Breaking the Patterns that Bind Us

Throughout the pandemic most of us went that extra mile to look after our neighbours, our friends and those that were isolating or living alone. Media messaging echoed the need to look out for each other with the constant push in “look in on your elderly neighbours” and “check in with your parents” campaigns. Similarly, when a family member is sick, we do whatever is needed to ensure they are cared for and that they want for nothing.Now I ask you to pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How often do you check in with yourself? (How do I feel)
  2. When was the last time you asked yourself or noticed how you feel? (Does a part of my body feel tense)
  3. When was the last time you asked yourself if you needed something?

My guess is you may have answered “not often” to most of the questions so now I ask you why? Why is it that when it comes to minding ourselves, we feel a sense of guilt for taking the time to care. You may catch yourself saying “I do not have the time”. Now I ask, would you make the time to care for someone else? If so, why are you neglecting yourself?

“I’d like to be like the man on that sinking boat and sacrifice myself to help others…”

A child once said to me “I’d love to be like the man on that sinking boat and sacrifice myself to help others” when I asked why they said “Because I want to help them people”. After giving this statement some thought I found myself wondering what we are teaching our children through the movies they watch, the conversations they overhear or the everyday events they observe. Children watch EVERYTHING we do and say. They even pick up on what is unsaid.

Children rarely hear us talking about what we do to recharge our own batteries or the importance of minding ourselves. It’s a theme that runs very strongly throughout Irish life. Particularly for females who were historically labelled the home-makers, child-rearers and so much more. As females do we feel we have to sacrifice ourselves to help others because that’s what we have been thought is the right thing to do?

More recently the government called on medical staff to return to Ireland and serve their country during the pandemic, which meant putting their own lives on the line for the citizens of Ireland. Banners hung on windows and candles burned for those labelled our “frontline hero’s”. Again the words hero and self-sacrifice paired.

So have we learned to shove down our own needs? Suppress them so we can care for others? For those of us in professional caring roles where we meet people daily, our emotional state or our emotional tone (Delahooke,2019) is imperative to the work we do.

When someone meets us, they will instantly know if we are regulated or not. If we are not, then how can we soothe their distress? Prioritising our own wellbeing as professionals/parents/individuals is vital. Regular check in’s with ourselves should be routine. Having a box full of activities that help us to de-stress, regular therapy, connecting with friends, journaling – these are only some of the outlets at our disposal.

If you have staff working for you, perhaps this is something you should also consider for them. Lead from the front, set an example and show people what prioritising yourself can lead to. One of the greatest things we can do for the young people in our lives is to break unhealthy patterns that have been laid deep in our own foundations.

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