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Creating a culture of self-care in your family

Many of you know that I am a big advocate of self-care. It is at the foundation of my life, and my work with clients. But it hasn't always been that way. Like so many things in life, I had to learn the hard way!

My journey toward what I would call "radical self-care" began around 2013, a few years after having my daughter. She was in the NICU for ten days, and then basically didn't sleep for more than two hours at a time for the next two years, so, of course, I didn't either.

At the same time I was experiencing several very stressful life circumstances, including financial hardship and a difficult marriage. And, even though I knew better because I had been in the healing field for twenty years at that point, I did not take care of myself.

There were many complex reasons for that, but upon reflection I see that one of them was that there was not a culture of self-care in our family. It wasn't communicated or supported that each of us was different and had our own capacities and needs.

Part of the problem too was that I wasn't truly aware of my own needs and capacities. At that point I didn't realize the extent of my sensitivities and the accommodations they required. And to the extent that I was aware, I didn't feel like my needs were ok.

So, I would just try to power through and meet expectations. As a result, I became chronically ill, which launched me onto a five-plus year healing journey.

Part of that healing was understanding how I function, and loving and respecting myself enough to set boundaries and meet my needs.

Now I understand that I am a person that needs more sleep than most. At least once a day I need to retreat to a quiet room by myself to recharge. I have a great need for regular time alone.

There is certain music that jangles my nervous system so much I have to leave the room...this one has caused many conflicts in the past. I am sure it could feel like a rejection or a criticism, but for me it is just that it is literally physically painful. It's not even a conscious opinion on whether I like the music or not. There is some music I don't like, but it doesn't make me want to escape!

I recently explained this to my current partner after being driven from the room several times by the music of AC/DC. I realized, oh, I can share my experience with him so he understands and doesn't feel like it is a rejection of him or his taste in music! So, we talked about it and the next time he was playing it when I walked in to the room he turned it off.

This is a culture of self-care and respect. We can share with our loved ones what we need to function at our best. If it is discussed ahead of time it is much less likely that feelings will be hurt or resentment will build.

Continuing with the music example, for my partner it is supportive to him when he is building things in his garage to listen to loud rockin' music! We have very different needs in that arena, but we are able to respect those needs and differences because we have talked about it.

I would encourage you to talk with your family, giving everyone the opportunity to share what they need. How can you compromise and work together to support each member of the family? For children who may not be old enough to answer that question, we can observe their moods, behaviors and patterns.

For example, my daughter still has problems with sleep at times. One of those times is at sleepovers. She would get so frustrated because she would still be awake long after her friend was asleep. Then she would be exhausted and grumpy the next day. So, I learned that the day after a sleepover we need to have a chill, unstructured day so she can recover.

It is a possibility that family members may not be willing to respect each others differences or needs. If that is the case, there are likely other issues that need addressing.

But, what I do know from experience, is that others can't read our mind. If our needs are not able to be met in the current culture we have to express those needs and ask for support.

And be willing to offer support in return.


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