It always fascinates me when I fly anywhere and the flight personnel go through the safety checks. When they get to the oxygen mask, they always point out that you should always fit your own mask before helping anyone else. Most codependents might see this a different way but the advice is the correct one whether you are on a plane or in a relationship. Look after yourself first before helping others! When helping codependents take decisive action, the topic of self-care always comes up. This term can be interpreted in many ways, some complex but I always like to start simple and make sure the basics are covered first. I work on the basis that if you have a good foundation, you can build onto this.
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. This is key on the road to recovery from anything but especially codependency, where the focus is often on the external. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 revitalize 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.”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be ordered here