Knowing when to take care

I love the way it is accepted practice in some more informal correspondence to sign off with the signature “Take care”.  Sometimes I use this myself and when I catch myself I think about the words and make sure that I actually mean what I say. Do you? 

Taking this one step further how often have you received this endearing advice and not taken it? I bet more often than not.  What if we were to send out emails to all our friends with no note and just the sentiment ‘take care’.  Would the message get through then? 

Well I am writing now to tell you to ‘take care’.

For many of us the focus of care is often other directed, especially the more demanding our work, family or other lifestyle choices.  The groups we belong to rely on our willingness to care.  We even manage to develop guilt if we don’t seem to care enough.  Yet what happens to us if we are no longer capable because we don’t heed the advice from our self to ‘take care’.

So my focus in this article is on taking care of self.

The implied nature of the ‘take care’ sentiment is that you do something actively to look after your self.  On another level it may also mean to receive care from others.  Either way the outcome is that you ensure you as a functioning human being are sustainable. You being functioning and well makes the world a better place. So it is a worthy effort.   

I share this thought to encourage you to consider how effective you are at hearing your own self tell you to 'take care'. This is not about being selfish or saying me first. No instead this is about starting with you so that what you offer in the world is fully expressed, strong and engaged.  And whilst this subject warrants much more meaningful attention than an article in a newsletter please indulge in a few observations/reflections.

As a start lets work with three essential ingredients for ‘taking care’ of your self.  

Ingredient One: Knowing -- “know when and what you need”

To be effective in taking care we need to get the timing right.  This means responding when the need arises, not later, after it gets bigger.  There is also a bit of sorting to find out the best way to take care.  We can experiment with our own ideas and also entertain those of others.  Either way the better we are at knowing what is right for our self the better we will be at matching the need. This statement also presumes that you are of a state of mind that can discern.

Ascertaining the answers to these two ‘knowings’ takes place over a lifetime in response to our ups and downs. You are forever evolving, changing your lifestyle, having new experiences and growing, so your care needs change.  Staying aware and conscious of what these needs are will make a big difference.  

This is where we also begin to refine our intuition. By getting really good at reading the signals in our self we hone our ability to know before it is too late, or the work is much harder than if we had listened earlier. We also develop routines, habits and practices that prevent and help us take care on a more consistent basis.  Knowing also implies that you revisit what worked before to make sure it still works now.

So on a regular basis please get in the habit of asking yourself what you need and listen.

Ingredient two: Time   --  “make and take time”

It’s one thing to know what you need in order to take care but another thing to apply.  Here is where we can disconnect. We know what we need yet we don’t provide what we need.  A very common frustrated statement from a person desperately needing to take care is “I don’t have any time!”  Is this you?  

What gets in the way of ‘take care’ time can be a myriad of challenges.   Often it is our perspective that needs a shift.   I could offer some obvious solutions here, yet instead I would rather suggest you come up with these.  

So the first step is to actually MAKE time and TAKE it for the purpose of understanding why you don’t have any time.  Be ruthless and really sit with your self on this one.  As soon as you identify one excuse, just one reason you and time aren’t friends, then engage.  Often the projected excuse is really a mask for deeper reasons that are begging for your attention.

Let go of the excuse of no time and give yourself the gift of time to take care.

Ingredient three: Attitude of being   -- “promise yourself that you will commit to ALL of you now”

We don’t need to be perfect, get it right all the time, have all the answers. No instead choosing how we approach taking care will affect our ability to take care.  

I mention attitude because it is a conscious thought about the situation.  When your knowing tells you it is time to take care then a whole person approach is in order. This means approaching the situation in a holistic way - ie take care mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually in ways that work for you.  Choosing an attitude of balance means you will take care of all of you.

By being I mean focusing your attention on where you are at now. Be gentle, accepting of your self and current situation.  Commit to taking care one step at a time. It might be as simple as stopping for a breath. Yes a deep breath to center yourself. It might be more involved like taking yourself away on a retreat.  Either way there is something you can do in each situation that prioritizes your need to take care.

Learn how to hold your own space in the present moment around what you experience.

Remember, taking care of you means you are taking care of all that connect to you in your world.  Your lived example helps others.