How Compassion May be Harming Your Health + 3 Self-Care Tips
*Images by the amazing Mikayla Christiansen.
What do you think of when you read the word “compassion?”
Maybe you think of some generous heart taking care of people in Calcutta, or some foreign aid mission. Or maybe you think of someone donating their time at a soup kitchen, or volunteering their time at a seniors’ care facility. Maybe you think of holding the door for the person behind you or giving up your seat on the train for someone who needs it. The majority of the time when we think of the word compassion we think of people doing something to help others.
The truth is, the foundation of all positive interaction between ourselves and other beings is rooted in compassion. As women, especially, we are taught from a very young age to be compassionate to others. We can see this play out later in life as women often take on the more outwardly nurturing roles in society and the work-force. But somewhere along the line, we learned that it was more important to be compassionate to others. We were trained to de-prioritize ourselves to the point that we wouldn’t hold the door open for ourselves or give up our seat on the train for ourselves.
We have sacrificed our own self-compassion in order to provide it to others.
It is so ingrained in our nature that de-prioritizing ourselves has become a habit. Your drive to share your beautiful, compassionate heart to others is leaving you with very little left for yourself - and so your health suffers. How many times have you wished you could exercise more, or start a meditation practice, or do more self-care, etc. but “there just isn’t time” between your responsibilities at home, work, and with your family?
We all have heard that we need to take care of ourselves first in order to show up to serve others - but how do we do this without losing our ability to show the same level of compassion to others?
#1| Align yourself with your dreamy lifestyle vision
The first step in strengthening your own self-compassion is finding the time for your true self-care. By true self-care, I mean supporting your health by honoring your body with movement, nutrient-rich food and creating space for balance in your life. That being said, if you’re busy from the moment you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow at the end of the day - there’s no room. You have to release something in your life in order to make space for your self-compassion and healthy lifestyle. If that just struck a little fear into your heart with a thought of “I can’t give anything up,” don’t worry. I’ve got your back.
Find 15 - 20 minutes in your busy week to dedicate to creating your dreamy lifestyle vision board. Discover your priorities for your life using these categories:
• & Relationships
Now that you have your priorities laid out on paper, it’s time to see where you are spending your time throughout the day. Before you stop reading right now and say “ain’t nobody got time for that,” hear me out. We are looking for broad categories here. Instead of writing down “2 minutes brushing my teeth, 10 minutes showering, 20 minutes hair and makeup” write down “30 minutes getting ready.” You can either do a time log on paper or - there’s an app for that! You can use Toggl if you have an iPhone or SaveMyTime if you’re on Android.
After completing a time log for a few days, come back to your dreamy lifestyle vision board and see if how you are spending your time is aligning with those things that you identify as priorities. If an activity doesn’t align with your dreamy lifestyle vision, ditch it and replace it with something that nurtures you.
#2| Make decisions that support your future-self
Another way to start strengthening your own self-compassion is to make decisions that will get you one step closer to achieving your dreamy lifestyle vision. Slow yourself down before you indulge in those donuts sitting on the staff room table and ask yourself, “Will my decision to eat that donut be compassionate towards my future-self?” Sure, that donut is going to taste good at that moment, but is eating that donut today going to bring you closer to the ‘you’ that you wish to become?
I encourage you to read your dreamy lifestyle vision every morning to remind yourself what you are working towards and empower you to make compassionate decisions that will not only benefit you at this moment but also your future-self. By reminding yourself of what you are working towards it will be so much easier to resist those donuts.
#3| Communicate your needs with empowered self-compassion
Now that you know what you want for your life, it’s time to make sure that you stand up for it! Don’t worry though. Assertively communicating our needs doesn’t mean that you’re going to cause friction in relationships. Let’s say that you and a friend meet once a week for a friend date at a local coffee shop and usually order a coffee and a baked treat. But after completing your dreamy lifestyle vision board, you know that eating that sweet treat once a week doesn’t align with what you want for future-you. Next time you meet for coffee, all you have to do is say “I’m just going to get coffee this time. Feel free to get your dessert still, but I’m going to pass.”
That’s it. It’s that easy.
Your friend will probably think nothing of it. Or maybe she’ll ask you why and then you can tell her all about the journey you’re on to strengthen your self-compassion and improve your health by making decisions that benefit your future-self and empower her to do the same!
It’s time to prioritize your self-compassion.
You know that you have to take care of yourself in order to continue to share your compassion with others in a healthy, balanced way. Now is your time to align your life with your priorities and strengthen your self-compassion so that you will have the energy and health to achieve your dreamy lifestyle vision. Know what you’re working towards, keep that in mind throughout your day as you make decisions that will either support or go against that vision, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
You are worth it.
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Hi, I’m Heather Thatcher, the Vitality Lifeguard, and I want you to know that I understand where you're coming from. With just under a decade of experience as an RN, I understand the struggle to find balance between work, the expectations of friends and family, and making sure that I eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, and manage my stress. I’ve worked with countless people to achieve this balance by helping them tune into their body’s intuitive knowledge of what their unique healthy lifestyle needs to include. I’ve picked up the name “Vitality Lifeguard” along the way and it really resonates with me because it describes exactly what I do.
In my online community and through my one-on-one coaching system, I give you practical, structured and actionable guidance so you can create space in your life for your intuitive healthy lifestyle, feel better, maintain a healthy weight, and actually enjoy the process.