An Unexpected Benefit of Self-Care

Self-care comes naturally to some people. I am not one of them. Self-care has long been difficult. In the past several years it has become even more challenging.

In my support group, we go around the circle at the end of the meeting to talk about what we’re doing to take care of ourselves in the next week. We know that if we’re going to help our mentally-ill loved ones, we need to care for ourselves.

My self-care goes in a variety of directions: going to the spa, gardening, making art, collaborating on projects, seeing loved ones. Sleeping, eating, and exercise have all been challenging to keep up consistently. So, regardless of my other self-care, I set these three out as my goals. I don’t always make it, but they are always the goals.

This is the practice I’ve been undertaking. I know that I need to be well and strong to help my mother. I know that I feel better when I am well cared for and my situation is less depressing.

As I have reached goals of self-care that I set out, I found there is another powerful outcome to self-care: effectiveness. There are many things that I cannot change about my mother’s situation. I cannot convince her to see a doctor, any kind of doctor. I cannot convince her to take shelter. At least I haven’t so far. With something is this close and this important, I feel ineffective, utterly.

Self-care means I can affect change. I can do things with beneficial effects for myself, and for others. My mother may never be able to accept help in the way I want her to. Self-care teaches me I can still be effective and that changes everything.