10 Ways to Love Yourself

10WaysI’ve always been annoyed by a certain TV commercial. In it a lanky blond with shining tresses tosses her head and purrs, “It’s expensive, but I’m worth it.”

Maybe I’m just jealous that this artificial creature has given herself permission to treat herself well while I’m still struggling with the concept. Hey, I make lists a mile long filled with tasks I know I’ll never complete in a month. I continue to run myself ragged when my body screams for sleep. I can’t seem to stop my endless round of activity long enough to spend a quality hour in deep friendship prayer with my Father on any kind of a consistent basis.

Are you on overload?

A wise physician friend once shared the following list of symptoms of spiritual, emotional, and physical overload. I’m taking a close look at them again, knowing that my body may be trying to tell me something about how I’m treating it. Maybe you’ve noticed some of these warning signals in yourself:

  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Various illnesses, especially migraine headaches
  • Muscle pain and tension
  • Lack of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling overwhelmed by ordinary daily tasks
  • Avoiding friend and usual activities
  • Irritability with family and friends
  • Feeling of numbness, estrangement from God and others
  • Dreading getting up in the morning
  • Low self-esteem

What I have discovered from my own difficult past experience (so I’m a slow learner!) is that once overload has reached the level of crippling our interactions with others, the only recourse is to retreat and rest. Continuing on in the same caregiving role, ignoring your own needs, will only make your symptoms worse. If ever there was a situation in which “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” this is it. The best way to deal with the burnout that comes with overload is to prevent it in the first place.

Treat yourself right

  1. Find a place all your own where you can go, undisturbed, every day. Use the solitude to relax, meditate, and regroup.
  2. Use your brain to cut stress. If you know which side of your brain is experiencing stress, you can actually encourage the other side to “take over” and help calm the stressed-out side. (If you feel depressed or emotionally “worked up,” the stress is in the right side of your brain the creative, emotional side. Switch to your left brain by doing something factual, such as math or putting together a puzzle. If your left brain is stressed it may feel time pressured or a heavy sense of feeling burdened down with the cares of life. Switch to your right brain by singing, taking a walk, or doing something creative.)
  3. Learn to accept praise and gratitude. Don’t deflect compliments. Accept them with a simple “Thank you.” Practice affirming yourself using positive self-talk. Refuse to participate in any form of criticism, whether toward others or yourself. Praise others freely, telling them sincerely and openly what you appreciate about them. The cycle of giving and receiving love and acceptance energizes and heals.
  4. Say “I choose to…” instead of “I should…”; “I won’t…” instead of “I can’t…” Guilt is a poor motivator, sapping inner strength and creating a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Continually remind yourself through your choice of words that you are free to choose the course of your life. That you are not a victim.
  5. Establish a “buddy system.” Use it regularly as a source of encouragement, support, and redirection. Nothing is more valuable than a trusted friend who not only accepts you and cheers you on to greater accomplishments, but will also gently tell you the truth about your behavior patterns.
  6. Find things to laugh about. Exult in the beauty all around you, from the chirp of a bird to the smile of a child to the brilliance of a sunset. These give life to the body and soul.
  7. Learn to pace yourself and take one thing at a time. Concentrate just on the task at hand and don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by everything at once. Take time to rest when you need to. And don’t forget to exercise!
  8. Remind yourself that you can change only those things that you have control over (namely, yourself). It’s easy to get bent out of shape by circumstances and people that are out of your of influence. Learning to let go of the “if only’s” frees up your energy for dealing with those areas in which you can make a difference.
  9. Change your routine whenever you can. Getting into a rut can feel “safe,” but it can also dull the senses and stifle creativity, which is essential for spiritual health.
  10. Interpret procrastination as a signal from your subconscious that it’s time to lower your stress level. Instead of shaming yourself when you can’t seem to get anything done because of procrastination, look deeper for the root cause. Perhaps it’s time to say no for while to allow yourself time to regroup and rest.

Love yourself

Jesus said, “Love God with all your mind, soul, and spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:37-39). The One who made us in the first place appointed each of us as guardian of our own “love tank,” making sure that we stay filled up so we’ll have something to give as we reach out to others.

Leave a Reply