Many codependents that I see in my practice have very little idea of the concept of self-care. This might be because they are generally dealing with the care of others which for them is a constant quest for acceptance. While engaging in such one-sided activities, the one thing forgotten is the self-care they desperately need. Especially in recovery, after a relationship with a narcissist, self-care is most essential element needed as a foundation. There are many programs available for self-care and it is important to find the one that works but there are some essentials that need to be taken into account.
An author I tend to revisit quite often is Dr Stephen Covey. I read many self-help books and some are better than others. However, Covey’s body of work is effective in its simplicity and ease to which it can be integrated into our daily lives. His best selling book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a blueprint for life, relationships and work. The seventh habit is “sharpening the saw” which tells us to devote time and energy to self-renewal. Covey introduced this by saying “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. He warns us that “without this renewal the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish.”
The Seventh Habit is all about having a balanced programme for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual to help create a sustainable, long-term and effective lifestyle. Covey stressed that we should be feeding all of these areas in order to remain balanced and effective. Have a look through these suggestions and see if there is an area you have been neglecting – what could you introduce to “fill the gap”?
Here are some examples of activities to get you thinking – many of the activities could fall into different categories – do what is right for you:
The Physical. The benefit to your body when you eat well, when you exercise, when you get the right amount of time to relax and to sleep! For example: Maintain a good diet, go to the gym, go for a run, walk the dog, work in the garden, sit in the garden when the sun is shining for 10 minutes to top up your vitamin D. Turn off the TV and discover what is outside. This does wonders for self-esteem building and lifting mood. Even on a cold winter day, there are still positives to be had from activity outside rather than inactivity inside. How many of us can truly say we do enough in this area?
Social / Emotional The benefit to you of making social and meaningful connections with other people. For example: Plan a get together with old friends, email/Skype/phone someone you haven’t seen for ages, arrange a family party. It is all too easy to neglect this part of us or to think it is too much trouble. However, as humans, we need and appreciate contact with others and it is vital that we do it. Additionally, are we doing enough for others without expectation of return?
Mental The importance of learning – it might be a new hobby or just building on skills that you already have. For example: Learn a new business skill, go to a night class, read a book that makes you think. Build this activity into your schedule…keep your mind sharp. Vitally important is to plan personal growth into a busy schedule. This can be reading activities or seminars.
Spiritual The importance of being in touch with your inner self. To have that time for stillness – perhaps you find strength running, from exercise or yoga? Perhaps you find strength from religion or meditation. Perhaps just walking to the shops or sitting in the sun is enough to give you the connection with the world around you so that you can set your intention for the day ahead. Looking at the spiritual side of life keeps us grounded, helps us focus and is a key element of relaxation.
Other: If you type self-care into any search engine, you are likely to find many articles with images of women in a foam bath surrounded by candles, drinking champagne. Nice as this is in the moment, it only covers a small part of self-care. Apart from the elements above, essential is the ability to face issues and persevere. Especially codependents in recovery will have major issues to face. Facing them and coming through gives confidence and increased self-esteem.
Stephen R Covey wrote: “Feeling good doesn’t just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalise yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.”