Manage your anxiety by putting your needs first. Often times we are so eager to please others that we avoid the importance of self care.
I’m so glad that you’re here today because together we can explore the many ways you can begin to heal anxiety and bring calmness to your life. If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to subscribe to this podcast, so that you always get updates on the latest episodes.
Before we begin, this show isn’t a replacement for mental health counseling or medical care and I’m not your personal counselor. In today’s show, I want to talk with you about the benefits of putting energy into yourself to manage anxiety and why people pleasing can turn into a never-ending loop. One of the behaviors I see a lot in my private counseling practice are people who feel panicked or anxious because they are doing so much for other people that they get to a point where they neglect their own needs. And a lot of us are guilty of this right?
We have family responsibilities, friend commitments and work projects that we want to get to – which can make us feel like were on this never ending tred-mill. The becomes critical when you put all of your precious energy into serving everyone else- because it can leave you feeling burnt out and completely hollow inside.
Like a lot of people, I have this natural personality trait where I hate to say no to other people, and it bothers me to feel like I let someone else down. How about you, are you someone who naturally gives your energy to everyone else but yourself? You see, many moons ago, there was a time in my life when I thought putting other people’s needs ahead of my own would help me get ahead in life. I found out pretty fast that doing that is a recipe for disaster.
You see, long before I became a therapist, I used to work as a bartender at a local night club to pay for my college tuition. The job required that I worked very long hours on my feet with no break from 6 at night until 4 in the morning. Yes, I was making decent money but it was at the expense of my own quality of life. I remember that my anxiety was so intense back then because mentally and physically I was just completely exhausted. To make matters even worse, the nightclub would call me on my days off and ask me if I could come in to work extra shifts because other people had called off.
On the outside, I pretended that everything was okay- but deep inside – I was a stressed-out mess. At that time, I also had friends and family members who seemed to have no problem asking me to help them out with one thing or another. The basic stuff too right, like, “ hey can you help me with this project” or they would say, hey I know you worked all night, but can you give me a ride to the store”?
And you know what happened? Resentment and stress started to build up inside of me because at the end of the day- I was carrying on this big charade. I would end up getting angry at myself because I was saying yes to everyone else needs and no to my own. My unexplainable need to please everyone else and give off the impression that I would always put others first before myself.
Looking back, that was my fault because I had basically conditioned my job and the people in my life to think that it was okay. I was over giving to others so much that they had naturally come to expect I’d always be available for their needs. And it wasn’t that they were necessarily trying to take advantage of me because I had given off the impression that I was invincible or that I could do everything. Finally, after years of allowing others to drain my energy – I got to a point where I needed to make a change.
So, this is why creating boundaries and learning how to make quality time for yourself can really help to bring down those levels of stress and anxiety. Who needs that right? I mean who wants to walk around everyday feeling devoid of any personal happiness because we’ve made everyone else’s dreams come true?
So, I want you to give yourself permission to think about what you need for yourself. What sorts of activities or just moments in life do you need to energize your spirit and be the best version of yourself? What do you need to do to bring yourself to a state of homeostasis or optimal functioning? The idea here is to pay attention to your own mood level and become aware of how you’re feeling – both on a physical and mental wellness level.
For a lot of us, we end up creating our weekly schedules to fit in everyone else’s needs, without putting anything into the calendar for ourselves. When I talk to my own patients about making time for themselves they will often say back to me that they worry because they don’t want to seem selfish.
Folks, making time for your own needs is not being selfish. Think about it for a moment, if you’re glass is always full, how are you possibly going to help anyone else out in a meaningful way? The thing is making time for yourself doesn’t have to be huge events. They can just be subtle, quiet and small things that you do for yourself that can re-charge your battery and elevate your spirit.
You know, in my new e-book called - 5 ways to deal with anxiety, I put a lot of thought into including activities, often free things you can do to release stress and bring your mind and body into a natural calmness. Everyone has their own ideas for creating me time - but I tired to include things which are easy to do and can become part of your everyday lifestyle. Just imagine how good you will feel when you start putting your own needs first.
I’m confident that if you use some of the strategies in my e- book that you will feel less anxious and more rejuvenated. I made the e-book very affordable for just $5.00. The book includes information on how to meditate and tips for getting a better nights sleep. It even touches on using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to chase away negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety. I’ll leave a link in the description notes of this episode for you because I want you to be able to experience the joy of reducing stress and anxiety.
So as I was mentioning earlier, there are so many things you can do to re-energize yourself that don’t require you to make big plans. In fact, there are very small things you can pamper yourself with that can make all the difference in the world. The key here is to set your own boundaries by learning to say no. There is a power that comes with the word no. No can mean, hey, I’m not going to allow you to walk all over me. No can also send a message in a good way that you can’t be all things to all people. No can actually mean that you’re taking control over your life and making the personal decision that you want to conserve mental energy for yourself.
