The movie Beaches not only highlights the importance of caring for someone you love, but it also shines a light on the importance of emotional self-care. In fact, early in the movie a young CC Bloom (actress Mayim Bialik) uses emotional manipulation and dramatic outbursts to get what she wants from her mother Leonia (actress Laine Kazan). Later, as an adult CC’s (actress Bette Midler) emotional immaturity reaches a crescendo, when she finds that she is both alienated from her best friend and estranged from her husband. Seeking comfort CC flies from New York to Florida to see her mother. She tells her mother that the source of her distress is her husband’s inattention, that he just stopped paying her attention. Leona chuckles and says,
You always wanted too much attention! You wanted so much attention from everybody all the time that you wore people out! You wore me out, you wore your father out, may he rest in peace, by the time you were 15 years old!
In anger, Leona reveals that relocating to Florida was no accident, and that in fact she was attempting to shield herself from CC’s constant need for attention. Their relationship struggles are not uncommon as the nuances of many mother daughter relationship can be difficult to navigate.
Having experienced tensions and having some degree of emotional baggage is in fact part of the human experience. Yet, for some mothers, daughters, sons, and spouses these rifts run so deep that there is little chance that either party is going to be able to put their differences aside even when care is needed. Stepping into the role of caregiver is an honorable act of love, it can be rewarding, and in many circumstances the act of caring for someone you love can lead to emotional and spiritual growth. It should also be noted that caring for someone you love can place additional strains on your relationship, even when there is a solid foundation. Therefore, practicing emotional self-care is an important strategy for self-preservation.
What is emotional self-care?
Emotional self-care is the act of wrapping yourself in a blanket of comfort and shielding yourself from situations and individuals that increase your distress. It also means, that sometimes you will need to repel individuals and possibly circumvent situations that are likely to derail your emotional peace.
What happens if you don’t practice self-care?
So, what might you encounter if you do not actively engage in self-care strategies? You are likely to experience some level of emotional stress and when compounded over time unresolved stress can lead to distress and eventually burnout. Having outlets for your stress and having someone with whom to confide is essential. Networking with other caregivers and talking to those in situations similar to yours can also be of benefit. What matters most is that you make emotional self-care a part of your daily routine.
7 emotional self-care strategies
In addition to having the proper outlets you may also participate in practices that you alone can control to ease your emotional distress. The following are seven strategies that you may find helpful when developing a plan for practicing emotional self-care:
Make a play list of music that brings you comfort. Listening to music can change your mood. You might make more than one playlist so that you have a variety of tunes that you can listen to depending on how you are feeling at the time. When you are feeling stressed you may choose to listen to a set of tracks that you find relaxing or you may choose to listen to a different type of music when you are sad.
Write an encouraging letter to yourself. When you are emotionally distressed it may be really challenging to identify your most positive attributes. Consider writing a letter of encouragement and address it to yourself. When you are having a particularly challenging day you can pull it out and read it aloud to remind yourself of all the great things about YOU.
Create a no dumping zone. Have you ever picked up the phone or walked into a room and someone begins talking non-stop about all of their problems? It can be exhausting to have someone dump all of their distress on you. Creating a no dumping zone can be a great way to set boundaries and re-direct individuals who might not respect your need for emotional wellness.
Set a time to be alone in quiet and peace. Setting a time to reflect and to relax your mind can be a perfect way to begin or end your day. This alone time should not require you to do anything rather, it should be about time to focus on emotional wholeness.
Listen to what your body is telling you. Are you feeling tired all the time, experiencing aches and pains, or walking around with your stomach in knots? Listen to your body, perhaps your body is trying to tell you something. Should these symptoms persist it is important to reach out to your doctor.
Be gentle with yourself. You may find that in the course of caring for a loved one you become frustrated, short, or in some situations you may even feel angry. It is okay to experience a wide range of emotions, in fact it is healthy. Embrace your feelings. Don’t beat yourself up by feeling guilty or by overthinking your actions. Be gentle with yourself, you are human.
Find passions outside your role as a caregiver. Make sure that you are taking time to do things that have nothing to do with your role as a caregiver. Reach out and ask for help if you need someone to assist with the care of your loved one so that you can do something you enjoy.
Learning to effectively put your needs first does not come naturally for most caregivers. Should you find that you are in need of more pointed support do not be afraid to reach out to a professional counselor or therapist to help you find ways to care for yourself while you care for your loved one.