I posted yesterday that sometimes “kindness tasks” are long-lasting and take a lot of endurance, reminding me of how many people need to learn how to maintain their own physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Only as you are healthy can you bring health to others. Be kind to those around you—and kind to yourself.
Years ago, I heard a talk about how to prevent personal burnout. I had four small children and felt stretched beyond my capacity. This talk was very timely; I remember the important points very clearly to this day, although, I am not sure where I heard it. Basically, the speaker was saying how important it is to keep your “self” healthy in body, mind, and spirit.
Too often people in helping situations or helping relationships forget to maintain needed healthiness for themselves, and they begin to cut corners on their own basic needs. I am not talking about advocating us being selfish here, but rather, this is about meeting our basic human needs. If someone you know—or you, yourself—are deprived of these needs for any sustained period of time, you or they will inevitably face some kind of burnout.
No one is superman, able to do what is beyond human. If you think you are, you are not being realistic about your own needs and are risking an unhealthy “dependency on dependency” (i.e., when a person thinks that “I am the only one who can do this” and becomes a martyr or gains a “hero-identity” co-dependency and an unhealthy need to keep someone else needy in order to be able to “help them”). Such situations call for counseling and treatment programs to help sort out the various issues. No one, however, would be hurt by doing a self-check on whether they are healthy as regards these seven elements for health (below).
Of course, in extreme situations, like surviving a devastating storm or some other sudden tragic event, people can rise up to a true selfless heroism without any concern for themselves, their safety, or their needs. However, it is too easy for a kind and giving person to continue in that survival mode while giving care to a sick relative or living with an addict. For long-term stressful situations such as these, each giving person must realize that, for kindness sake, caring for their own basic needs must be maintained throughout all the stressful processes of life.
The talk that I heard was simple and easily remembered. The speaker said that each of us must pay attention to our own needs for these seven things in order to be on a good footing to maintain our own health in stressful situations, such as caregiving:
One needs to have enough of these 7 things:
- Fresh air
- Fresh water
- Healthy food
- Something you like to do, that you find relaxing and fun; if possible, something separate from the stressful situation (i.e., if taking care of your children or an ill person is the stressful situation, you may not be able to go away from them to go scuba diving, but maybe you can go to the beach if you like that and take the person needing care with you; otherwise, spending time away from it all with a hobby, book, movie, shopping, craft, or sport, etc. is what this means so you can take your mind off the stress and invest in your own interests)
- Social connections (spend time with friends or people you like to be with and with which you have a healthy, two-way relationship)
- Spiritual connections (go to church, synagogue, read the Bible, listen to inspirational music, meditate, or connect in some way with your spiritual dimension as a person, but which is not seen by you as just one more work task, like taking your turn in the nursery at church or something else you “have to” do).
Each person has to figure out just what or how often these seven elements must be added into their own schedule, but they are the essential things that help us maintain our own personal health and perspective. When we are deprived of any of them, we can get a growing sense of unhappiness, which can turn into discontent, hopelessness, bitterness, melancholy, depression, and burnout. We want to do what we can to prevent those extremes before we get there and we want to add into our lives those positives of the seven basic elements in the list.
If you struggle with understanding how to add the elements or how much you should practically change in your life in order to add them, find a healthy friend to help you sort it out. Be honest with yourself about your own needs. You may even need a doctor to help you if you are experiencing health issues because of burnout. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling you are getting burned out and suffering in your mind or body. The helpfulness of these seven elements is especially good to prevent you from getting to the place of burnout in the first place, but once you get there, it is not hopeless. There are lots of places that will help. Be kind to yourself, too.