Take Time for Self-Care

Sometimes, as I head into a full day, I think about a patient I had. She was forty-nine years old and a “supermom,” who also ran a successful company. She never slowed down. In fact, she hardly ever even sat down. She came to me because she was unhappy and on a high level of overload. During one of our sessions, I asked her, “What would you do for your husband if he were sick?” She said, “I would have him go to bed; I would make him soup; I’d rub his head.”  Then I asked “What about your daughter?” and she gave me similar answers.  But when I asked, “What about you?” she said, “I’d tell myself to ‘Get out of bed,’ and ask, “Why are you lying there?’”

Then I asked her, “Why can’t you express the same love and the same care for yourself as you do for your family?” Her eyes welling up, she admitted, “Because I’ve never heard those words before.” There it was—the crux of the issue. No one had shown this kind of love to her growing up. This caring, giving woman was not doing for herself what she was doing for others—and she needed to, but had had no idea that was the problem, much less how to fix it. Once identified, the next step was to see if she were open to caring for herself. She was and we started small.

For the next two months, every night before she went to bed, she wrote down her inner strengths and listed the things she loved about herself. She needed reminders of her value. I also suggested that she talk to herself the same way she would have loved to hear her mom talk to her to help her fill that void. Then, we added small physical steps that just made her feel good, things she simply enjoyed. She started taking a long, relaxing bath in the evenings and sitting for a few quiet moments in front of the fire every night before she went to bed.  It was hard for her at first—time for herself was foreign to her. She kept at it, however, and soon quit her frenetic pace, realizing two things: she was worth self-love and care, and she was a better and happier person for it.