1. Self-Care: too many of us neglect this area. It is important to carve out time for self- care. Keep agreements you make with yourself. Try to have at least one thing every day that is soothing, relaxing, or enjoyable. Anything from exercise, music, reading, social contact, contact with pets, art, writing, coloring etc. Your capacity to “be there” for others is diminished over time if you neglect your own needs. Is there a place where you feel the safe and calm? If so, make use of it. If not, design such a spot for yourself. Engage as many of your senses as you can in the relaxation. Lighting, visuals, sounds, aromas, etc. Don’t forget that care for the caregiver is important and compassion fatigue can happen to any of us.
A related topic is sleep. Sleep deprivation impacts memory, mood, concentration, energy, and motivation. If you are not getting adequate sleep, explore areas that may improve it (e.g. sleep hygiene, reduce caffeine consumption, reduce alcohol use).
2. Boundaries: many people struggle with this and have a hard time saying no. If you decide to set and maintain boundaries, remember that you are not doing it to be mean. You are doing it because you have prior commitments to yourself or others; or you are doing it because you only have so much time and energy to use. Others may resist your efforts to set boundaries if they are not used to you doing that. Some may try to “guilt trip” you into overextending yourself. It is up to you whether to “take that trip on”.
3. Power: How much power do you want to give others over your emotional states? If someone treats you poorly, you have a couple of ways to interpret it: one is to assume it must be you, resulting in feeling depressed or “less than”. Another is to keep in mind that the other person’s behavior actually has more to do with them than it does you. Then you can work on deciding how much power you want to give them over your emotions. Some people do not deserve the kind of power you may have given them in the past. The same can be applied to events from the past. The goal is not to forget or to erase your memory, the goal is to reduce the amount of power the past event has over your present existence; to come to terms with it and allow space for other things in your life. (easier said than done, as it is a process).
4. Finding positive exceptions: life has its ups and downs for all of us. Even when things are not feeling all that positive, typically there are positive exceptions where it is not as overwhelming. It is important to recognize those, look for any patterns that coincide with positive exceptions (patterns may point to some solutions). Look for what brought those exceptions about and what helps to sustain them. The more positive exceptions you have, the less time there is for feeling overwhelmed. In short, regarding the positive exceptions: how did you pull that off?
5. Finding your strengths: things about you that are positive, things you are good at. Things about you that others appreciate. Give yourself credit for at least three things per day that you do that are positive. It provides a nice counterweight to any tendency to be self-critical.