Many devoted parents struggle with recognizing and meeting their own needs in the midst of serving others. And while the Baha’i writings encourage us to serve and sacrifice, they also enjoin us to know ourselves and take care of ourselves so that we can continue to be of service.
Here is an excerpt about self-care from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:
[quote]…you should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It–the body–is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.[/quote]
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, Nov 23, 1947, Lights of Guidance, p.298)
And here is a passage from Baha’u’llah encouraging us to be aware of how things affect us:
[quote]The first Taraz and the first effulgence which hath dawned from the horizon of the Mother Book is that man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty…[/quote]
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá’í World Center, 1982), pp. 34-35)
There are many times when being of service helps me to develop new capacities and helps me to serve more. And then there are other times when my personal “well” feels like it has run dry, and if I don’t take the time to rest, pray, and re-charge, I can become negative and impatient with myself and with my family.
Many of the clients I work with find themselves feeling exhausted and impatient, and then they feel guilty that they feel that way. They tell themselves that they should just toughen up and “get over it”. But I’ve found in my personal life and my work with clients that lasting and effective growth and change rarely results from the “toughen up” approach. The following ideas for selfcare will give you more awareness of your needs and help you replenish so you can continue to be of service.
First, become aware of your needs. This can be a surprisingly challenging task when you are used to thinking about everyone else’s needs and putting yours last. One trick that can help is to practice taking what I call your “emotional temperature” three times a day. To do this, simply take a moment a few times a day to check in with yourself and see how you are feeling.
- You can ask yourself, “How is my day going? How am I feeling right now? What do I need?”
When people do this on a regular basis, they often make some very helpful discoveries about themselves. Some people discover that they have been neglecting their physical needs such as ignoring their thirst for water or sitting in an uncomfortable position at work for hours. Some people discover they are feeling angry or impatient because they need more help. Some people discover that they have been worrying more than they realized, that this worry has been making parenting harder for them than it needs to be, and that they need to work through these worries.
Once you realize what you are feeling and what your needs are, you can take steps to make the changes you need to make in your life such as asking for more help, scheduling time on your own, taking time for prayer or exercise, or talking with your partner about how you are feeling.
- Hint: If you find you are having trouble remembering to take your emotional temperature, try setting an alarm on your watch or your phone to help you remember.
Another practice that can help you meet your needs is to get aware of the benefits and costs of meeting your needs. Try asking yourself these questions:
- What would it bring to you, your life, and your family if your needs were met?
- What is it costing you, your life, and your family to NOT meet your needs?
Next, it always helps to make a plan to meet your needs. Having insights is important, but the healing you need cannot take place without action. Your plan might involve asking friends or family for help with your tasks or with childcare so you can have some time to yourself. It might involve getting ongoing support from family, friends or a professional to delve deeper into what your needs are. It might involve scheduling a time to check in with yourself in a month to see how you are doing with your plan.
True, your plan might involve you saying “no” and disappointing some people. But remember that when you say “no”, it may create an opportunity for someone else to step forward and be of service. Another helpful thing to remember is that saying “no” to one thing also means you are saying “yes” to something else, and vice versa. Where do you need to say “yes” and “no” in your life?
And finally, turning to God in prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do to help ourselves replenish and heal, feel supported, and find solutions to our challenges. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
[quote]There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer…Prayer is conversation with God. The greatest attainment or the sweetest state is none other than conversation with God. It creates spirituality, creates mindfulness and celestial feelings, begets new attractions of the Kingdom and engenders the susceptibilities of the higher intelligence.[/quote]
(Words of Abdu’l-Baha cited in Star of the West, vol. VIII, no. 4 (17 May 1917), p.41)
We would love to hear your ideas about what helps you be aware of and meet your needs!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://www.enablemetogrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/lh.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Laura Harley is a stay-at-home mom to a wonderful 2-year-old boy. She also maintains a (part-time) life coaching practice and helps her clients navigate their lives with confidence and compassion, overcome obstacles and get “unstuck”, and live fulfilling and meaningful lives. She is also a singer-songwriter and makes music to soothe the wounds of modern life. She blogs about living a meaningful life and parenting, and gives tools to help people find and utilize their inner resources. (http://www.lauraharley.com)[/author_info] [/author]