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Recovery Self-Care Service

Taking Care of Yourself While Being of Service in Recovery

We need to be of service in recovery. Getting out of ourselves and helping others is a time-Visions-FionaParty-37tested component in the recovery puzzle. When we suffer, helping someone else can be liberating. Being of service acts as an unexpected and welcome emotional salve. Being of service shows us that we are not alone in our suffering; it shows us that relief is available. Being of service provides support, and it encourages community. Service work is a wise requirement.

 

There is a shadow side to service work, though, and it rears its head when we don’t take care ourselves. Sans self-care, we risk being overwhelmed, stressed out, tired, and depleted. If you are a gardener, and you tend to everyone else’s garden before your own, your garden will wilt. The same thing applies to taking care of ourselves–Being of service is also an inside job.

 

Where are YOU on your list of priorities?

 

On an airplane, we are told to give ourselves the oxygen first in case of an emergency; Similarly, we must apply this same ideology in our day-to-day lives. If we are depleted, we cannot effectively be of service.

 

Is ensuring someone else’s happiness more important than safeguarding your own?

 

The feelings that emerge when we are of service can be profoundly positive. It feels good to help others. However, we cannot sacrifice our own needs in order to do so.  It’s important not to lean toward people-pleasing behaviors — behaviors that inevitably feed resentment and drain our personal resources for self-care. When we people-please and neglect ourselves in the name of being of service, we risk resentment, which leaves us sitting miserably in silent rage and frustration.

 

Remember that sacrificing yourself is not tantamount to being of service. Pushing yourself to the point of emotional exhaustion will tap your nervous system and leave you overwhelmed, tired, depressed, and frustrated. We are no good to anyone when we are depleted.

 

Yes, you can take care of YOU and be of service!

 

1: Take care of your needs first: If that means taking a walk or going for a run or taking a nap BEFORE helping someone else, do it. Fill your well.

 

2:It’s okay to say NO: If you are exhausted, and tapped out, saying no is a way of being of service. You are no help to anyone if you are worn out.

 

3: Maintain healthy boundaries: If your go-t0 answer is always “yes,” then you are likely to end up overwhelmed. Are you overcommitted?  Practice saying “No.” Practice taking care of YOUR needs before taking care of the needs of others. You are just as important.

 

I love this Buddhist quote and share it often. It’s definitely apropos here:

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” 

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Why is it so Hard to Say “No”?

Adolescents look to adults for security, safety, and to be positive examples; this also means they tend to push buttons and test boundaries – “No” is often low on the list of a teen’s favorite words.  As adults, we have to make a concerted effort to create firm boundaries for our kids that are not only respectful, but geared toward creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. This means we have to say “no” even if it’s not a popular answer, and it means we have to hold the boundary surrounding that answer, regardless of the outcome. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s perfectly okay to say it, own it, and honor it.

 

It’s easier to back out of a “No” than a “Yes.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Your teen is relentlessly asking you if they can hang out at a friend’s house; you are engrossed in a project or conversation. Out of frustration, you hastily give permission. However, a bit later, you realize you had said, “yes,” in error – you actually want your teen home for dinner, and being at a friend’s house means he or she won’t be home in time. So you change your mind. All of a sudden, you have an angry teen on your hands – you’re unfair, mean, et cetera. Speaking out of haste or frustration has a negative impact – it illustrates an unstable boundary and creates an environment where kids don’t know what to expect. In the scenario above, no one wins:  your teen is disappointed and angry at you, and you’re frustrated and angry at your teen.

 

Why is it so hard to say “No”? And better yet, why is it so hard for us to hear “No”?

 

“No” is a boundary. It is a way of advocating for ourselves and ensuring we are meeting our needs. It allows us to set boundaries so we can take care of ourselves and create healthy boundaries with others. “No” is not mean; it’s not spiteful. “No” is honest and it represents self-respect and self-awareness. It also cultivates emotional safety and stability.

 

Sometimes, saying “No” can feel like we are letting someone down, or maybe like we are letting ourselves down. Maybe we want to say, “Yes” when what we really need to say is “No.”  This is a hard skill to learn, for teens and adults.

 

If/when you are faced with a difficult situation where there might be pressure to say “Yes,” or where you are uncomfortable saying “No,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the outcome be helpful or harmful to yourself or others?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Is this “Yes” to please someone else or to honor myself?

 

Hearing “No” can be difficult because often times, the truth is, we aren’t really asking; we are making a veiled demand that is presented in the form of a question. The politeness we assumed in the asking then comes crashing down because the reality is, we weren’t asking in the first place. When things are in a stasis, this is a great conversation to have with your teen. And it’s a great perspective to be aware of for yourself. Are you really asking your teen to take out the trash, or you demanding that they do it? If they said, “No,” how would you respond?

 

Hearing “No” also can breed a sense of disappointment.  We may feel like we aren’t getting what we want. We may feel rejected. There is an unfortunate comfort in being polite and saying what we think others want to hear. When we are inauthentic and we omit our truth, we evoke a passive anger later on. Bringing some awareness into cultivates authentic and honest communication.

