Health & wellbeing

The secret to caring for others is looking after yourself too

25 Jun 2021 | Written by Kathy Feest

Self care

This June, we have been focusing on treating others and ourselves. We’ve asked member Kathy Feest to share her thoughts on the importance of self care and how looking after ourselves is essential to being able to give authentic and rewarding support to others… 

When you’re on an aeroplane… (remember those far away days?!) the steward or stewardess always makes that same announcement (is there anyone in the world that does NOT know how to do up a seatbelt?) and says if the oxygen masks descend, always put on your mask before helping others. In other words, look after yourself and you will be able to help others!

How often in the past have we put others first?

The kids, the husband, the job, the family. And there we are at the end of our personal lists, which means that by the time we get to ourselves, we are often running on empty.  

Older age has a few compensations, and one of them surely must be that by now we have learned the lesson of the importance of self care. Or maybe not!  Those “caring for others first” roots go very deep for many of us, and particularly women of a certain age and stage. How often have others come first in your life? Have you upped sticks and moved for your husband’s job? Or maybe stopped doing something you loved to do because motherhood came along? Or perhaps that partner of yours is someone you stay with even now, when you don’t really want to be there. Whatever it is that has pulled you off your “self care centre”, you are the only person that can get yourself back on track.

Looking after yourself is the prelude to caring for others. 

If you don’t feed your soul and meet your own needs, chances are your caring will be less than authentic.  Trying to please, by the way, is not caring. Caring is genuinely and authentically sharing something of yourself with another person because deep in your being it feels the right thing to do. The scientists tell us that helping yourself helps others, and helping others helps you.  

If you aren’t used to getting your needs met, start with a few easy treats. A coffee at the end of a long morning, just for you. A chat with a friend when you are convinced there is something else you “must” do. Build up to a few more treats. That long walk you’d love to take, but your disabled partner can’t join you so you don’t do it. Or start by saying “no” when you really want to. 

Healthy boundaries in relationships enable you to stop yourself being angry, or worn out and at your wits end, and make caring possible. The more you get what you need, the less angry and annoyed you will feel towards someone you perceive is stopping you from getting what you want. It works! Then you can authentically give yourself without feeling depleted.

If you are having trouble even knowing what you need, find a quiet few minutes, get out a piece of paper and make a list. That blank piece of paper is like a mirror, and it will enable you to see into your deepest inner feelings and wants, if you let yourself.

If you’d like to get a few more thoughtful prompts that might help you dive deep inside your caring bones, to the heart of your desires where true and deep care lives, you can join us for the ‘Empower Hour’ sessions at The Joy Club Presents…, starting in September.   

When you truly care for yourself, you will be amazed how many masks you’re able to put on others. We all need the oxygen of authentic caring to live full and happy lives. Enjoy!  

Kathy writes her own blog, Feest Isolation Days – Reflections from self-isolation in Bristol, which she has updated every day since the start of the first lockdown in 2020.