Ask most people about taking good care of themselves and being healthy, and they can probably tell you how they do that physically (or at least they know how they should do it). Even mentally or spiritually we generally know what we can or should do. But what about emotionally?? How do we take good care of our selves at a deeper, more fundamental level? I believe there are practical ways to accomplish this.
5 Essential Components to Good Self-Care:
Receiving from others. We all have needs, desires, and preferences. Not allowing others to give to you means you run on empty. It also takes away the gift of others giving to you. Be OK with accepting good words, actions, and gifts from others.
- Attending to your own legitimate needs. Most of us know when we need to rest, play, sleep, and generally do things that revive or refresh us. These are important to our well-being overall and to the next important component of good self-care.
- Giving to others. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving! The amount of your giving expresses the amount of your love. The true test of love is not feeling, it is action! When we give we get back too. We meet an inherent need for ourselves by giving to others. It’s good for others, it’s good for us!
- Forgiving others and yourself. Failure to forgive leads to feelings and emotions of anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, fear, and hostility. It only hurts me. (More on this later!)
- Boundaries are an essential and vital part of healthy life and caring for ourselves.
Let’s talk more about boundaries:
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend are the leading experts on boundaries. “A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. Boundaries define us, they show where “I” end and someone else begins. They define what is me and what is not me.” They are like fences in my life. They keep the good in and the bad out. And we must be the gatekeepers. If something, or someone, hurts me, I need to set boundaries to keep those hurts from getting in. We need to keep things inside the fence that will nurture us and keep things outside the fence that will harm us.
The word “no” is the most basic boundary setting word. People with poor boundaries have trouble saying no to the control, pressure, demands, or real problems of others. Boundaries are the guidelines that outline what we allow into our lives, and what we don’t. And there must be a consequence if our boundaries are broken. Remember, our boundaries are meant to protect us; emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If we have a person in our lives that has a tendency to speak insensitively, in cutting or cruel ways, we must set the boundary, “please don’t talk to me in that way.” That’s the boundary. If they continue, they break the boundary, and the consequence may be that we hang up the phone or walk away. This protects us from their emotionally damaging words.
The National Institute of Marriage also has some important ideas about using boundaries in ways that care for ourselves without hurting other people. To be effective, boundaries should take care of you and your interests in a way that also accomplishes your personal and relational goals.
Ask the question: What am I wanting to accomplish with my boundaries?
Most people will answer in one of two ways:
- I need boundaries to protect myself from people or circumstances. This response typically leads to the building of barriers between you and others. If your motivation is to create distance or isolation, then it is an unhealthy reason for boundaries.
But, if the answer is…
- I need boundaries to take good care of myself within ongoing relationships. This response strengthens and builds those relationships, leading them toward health.
We have to be careful not to build walls and barriers in relationships that we actually need to be nourishing and maintaining. When boundaries are used to build walls, harm can be done by the withdrawal, control, and manipulation that may result.
Withdrawal, control or manipulation hurt both the relationship and the personal sense of worth.
Healthy boundaries are characterized by love, honor, and respect.
How can you set boundaries to protect your heart, and move toward rather than away from relationships?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Would you consider your marriage to be safe?
What does it mean to be in a relationship that is emotionally safe? Generally when we talk about safety in marriage, physical safety first comes to mind; but few couples consciously think about creating a safe environment emotionally for one another. What are we talking about, and why is it important?
First, let’s talk about what it means to feel emotionally safe. Emotional or relational safety means feeling accepted; there is no judgment or criticism. A person can communicate honestly, be themselves and know their deepest thoughts, feelings, hurts and experiences will be honored and treated with care. When you feel safe, you do not need to prove, or impress. It allows you and your partner to be real and genuine with one another without fear; fear of being rejected, criticized, misunderstood, and feeling inadequate or insignificant. You feel free to be open and honest, true to yourself and without regrets.
When a person feels emotional or relational safety they:
- Feel their partner cares for them
- Know what they feel and think matters
- Can be different and yet still accepted
- Have a good balance of time alone and as a couple
- Are comfortable that unhealthy words and actions will not be present
- Feel free to be open and vulnerable
- Feel they are partners in the relationship and can make decisions together
- Can equally be heard and understood
Compassion and understanding create safety!
Why is establishing safety essential for great relationships? We were created for relationship and we all desire to be close, connected and have intimacy with others; it’s in our genes. When we feel safe, we can be open and vulnerable with others. When we feel threatened emotionally, we have a natural, physiological reaction of “fight or flight.” We feel insecure, unsafe and our heart and soul become closed off, defensive and disconnected from our spouse. Ultimately, intimacy in relationships depends on emotional and relational safety. When we feel well cared for by our spouse, it is safe for us to be fully ourselves and makes it easier to communicate and solve problems. Safety and feeling you are cared for come before problem solving takes place.
Creating safety is also central for healthy marriages because security and safety are principles initiated by God himself for our benefit. Over and over we see God characterized as our rock, a fortress, and a stronghold; the one where we can go to find refuge, find protection and be delivered (2 Thess 3:3; Isa 19:20; Ps 18:2). He obviously is concerned enough for our security and safety to become the provider for it. And why would he do this for us? Because he sees the people he has created in his own image as valuable and as a treasure! The value of who we are comes from God. He says we are precious and honored in His sight and he loves us (Isa 43:4). When we recognize and accept our spouse as a valuable treasure, just as God does, we will demonstrate by our words and actions that they are worth protecting.
