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The Labor of Love: Take Care of Yourself to Better Care for Others

Sep 3, 2013

Day in and day out we spend our time and energy laboring over the people and things that are important to our lives – careers, spouse, kids, religion, friends, hobbies and so on. While we’re busy serving the needs of everyone around us, we can easily lose sight on the importance of taking care of our own health and wellness.

“As a society, we just go, go, go all of the time,” says Suzanne McCraw, massage therapist at Elements Chandler/Ahwatukee. “It’s important to set aside some time each day for yourself so you can build up your immunities and energies to be able to better help other people.”

Shed the Guilt
Putting value on taking care of yourself doesn’t make you selfish, self-centered or egotistical. On the contrary, when you value your self-worth and the importance of taking care of your physical and mental well-being, you’re positioning yourself to better care for others. Taking time for yourself guilt-free on a regular basis also equips you to make a more impactful difference in someone else’s life. Once a day or once a week, schedule one-on-one time with yourself to re-group your thoughts and revitalize your energy.

Feed Your Mind and Body with Healthy Habits
Giving your mind and body a good chance to succeed in life begins with surrounding yourself with plentiful doses of nutrients, praise and a living environment that supports a happy and healthy lifestyle. McCraw believes it’s important to fuel yourself with the proper attention you need by:

  • Getting enough sleep. The National Institutes of Health suggest that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eating a healthy diet. The USDA Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins, while consuming less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.
  • Drinking enough water. Recent studies have shown that the majority of Americans don’t drink adequate amounts of water. Specific water consumption varies by individual, but factors such as health, activity levels and where you live should be taken into consideration.
  • Taking a few minutes of alone time each day to re-focus and balance yourself.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people and influences.

“I know better as a massage therapist.  But I still have to be reminded of all these things, too,” McCraw says.

Put on the Brakes
In our always-on-the-go, can-do society, it’s very easy to get sucked into saying “yes” to every incoming request. Try as you may, one person can’t do it all.

Some of the most successful projects and outcomes in life are those that include a group of people working together for a common cause. Avoid the urge to jump in and try to do everything. Instead, say “yes” to others offering their help and only commit to the things you truly love.

If an activity doesn’t suit you, it’s OK to take a step back and say no. You’ll be much better off in the long run and reduce the chances of becoming overwhelmed if you’re more selective about how you spend your time. If you find yourself feeling frazzled and stressed out, don’t be afraid to take a break and spend a few minutes focusing on yourself.

“A lot of us burn the candle at both ends,” McCraw says. “We are always going and we have the tendency to not say ‘no.’ Take a few minutes each day to just focus on yourself and your breathing. Simple deep breathing of inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth can really help to calm and center yourself.”

Make a Difference in Someone’s Life
Giving back to your loved ones or community can be a wonderful experience, especially when properly balanced with taking care of yourself.  Supporting your friends, family and community members not only helps those in need, but it also can be good for fueling your heart and soul. McCraw has experienced firsthand the power of giving back to the community and the unexpected personal return of satisfaction associated with serving others. Last year, she  supported the Arizona Chapter for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America by providing chair massages during the organization’s fundraising walks and group retreats.

“If you know of someone who needs a helping hand or is struggling, being there for them and showing you care is important,” McCraw said. “Giving chair massages during the Huntington’s Disease walking event last November was a win-win. It made the participants feel good and it made me feel good as a person and as a massage therapist.”

Instead of solely focusing on laboring on others and leaving yourself in the dark this fall, turn on the lights to taking care of yourself too by placing value and importance on your overall health and wellness. Loving yourself and focusing on your individual well-being will naturally lead to being able to care for and support your loved ones, as well as excel in all avenues of your life.

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