 

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a lifetime practice. Some boundaries are easier set than others. Practicing saying “No” is a good start. In fact, it’s an empowering start.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Mental Health Parenting Recovery Therapy Trauma

Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

© sarit z rogers

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.

 

In a therapeutic environment such as Visions, we address more than substance abuse and mental illness; we are facilitating the excavation of trauma and creating safe boundaries. It’s important to maintain awareness around our own sense of boundaries and how execute them. Asking ourselves these questions and contemplating the answers through talking to our peers and writing them out will help you discern where you may need some work, and where you are strongest:

 

  1. What does it mean to set boundaries?
  2. Is it hard to say “no”? If so, what does saying “no” feel like?
  3. How do I feel when my boundaries are crossed?
  4. What is my reaction internally and externally?
  5. Am I afraid to set boundaries? Why?
  6. What is my history around setting boundaries?

 

As clinicians and teachers, it’s imperative that we know and understand where our weak spots are so we can work on them. For some people, it’s not uncommon to wait until someone pushes us to our edge before we set a limit. The desire to please others or to be liked plays a part here, and our own backgrounds and upbringing will also effect how we interact with others. Perhaps we come from a family where hugging and touch is part of the norm. It may be natural for us to reach out and hug someone when they are suffering, but it’s not always appropriate.

 

Hugging a client may be a violation of a boundary, but if the client has been traumatized in some way, they may not know how to set that boundary. Likewise, if a client persistently tries to hug you, you have to maintain a firm boundary so they learn to understand what is and what is not appropriate. I was volunteering at my son’s school recently, and a kid came up and hugged me, not wanting to let go. It was a child I don’t know and it was a clear violation of my boundaries and the school’s rules. I gently moved away and held a boundary with this child until he moved on. Teens look to us as examples to learn from and to emulate. If we don’t show strong, safe boundaries, they won’t be able to either. Understand that the boundaries we create encourage freedom to be who you are while creating a safe container for healing and recovery.

Respecting boundaries applies to parents too. If the family dynamic has been compromised, parents have to work to rebuild a healthy and safe family structure. Creating solid boundaries is key in that process. Adolescents love to push buttons and stretch boundaries; they are smack dab in the center of their individuation process. That doesn’t mean you, the parent, have to give in. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence, and when it’s said with certainty and conviction, it makes all the difference. A wishy-washy, non-committal “no” may as well be a “maybe” or a “yes.” Poor limits leave room for negotiation where there shouldn’t be.

We all have a part to play in creating safe limits whether we are parents, teachers, or clinicians. Kids, in their infinite wisdom and testing behaviors, demand strong limits, whether they admit it or not. Boundaries create safety. They provide defined parameters in which to develop and grow. So as much as a teen may push, inside, they really do respect a firm “No” and a defined environment.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Getting Overwhelmed: Knowing Your Limits and the Limits of Others

As teachers, therapists and facilitators, we have to become aware of our own edge: knowing when we are getting overwhelmed, knowing when those in our charge are feeling overwhelmed, and knowing when we need to step back ourselves or facilitate that same process of backing off in someone else. Working with the addiction and mental health population means coming to a place of deep understanding and awareness of the subtle shifts of emotional temperatures that can occur in any given situation. The process of helping others and working with others isn’t about feeding our own egos so we can feel superior, but rather facilitating and creating a safe container for those in crisis and helping them find the willingness to take a chance at finding their own edge (trying something new and finding that sense of coming close to but not being overwhelmed) and broadening their comfort zones.

 

There are many ways in which we can recognize when someone may need to back off, or work on getting grounded. As part of a treatment team, we have to be aware of each client’s needs and these are some of the key signs we look for as well as some of the key tools we need to have in our toolboxes:

 

  1.  Look for any change in a person’s baseline behavior. Some people will talk more, and some will talk less. It’s as though some are stuck in the “on” position and some on the “off” position.
  2. Some people shut down. Are they isolating? Are they crumpled up in a ball?
  3. Actively listen to what someone is saying. If someone shares his or her difficulty, take heed, are you really listening?
  4. Know who is actually working with their edge and know what their resources are. Can they self-regulate? Do they have their resourcing (their calming tools) readily available?
  5. Facilitate time-outs. Let people know that it’s okay to take breaks from a situation that is making them feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, showing someone what a time-out looks like by mirroring it, helps illustrate its safety.

 

 

While we certainly want to push our clients and ourselves to explore and expand emotional and physical limitations, it’s extremely important we provide a safe container in which this can become possible. We are empowered to show others how to orient themselves in new situations, find their grounding, and self-regulate when they begin to feel themselves slip of out of control. We are also empowered with the loving arm of compassion and service which allows us to show someone how to ask for help and accept that help when it is offered. To teach, treat, and to care for others is a gift and an honor.

