Many parenting classes and books teach parents how to be more empathic but for some of us, that’s the easy part. We love the cuddling, the sympathetic listening, and the intimate bonding that comes with parenting our precious cutie pies. But being too nice isn’t good for anybody. Nice parents will put everyone else’s needs before their own, not even realizing the burdens they are carrying. Here are some of the warning signs that you may be too nice and it’s time to change the way you operate:
-Your kids are acting out. When kids start testing boundaries they are looking for a strong leader and misbehavior means they need you to step into your calm, compassionate power. Not everyone likes this role or has easy access to the energy of leadership.
– Your mood is dependent on your kids: if they are happy, so are you. If they are grumpy, it seems impossible to have a different emotional state.
– You have a hard time taking time to yourself. You hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time for me” or “I don’t like taking care of myself, I’m just fine” or “I can’t afford it”.
– The thought of an empty nest makes you really uncomfortable.
– Your body is showing signs of stress: back pain, digestive issues, weight gain or loss, TMJ, or other health problems that doctors think could have a stress component to them.
– You worry a lot or try to control things. You have a hard time going with the flow.
-Your friends or spouse keep encouraging you to relax, get a massage, or take a break.
Websters defines empathy as “The ability to share another persons feelings.” A wonderful skill and much needed in our competitive world, but too much empathy and you lose touch with yourself. ESPECIALLY if you also have a job that involves taking care of others, you can get out of balance really quickly and easily. If you are like me and these warning signs sound very familiar, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to start integrating these steps towards reconnecting to your authentic self and finding balance. If it’s been years since you felt connected to your spirit, it may take a long time to get it back. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey of re-discovering your best and highest self (it’s in there, I promise, and it really wants your attention!)
Here are my best steps to any empathic Mom or Dad who thinks they might be too enmeshed with their families needs and has lost touch with their spirit.
- Set aside time to do NOTHING. Doing nothing is the best, most healing, most PRODUCTIVE, thing anyone who finds themselves in The Land of Crazy can do. Doing nothing, with nothing being the only agenda, is the fastest, most efficient way to gain access to your inner wisdom and your intuition. But nice parents have a hard time with this one so first, write down all your excuses of why you can’t make time for this. Find amusement in this list, set the timer and DO NOTHING for as long as you can stand it. Take a bath, sit in your car and stare into space, hike up a hill and enjoy the view, just decide that for 15minutes or 60 minutes, you are going to BE and not DO. It’s going to feel strange and unfamiliar because change always does. Just breathe and allow, pretend you are on vacation.
- Re-discover your creative side. Drawing, painting, jewelry making, interior design, web design, writing stories, scrapbooking, organizing, this is the perfect time to pursue those creative interests. Dwelling in the right hemisphere of your brain in other areas (besides empathy) is like a road back into your inner wisdom. It’s healing and nurturing, allow it to be more about play than productivity. If you hear yourself say, “I’m not creative”, do more of step one.
- It is very hard for empathic care-takers to access their authentic inner voice with anyone else in the room. Find mental, emotional, and physical solitude so that you learn to differentiate your authentic voice from everyone else’s.
The first time I realized I had to make a change was when my baby was 8 months old. My back pain was unbearable, I’d get a massage and frustrate the masseuse because it seemed I had lost the ability to take a deep breath. My constant worrying was driving my husband so bonkers he begged me to do something, anything, to relax. I had taken up permanent residence in The Land of Crazy.
It was really easy and fun for me to put by baby’s needs before mine. I loved it but I felt “on” all day, not realizing the toll it was taking on me, to have my attention always turned outside myself. If I tried to take a break in the house, it was really hard! I could hear laughing, crying, whining and I couldn’t help but “help” from the other room, I’d shout, “He wants his blanket” or “Don’t forget to feed him”. It was like I was permanently tuned to a station that I couldn’t shut off. When I left him in the care of someone else, the volume turned down, but I was still thinking, wondering, checking in to make sure he was okay. After 8 months of this, my mind was telling me I was fine, but my body was telling me different.
I started with going out to dinner by myself. I relished in the quiet, the taste of the food, the fact that someone else was serving ME and cleaning up after ME, it was fabulous. Then I worked my way over to day spas, starting with an hour massage, eventually enjoying 12 hours of luxurious lounging. I’d bring books, a sketch pad, but often just soaked, swam and soothed. I started teaching yoga and Pilates classes so I had no excuse not to go. Now about twice a year, I go away, by myself, to a hotel for two nights. It is HEAVEN. I get to eat what I want, when I want, stay up as late as I want, sleep in. But most importantly, I get access to my own voice. I can tune in and listen to myself without distraction, what feels good, what I’m missing, and what’s next for me. If your days are filled with taking care of others, being alone and receiving care isn’t a luxury, it’s mandatory. It’s like filling up your gas tank, you can’t keep running on empty and expect there not to be consequences.