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"Can Caretakers Take Care of Themselves?"
byline: Debbie E. Mandel

On a daily basis, four stressors constantly bombard us: environmental, physical, internal and national. Then we wonder why we feel anxious, irritable, fatigued and unhappy. Shedding stress must be a top priority because stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine coursing throughout the body without a release outlet do physical and emotional damage. If we are unbalanced, all the people who depend on us suffer as well. Of course, this is reason enough to take care of ourselves for the sake of others, but how about exhibiting some compassion for the self? Sometimes we take better care of our pets than we do of ourselves. Carl Jung explained that the hardest person to have compassion for is the self. We need to become selfish in order to cultivate a sense of who we are and express what we want.

Go From Worrier to Warrior

Emotional and physical health depends on the metaphysical balance of giving and receiving. Both the Kabbalah, a work of Jewish mysticism and the Book of Transformations by the Dali Lama state the same concept: In life we can't just keep giving to others. Some of us, particularly women, tend to be givers. However, we must learn how to receive as well because if we just give away what we have to others, we become depleted. Don't wait to be sick and tired before you say no! We need to ask ourselves how we feel before we agree. If it doesn't feel right, or we intuit that it is wrong, we have to honor our feelings, not suppress them, and say no. When we don't, we often become ill. Our disease usually symbolizes the underlying emotional condition that we are blocking out.

The "good little girl syndrome" and the "accommodating woman" must be balanced with personal goals. A first step is to get rid of a word like, should from our vocabulary and change it to could or choose. If our schedule becomes overwhelming, we need to prioritize, release what is no longer important and clean out the clutter. Everyone has freedom of choice and the determination to feel empowered. Each one of us has a mission to experience the feeling of fulfillment and simply stated we must strive to be the best person we can be. Therefore, we must learn to engage in activities that keep us personally stimulated. Everyday we can make a point to learn something new. Routine deadens both the heart and soul.

Sometimes we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our perceptions. Some people let defeat ruin them; others let victory ruin them. It is neither the win nor the loss that makes you triumphant, only how you feel about yourself. Self-doubt and negative self-talk create paralysis. We need to visualize a successful outcome just as an athlete does prior to a competition or a speaker preparing to address a large audience. Each triumphant performer envisions the event and sees the self successfully completing and shining! Recite a personal affirmation to facilitate the positive outcome. Conceive, Believe, Achieve.

Use humor to objectify difficult situations and restore balance. If it were happening to someone else in a sitcom, you know you would be laughing. Try not to take yourself so seriously and use the humor to take the sting out of these volatile situations. G. K Chesterton aptly said: Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. An added benefit: humor boosts the immune system.

And lastly, exercise away your stress. When you are angry or unhappy, exercise will release stress hormones, release your endorphins to make you feel alive, oxygenate your brain to help you think more clearly, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your heart, build up your bones and muscles, reverse the aging process, activate your immune system-need I say more? In addition, exercise will help you organize your day in a healthy way by making you pay more attention to what you eat: proteins, complex carbohydrates, a rainbow diet of fruits and vegetables, fiber and plenty of water. No deprivation, please! The body needs to be constantly fueled to function efficiently and so does the mind. Exercise increases focus for the mind/muscle connection, which carries over into life quality. 

Each day find a balance between earth practicality and spiritual vision. There is no separation between mind and body, not even a hyphen-one word, mindbody. When you find your personal balance, you will live your authentic life expressing your true opinions and achieving your goals one by one. Through positive perception you will heal and grow. Get rid of toxicity and negativity in your life. That includes toxic friends and family. Surround yourself with positive people, media and books. Meditate daily on the good in your life; on things you appreciate or used to appreciate but now take for granted. Learn to read life in order to be receptive to the universe. When you see the obvious, what is in front of your eyes, the rest will be revealed to you. As in Zen philosophy: Before enlightenment, carry water, chop wood. After enlightenment, carry water, chop wood. What has changed? Perception. Be in the moment in everything that you do and enjoy that moment intensely. The moment may be all that we have.

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