 

Categories
Recovery Self-Care Service

Being of Service: Self-Care is Still Imperative

Boundary (Photo credit: castle79)

When being of service becomes a source of obligation and stress, you’re not really being of service to anyone. If anything, you are causing harm to yourself and denigrating the purpose of service work. The steps are in order for a reason, right? Learning to love ourselves before we can wholeheartedly love others has to become part of the cornerstone of our recovery. We do the steps and “leave no stone unturned,” looking at our actions, the actions of others, our responses to them, how they effect us, how we react, and so on. We uncover and discover as much as we can, including some things that catch us by surprise. When we are brand new, the familiar adage, “fake it till you make it,” can certainly be applicable especially when you simply need to get out of yourself by being of service. At the same time, if you find that you have dedicated yourself to helping others and “faking it” to the extent that you, yourself, are being neglected, it’s time to pause.

 

As much as we ran away from ourselves via drugs, alcohol, food, sex, video games, social media, we can also do the same thing in recovery by overextending ourselves in our service work. We can do too much and place ourselves at great risk for doing too little for ourselves. At some point, we have to stop and feel the feelings of whatever it is we are trying to escape. We are, as they say, “as sick as our secrets.” Within each of us in recovery potentially lies the hurt child seeking solace, safety, love, and protection. As we begin to be of service to ourselves, we can be of service to that side of us that is hurting and hiding in the darkness. We can ultimately learn to be gentle with ourselves , which will allow us to be gentle with others.

How do we do this?

  • Ask for help.
  • Get a sponsor
  • Find a therapist
  • Create a network of other people in recovery with whom you can relate, be honest, and have sustained emotional safety. (Fellowship)

Set healthy Boundaries.

Physical and emotional: Think about boundaries as a “property line.” Read what Positively Positive has to say about this. It’s fantastic.

Creating healthy boundaries will help you set guidelines for people around you that tell them what is acceptable to you and what is not. There are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, both different but both invaluable to self-esteem building and self-care. You don’t have to agree with everyone or have him or her agree with you to be liked.

Do the work

  • Work the steps.
  • Start a journal.
  • Go to meetings
  • Take commitments
  • Do the deep, therapeutic work provided by your therapist.

Being of service is our ultimate goal. We need to be able to give back what has been so freely given to us. That is step 12, after all. In the process, however, we must maintain healthy boundaries and a sense of self-care.  Remember, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes, however it’s not ok if we put on our trainers and run from our feelings. Allow someone to be of service to you. You deserve it just as much as the next person.

 

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Self-Care Sexuality

Starry-Eyed and Lovelorn in Adolescence

Remember when you were a teenager, falling in an out of love faster than your jeans could stay in style? Remember how devastating the subsequent heartbreak was when your current flight of fancy moved on? The drama and excitement of it all is exacerbated by adolescence. I can distinctly remember the all-or-nothing perspective I had when it came to love or what I thought was love as a teen. At times, it can be overwhelming and because there is sometimes a vacancy where parental trust should be, it can also be lonely.  Growing up is tough, and matters of the heart lend an element of pain to the already awkward, bungling nature of adolescence. And no, this isn’t a bash on being a teen. I was one once, and I will always remember the sense of untenable angst and confusion.

The truth is, relationships happen. All the time. They are an inevitable part of life unless you are a hermit, in which case, you may have some other issues to tend to. So, how do navigate that stormy sea? Let’s see:

  • Be yourself.  You are good enough just as you are. When we try to act like something or someone we’re not, we create expectations that may eventually lead to letdown. Ouch.
  • Mutual respect. You deserve to be being loved and respected for who you really are and not who someone wants you to be. Respect also means your partner will respect your boundaries without pushing you to accommodate their wants and needs.
  • Trust. It’s one of the most important ingredients in creating and maintaining relationships.  Are you overly jealous? Is your partner? Without trust, relationships tend to stand on rocky ground—this is true for friendships and romances.
  • Develop skillful communication: Ideally, you are in a relationship with someone who honors you and your feelings. If something is bothering you, talk about it. We hear this too often: “men and women speak different languages.” While this may be true at times, instead of shutting down, we can learn to ask for clarification when we don’t understand what’s being said.
  • Retain your autonomy. Sure, it can be fun to do absolutely everything with someone…for a while, but in doing so, have you made your boyfriend or girlfriend your “everything”?  Make time for those that were in your life before this relationship, and more than anything, make room for yourself. You should never have to give up things you like, or the friends you keep because your partner isn’t into them.

With the starry-eyed disposition of many adolescent relationships, it’s safe to say that many move with the tides, but sometimes things do go awry, presenting difficult challenges. Domestic violence can easily seep into teen relationships. The warning signs that this might be happening include:

  • Verbal abuse, including insults, unkind language, degradation.
  • Physical abuse, including slapping, shoving, of forcing sexual activity.
  • Control of who you spend time with and what activities you do: in other words, attempting to isolate you.

If you recognize any of these behaviors or recognize a friend or loved one who may be experiencing anything like this, get help. You deserve to be happy, not abused.

And remember: “Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Seuss