Have you ever found yourself in a position where you feel physically and emotionally drained whilst looking after people that might be struggling physically and emotionally? If you found yourself in this kind of situation you may feel a natural instinct to want to avoid these kind of circumstances. But if you are a naturally empathic person you will find avoidance isn’t possible unless you completely isolate yourself. Which isn’t an option either, so what do you do?
There are ways to continue caring for people without risking your own mental and emotional health. How do you protect your own emotional and mental wellbeing if you are in the caring/therapeutic industry and working/caring for people who have a lot going on? There are definitely ways of caring for people without depleting your own energy and mental health. Do you know there such a thing as ‘compassion fatigue’? Yup, there really is and here are few things you can do to save the dreaded fatigue and resentment from setting in. (Psychologists use the term compassion fatigue to capture this feeling of burnout. Though used typically to describe professional helpers, it can also occur among people who offer continued informal support to others in need. Adding to the overall emotional drain of the situation is the guilt you overlay on top of the fatigue because you think you should be doing more. Source Psychology Today )
Top Tips for Self Protection
▪️ Look after yourself! “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first”. It’s the golden rule. You cannot help other people in life if you’re not in a good place yourself. Find a way to recharge your batteries. Whether it be a yoga class or spending an evening with friends that uplift you. The thing is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself to a lavender and Epsom salt bath and lie and soak for 20 minutes. Epsom salts are thought to remove negative energy (as well as having so many other health benefits!) and revive you. Or go for a reviving mindful walk in nature.
▪️ Conflict comes when you do things that you don’t enjoy it. So it is important to play to your strengths. If you’re a good listener, listen. If you prefer doing the running around, do the running around. Make sure you take on tasks that you enjoy when helping other people which will stop you feeling depleted and resentful.
▪️ Take a step back from the situation. You’re not here to rescue everybody on the planet. You can be loving and supportive without taking on somebody else’s problems as if they are your own. If you’re always the one offering solutions they are never going to learn how to sort things out for themselves. Sometimes if you step back it will give them the opportunity to find a solution that is right for them. Instead of finding the solution for them every time you could ask them “what do you think you could do about that?”. It is important for people to come up with their own solutions because it builds their inner confidence at their own ability to overcome challenges in life. In other words, you give them their power back.
▪️ Spend time with people that uplift you and make you feel good. Notice whether you feel uplifted or depleted when you spend time with certain people. If you feel lethargic then they are draining your energy.
▪️ Imagine yourself surrounded by bubble of blue light. May sound crazy but Lynne McTaggart in her book The Field suggests that visualising yourself within a blue coloured light has been scientifically proven to protect your energy.
▪️A popular neurolinguistic (aka NLP) technique called Releasing Emotional Enmeshment originally created by John Bradshaw is a good way to sever unhealthy or negative emotional attachments we might have to people. By severing these negative emotional attachment we in turn create space for a healthier relationships to take its place. Follow these steps to release emotional enmeshment:
Step one: close your eyes and focus your attention on imagining the person with whom you would like to sever the negative attachment with is standing front of you. As John Bradshaw says “let them be present to you in their most attractive behaviour”.
Step two: notice if there is a cord or some other attachment between you? Let your imagination take over at this point and try not to think too much about it. You may notice a cord or attachment by your groin area, your belly or even around your head. Just go with whatever comes to your mind. Try not to question it.
Step three: now sever this connection in whatever means works best for you. Some people like to visualise scissors cutting through the cords at this point. You can at any point reconnect these cords but it is important to point out that you are only severing the negative connection and not any positivity that is there and shall remain there despite severing the negative connection.
Step four: Imagine to your left or to your right you see your future self stood there and he/she is empowered and wise. You are aware in this moment that this future you is capable of giving you all that you want and need to truly empower you, protect you and help you to feel strong. Really look at your future self and notice how well they look, how in control they are of their life and positively powerful. Now reconnect your cords to your future self the same way you did to the other person and enjoy feeling the sense of connection with someone you can completely rely and count on: yourself. Take a moment to thank your future self for being there for you for helping you to connect to a resource that is constant, secure and strong.
Follow these tips and your will notice how different you begin to feel when caring for other people in your life. Remember that when you look after yourself you are in the best place to care for other people which means that you are giving these people the best of you. The lighthearted patient part of you and not the irritable and depleted part of you. So isn’t selfish not to look after yourself based on that?
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