The Struggle of “Helping” without Self-Care
Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You have seen your friend or family member so consumed by “obligations” that they become stressed to the point of being lifeless and vulnerable. I have a friend like this. Her life is packed full of self-imposed duty. She has a desire to assist many people in her daily life. But really, she is not present and available for anyone for any adequate length of time, because she is helping too many people and is exhausted most of the time. She is thinking about the next person to help as she is helping the one she is with. It is difficult to watch her wear out her body and her tender, loving heart. But, it is her life and I’ve been there. I think we all have.
When is Helping too Much for our Hearts?
I often get to this place of contemplating “help”. I walk a fine line with this in my job as an occupational therapist and in my personal life. I see people helping because it seems to be coming from a place that makes them feel like a “good” person, but are they doing good for themselves? Can we truly be our best selves when we’re running around chasing the next task and never seeming to stop and reflect? My answer to the second question would be no, we can’t be our best selves when we don’t have a good idea of what our own beings need. And when we don’t understand that, we can’t be wholehearted teachers, mothers, accountants, construction workers or whatever role you identify with.
This is the crossroad I came to years ago in my OT practice when I’ve had moments of wanting to “fix” a child instead of “help” them. Those were the times when my own agendas led my decisions in what I thought a child needed to learn or master next. I hit these conflicting thoughts fiercely when I realized my brother David, and the children I work with are more whole, complete, and gifted than me in some big ways because they are naturally more talented at being vulnerable, which enables them to relate and share their big hearts more with the people around them.
How am I Positively Helping Others and Myself?
I feel fortunate in my OT career to now be in a place where I get to put my helping hands into making creative solutions. I love creating solutions for all. I go into classrooms and help the whole staff to better structure their activities, routines and environments so their students can have their bodies and minds more available for learning their sensory system and strengthen their fine motor skills. I also create blogs and videos full of tools teachers and parents can use in their classrooms and homes that are easy-to-implement, and, bottom line, I love doing all of it. It feels satisfying to me to put my busy mind full of ideas for other people to productive and helpful use. In these examples, I am creating positive helpful solutions that I love sharing with all of you.
I would be curious to hear from you to see if you feel you have ever come to this crossroad of helping too much? How did you recognize it and what was the change that brought self-awareness to you? Did you see this change help others around you? Don’t be afraid to share your experiences in the comment box below, we’ve all been there.