Published in Womeninc, February 2009
by Diana Gabriel
I just returned from my second retreat in Tucson, Arizona with my coach Kendall Summerhawk. What an affirming, supportive experience it was for me, that came with an important reminder about the necessity of taking care of myself. I am still thinking about how we as women struggle through things alone, thinking that if we have the ability to do something, we should just bear down and do it. Self care rarely enters our thinking – nor is it something that is a part of my Swedish/German heritage.
Kendall looks at self care differently: it’s “a must” to allow us to be in service to others. She and several people from the last retreat had recommended I see Harini an energy/body worker for a treatment, so I decided to treat myself to some self care before the retreat. I flew into Tucson in the morning and had arranged an appointment for the afternoon. I felt as if all of my tensions, worries and concerns were left on the treatment table. I spent the entire evening in deep relaxation being present with the beauty of the foothills of Tucson at sunset.
But the surprise for me was the difference taking care of myself made in my experience over the next few days at the retreat. I felt open and vulnerable, letting my peers see aspects of myself that I rarely expose in public. You might be familiar with some of them: self doubt, fear and where I was playing small. My strength and purpose were called out with fierceness and compassion. It made me wonder how often we deny ourselves such experiences by neglecting our own needs and trying to do it all ourselves.
A week later I had the privilege of having my hand prints analyzed by Beth Davis, a gifted Hand Analyst who spoke at our first retreat with Kendall. This was another gift I gave myself as part of my year-long journey of stepping into playing bigger in the world. She affirmed my life purpose of being a spiritual teacher of love and helping people align with their authentic selves. She provided great detail about my gifts and the penalty for not using them. Another thing she spoke to is a need to deal with our emotional baggage and taking care of ourselves so we are fit and able to do the work we were gifted to do. This was very much in keeping with Kendall’s philosophy of self-care, and I felt like I was being given the message again: without self care, we hinder our ability to play big.
I have noticed that nearly all of my successful female clients struggle with self care, worried that they will be seen as selfish. They ask questions like, “How much is enough self care and can I over do it?” Today, every one of my clients struggled with this question on some level in their coaching session. Two of my clients recently had big wake up calls – one had a “slight stroke” and another had a clot in her lung. These women are fit and in their 40s. Both have been advised to take it easy and are struggling with what that means. After all, they “did nothing” for the few days they were hospitalized!
When working with the issue of self care with my coaching clients I encourage them to take intentional small steps working towards greater or balanced self care with these three steps.
1. Start with examining your calendar and evaluate is what you are committed throughout your week asking the question ‘Is it is alignment with my values and strengths?’ If you are engaged in activities that are not in alignment start making an exit plan to honorably back out of these commitments.
2. Schedule as an appointments of regular self care activities for yourself.
3. As new opportunities present themselves first ask ‘Is this in alignment with my values and strengths?’ If it is, what you are going to give up in order to take on something new while maintaining your commitment to your scheduled self care activities.
February is a month we usually focus on our relationships. I would like to invite you to focus on your relationship with your self. To think about taking good care of yourself, so you can live out your gifts and purpose with impact. Can you treat or gift yourself with something special to clear your mental clutter? Do something to feed your soul? You don’t need to wait for your wake up call – you can act now. The amazing results you get will far outweigh the struggle to take care of yourself.