keep is accessible.
5. Don't Take Anything Personally.
Probably my all time favorite agreement from “The Four Agreements” (aka my bible). If someone you are supporting thinks you are the greatest thing since matcha (or sliced bread), don’t take it personally. You are simply evoking something in them that makes them feel good in their own experience. If someone thinks you are the worst, don’t take it personally. You are simply evoking something in them that makes them feel not so good in their own experience. This can be tricky in the field of coaching or counseling as our jobs require us to push people outside their comfort zones, but our businesses require us to have customer retention. For me, I know when I push someone that I am acting from love. I find that communicating in advance that they can expect to feel angry or frustrated with me at times helps. Additionally, internally, I always look beyond the surface experience. And when a reaction manifests as anger, blame or frustration, below it is the energy of struggle, fear, overwhelm or pain. And below that…. Yearning for love and connection. So I know, under all the reactions, is simply, love.