I’d like to make an example here. When you take a trip on one of those swanky cruise ships, they usually make an announcement about where to find your life jacket in the case of an emergency. So what happens is the captain or the first officer will tell you to put your own life jacket on first, before you can assist anyone else. And I think that’s a great analogy for life- in other words, put yourself first, put energy into yourself first, because you can not assist others around you if you’re not able to float.
I’m wondering, what would it be like for you to make that agreement within yourself to make some personal boundaries? Think about that for a moment. What would it be like for you to make a shift in your life where you allow yourself permission to put your own needs first once in a while?
This shift of putting energy into yourself first can be challenging at first, because maybe you have been so used to over-giving to everyone else, that you’ve forgotten how to fill your own glass first.
I’ve put together a few ideas you can try to revitalize your spirit and get your mood level back to it’s natural state of calmness. Just remember that re-charging your battery doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on things like taking a vacation or paying expensive hobbies. This is about making a lifestyle change which allows you to shine a radiant light from the inside out – so that you can mentally and physically be available to other people – at a time that feels just right for you!
So here are some ideas I have – but feel free to grab your journal and add your own things that seem interesting for your life-style.
The first idea is to do absolutely nothing and enjoy the quietness. I love this one because it’ doesn’t require any brain power, When is the last time you just took a few hours for yourself – maybe even a whole day and just disappeared? The beautiful thing about doing nothing means that you have no agenda. You can just walk around aimlessly or just sit with yourself in front of a window or in a comfortable area of your home and just let your mind deflate. If you’re like me, maybe you like to move a little and might enjoy walking around a park or going to a shopping mall and mindlessly window shop for no reason at all. I like to think of this as just being in the moment, something that allows us to really pay attention to our surroundings. These are moments you allow yourself to not look at your phone or be plugged into social media. Doing nothing is a time allow your mind to just de-stress.
Another idea is to treat yourself to a nice, relaxing massage. This is one of my favorites because a soothing massage can be the just the right prescription for brining balance and calmness into your life. You know at many malls or shopping centers there are places that offer 15 or 20 min chair massages. In my experience they are really affordable. Just last weekend I had one and I have to say it was a pleasant experience. I made the personal decision on that day that I was going to re-energize myself and treat myself to a brief massage. The experience was amazing because I just sat on the chair while the masseuse gently massaged away all the stress and tension in the muscles of my upper body. Afterwards, I felt so refreshed and happy that I had done something positive for myself.
How about this activity: You could go for a quiet walk or a hike. If you live near a big city, there are plenty of forest preserves or designated nature areas nearby that allow you to get some fresh air and take in some of the sites, sounds and smells of nature.
Maybe being a bit more physical is how you like to fill your own energy reserves. If that’s the case, you could take a yoga class, or dance to some music you like. You could even go for a relaxing bike ride to get a nice dopamine hit. One of my favorite ways to rejuvenate is to take a group fitness class because I simply just show up to the class and follow along with everyone else. It’s like taking a mini-retreat!
Maybe there’s a hobby out there that you love doing, like baking or cooking. Perhaps there’s a hobby you’ve been meaning to try, like doing crossword puzzles or even art. It can be so fun to just go down to the craft store and pick up a few blank canvasses and paint. The wonderful thing about doing art is that you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s all about the fun of just creating something.
The whole point is to engage in activities that really peak your personal interests. For example, you could light some candles and take a warm bath – maybe throw in some lavender bath salts to stimulate your senses. You could also call that friend or relative that you’ve been meaning to talk with but haven’t had the time.
Another idea might be to listen to an audio book or read materials that bring you enjoyment. Often our jobs make us read things that are negative or boring. I’m talking about filling your mind up with positivity by reading content that will peak your curiosity or allow you to mentally travel to far off places.
If you have an animal, you could spend time just being with that pet. I know for me, there’s nothing better in the world that laying down next to my Siamese cat Neptune, and looking him right in the eye. It’s almost as if I can feel his innocence and his unconditional love for me – just radiating out of his body. If you don’t have a pet of your own, maybe you can play with a friends pet, or even take a trip to the zoo and watch the wonderment of our planets amazing animals.
So just remember, to set boundaries and again to allow yourself the permission to put energy into yourself first by carving out some time during the week to engage in activities that you find fun and interesting. That’s because setting aside just a little time for yourself to just catch your breath and charge your battery can make all the difference in the world.
Well that’s it for today’s episode. I want to say thank you for taking the time to stop by and listen to the episode. I hope this show found you in good company. If you get a chance, please leave me a review on Apple Podcast. The truth is, I’m a one man show. That’s right, I write, produce and edit the entire show myself – and when you leave a review, I guess this podcast shows up higher on the search results for other people to discover.
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