The end of the school year has arrived and many people feel exhausted and depleted after a stressful time of exams, end-of-year stage performances, summer parties and social engagements. Everybody is tired, but of course you do not want to miss out on things. And then there is the important organisation of camp registrations, scheduling after-school activities for the following year, and of course the preparations of the summer vacation.
For me, these weeks just before the summer break have been full of organizing and planning. While registering the kids for music and sports after school in September, I was trying to figure out my own working schedule to fit everything in. Now I am tired, anxiously doubting that I will have enough time for my own projects. At the same time, life goes on and currently it is full of final concerts, parties and some important work and doctor appointments.
If you do not have children, you may still feel this tension in the air of having to fulfil certain expectations of social engagement, may it be a reception at your office or a football game viewing with your colleagues. You may also feel the pressure of carefully planning your work schedule before everybody leaves for the summer break. There is a lot going on at the moment and keeping the bigger picture in mind is not easy, wherever you are at in your life.
Being always there for others is exhausting
Being there for others is a very satisfying and certainly also nourishing way of life. For a lot of people, especially in caring professions, being there for other people and taking care of the others' needs are part of their work and can be deeply fulfilling.
Especially women tend to carry the weight of the "emotional labour", remembering every birthday of friends and distant family and managing family life, while also being emotionally available for any kind of worry the other person (partner, child, co-worker) might have. This is not something that comes naturally, but women have been socially raised to care for others and their needs.
However, very easily this engagement can lead to exhaustion if you lose sight of the most important person in your life: yourself. It can happen that by constantly looking after the other, you get the feeling that the other person is worthier of your effort and goodwill than you. If you lose connection with your own needs and limits, you put your own well-being and inner balance at risk.
Self-care is essential
The best thing you can do to counterbalance any emotional or physical depletion is self-care. Only when you are taking care of yourself, you can be there for others. You cannot give on running empty. There will always be someone or something calling for your attention and care, be it your colleague or your child, and you will very often love to give everything you have. It is important, though, to regularly look inside if you are not neglecting yourself in all these external demands. You are no use to anybody if you can barely hold up your body or if you believe that "if I only get through this week, all will be fine". NOW is always the perfect time to check in with yourself and to see how well your own energy and emotional well-being tanks are filled – and then allowing yourself to refill them.
Taking care of yourself can happen in a variety of ways. Depending on your current life situation, it may only be short breaks of 5 minutes a day with your favourite cup of tea. For others it could be getting a massage or go for a play of tennis with a friend. Meditation is certainly another good way of granting yourself some "me-time", for example with a nourishing body scan or a loving-kindness meditation. The most important thing is to look inside and see for yourself: "What do I need right now?" To be there for yourself just as much as you are being there for others – this is the greatest gift you can give to others.