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Self-care starts by listening within

Yesterday, we heard from Caroline Paradis, one-half of the Elevate Southcoast team, about self-care and why it’s so important in our daily lives.

Her perspective that self-care is about listening to your own needs and desires is intriguing because it means we don’t need special equipment or large amounts of time to do it.

What we need most is to get quiet and listen within.

Self-care “is really about getting clear on what it is that you need and then somehow giving that to yourself,” she said.

I asked Caroline, if that’s the case, what keeps us from doing it and supporting ourselves - emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually?

For many of us, she said, the social lessons we’ve learned to serve others first are deeply ingrained in our consciousness and can keep us tuned outward to others’ needs, before we hear our own.

“I think a lot of us are people pleasers and we are much more comfortable putting others in front of ourselves,” she said. “We will drown out the voice in our heads, that wise little voice, with all kinds of external things, with work and volunteer opportunities and commitments.”

“Our society has told us if you work hard, you’ll get what you want. You’ll be successful and you’ll be happy. So there’s an underlying message there that you have to work hard all the time and that’s where your value comes from. So if we stop and say, ‘You know what, I’m taking a mental health day,’ then there’s a lot of guilt that comes with that or a sense that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to.”

“What I think we’re learning and the conversation in a lot of places now is that you cannot be of service to others if you do not serve yourself first. You can’t do it to the best of your ability because you won’t have a full tank.”

Driving that point home for many of us has been the additional strain we’ve faced in 2020 as we negotiate a global pandemic, isolation, and quarantines.

Interestingly, Caroline said, when the pandemic hit, more people began reaching out to her asking about meditation and mindfulness.

“My personal experience is that people have actually been more receptive now than I’ve ever seen in trying to think about their own happiness and how they can influence that,” she said. “And I think the reason is because all of a sudden we don’t have as many distractions.”

“I think the pandemic and the isolation and being quarantined with our family, who oftentimes are the ones who push our buttons, it’s bringing to light a lot of the things that we have just drowned out and so for a lot of people, they are actually starting to think about their mental health for the first time,” she said. “Because they have no choice. Because there’s not as much distraction to take the focus elsewhere. They’ve been forced to allow it to be quiet enough where they’re like, I’m not comfortable in my own skin. There’s something not right.”

For those who say they don’t have the time to spend on themselves, Caroline says self-care is as much about what you choose not to do, as it is about what you do.

“It’s not about having to find an hour a day or even an hour a week,” she said. “If you need 15 minutes to take a break at work, you can do that. If it’s about not answering the phone call from the friend who drains you every time they call you, that’s a form of self care.”

“It can be simply the act of prioritizing what it is you need.”

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and tools to help you practice self-care, check out Higher Love 2020 on Nov. 6 and 7 or visit Elevate Southcoast for more on what Caroline and Kelley are planning.

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