Creating a safe marriage involves both attitude and action. So, how do we create the emotional safety we all desire and need? Here are a few suggestions:
- View your spouse as God does: valuable, precious, a treasure; created in His image.
- Treat your spouse in words and actions with care, compassion and sensitivity.
- Be a trustworthy person-follow through on your promises, keep your word.
- Do not judge or criticize (You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Rom 2:1)
- Learn to respect and embrace your differences and make them work for the relationship.
- Be committed to demonstrating your love and support with consistency (words of affirmation, affection, time together, romance, etc.).
- Listen with your heart: be “in tune” with your spouse’s emotions.
- Ask yourself some questions: When does my marriage feel safe? When does it feel unsafe? What is happening when the relationship feels safe, unsafe? How do I contribute to an unsafe emotional environment? What words or behaviors do I use that are unsafe? What could I change that would impact the safety of my marriage?
Have you considered making your marriage a totally safe place emotionally and relationally? When we focus on being safe for our spouse, we are inviting them to open their heart and soul to us so we can have the open, loving relationship we desire and were created to have. See your spouse as a person of great worth and value, and then treat them accordingly.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18
“Love is the beauty of the soul.” -Augustine of Hippo
What’s your definition of love? Ask ten people and you will get 10 different answers. They will range from those who think it is just sweet, sappy feelings to those who believe it is deep and unfathomable. It is believed by some that it is an emotion; and for others it comes in the form of actions. For some it is painful and to be avoided and others have lost it, long for and must have it. However it is described, it certainly is profound, multifaceted and mysterious.
As a counselor, I see love mainly through the actions in how we treat others in relationships and the words we use to show others value and importance. Now love itself may not be a feeling; but there are certainly many feelings that are associated from being treated with loving actions and words. Generally when we meet someone and fall in love, we spend a lot of quality time with them, have a great deal of conversation, show affection, buy and give gifts and say affirming, validating things. We sacrifice our time, money, other relationships and energy for this person. Much of the feelings we have of love for this person are based on our interpretation of the caring, loving, behaviors and effort they show toward us. They â€˜meet our needs for love’ so to speak. In fact, psychological principles show that when we “fall out of love” our perception of our partner’s willingness and ability to meet our needs through behaviors and words strongly impact our feelings of being loved (Friesen & Friesen 1989). When both positive loving actions stop or slow down, and negative interactions increase, our sense of being in love is diminished-we begin to “fall out of love.” Willard Harley says there are five types of behaviors, or Love Busters that can have a negative effect on your love: Angry Outbursts, Disrespectful Judgments, Annoying Behavior, Selfish Demands and Dishonesty. Feelings are tied to behavior. So when we do the behaviors of love, our feelings of love and closeness can increase.
As a Christian, I see love not as a feeling, but a choice. Our feelings can easily get us in trouble. We feel like staying in bed, eating that second piece of cake or buying a new car we don’t need. We don’t feel like going to the gym, making that call or contact, making a budget or completing the task our spouse has asked us to do. Most of the time when I don’t feel like it, the ironic result is that it is necessary, for the good, and the right thing to do. It’s about making the determined decision and choice to take the action and usually it takes courage-to do the hard thing, the right thing. The love God shows to us is not based on a feeling, but a choice- to love the unlovable and to give us what we need. This is the character and attitude of love and the one we should emulate. Love: gives, cares, acts, forgives, shows respect, empathizes, sacrifices, serves, looks to please, is others focused and builds others up. Maybe Jacob Boehme said it both as simply and with as much insight as it can be put: “Love transcends all that human sense and reason can reach to.” Make the choice to show love by your actions and your words!
Take the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love Challenge by inserting your name:
______ is patient, ______ is kind. ______ does not envy, ______ does not boast, ______ is not proud. ______ is not rude, ______ is not self-seeking, ______ is not easily angered, ______ keeps no record of wrongs. ______ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ______ always protects, ______ always trusts, ______ always hopes, ______ always perseveres. ______ never fails.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now. -Alan Lakein
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” -Proverbs 21:5
It’s almost impossible to begin the New Year without at least thinking about making some kind of resolution, new promises to yourself, or setting some newer, more realistic goals. Did you achieve the plans you set last year? Can you even remember what personal goals you made a year ago? It is said that change is inevitable, and that change is the essence of life itself. But most of us don’t want that change to just happen to us without our consent, and quite honestly we want to take some ownership or control and want to have a sense of power over the change in our lives. But for some reason, our personal plans are generally quite difficult for us to achieve. Sometimes even when the place we are, mentally, emotionally, or relationally is not healthy, we still feel more comfortable staying where we are than in making a change; even if the alternative would obviously be better for us. Why do we have so much trouble making our goals happen? Read the rest of this entry »
Tiffany N. Smith, LPC, LMFT, NCC
Often times as parents, we get so wrapped up in the business of life that we forget the purpose of it all. The Monday through Friday routines are filled with work and school followed by a ton of extracurricular activities. Between soccer practice, band, school plays, piano lessons, and scouts, we don’t have time for much else in our lives. Not to mention the yard work, laundry, dishes, and day to day chores that have to get done for the household to run on time. Parents can be overwhelmed with homework, chores, and extracurricular that they sometimes lose focus of the little person sitting in front of them.
The question then becomes what is more important? We often get side tracked and the focus becomes getting them in this activity or that activity with no left over time for family closeness and connection. Meals often get shuffled to whose take out is the best and what is the fastest on our way to and fro. Let’s not even get started on the evenings when Little Johnny comes to you with a book report due the next day or Mr. Jones who has handed out enough 4th grade homework for a college student to struggle with. Read the rest of this entry »