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Consider the following scenario: You’re hiking with a friend. It’s narrow and precarious and they’re not paying attention and fall down into the ravine, 100 feet below. You wouldn’t just leap off the cliff or even try to shimmy your way down there to “save” them, right? Because if you did, you would be worse off than the person you were trying to help, thus being of no help to them in the first place.

For those of you who may not know, I used to work in wilderness therapy. Working with at-risk youth and young adults in the high deserts of Utah and Nevada, I started to learn the vital importance of self-care and what it means to take care of yourself. To be a Senior Field Instructor, I had to be a certified Wilderness First Responder, and still am because the information is so valuable. It is a basic tenet of wilderness medicine and guiding in general that you must take care of #1 first to then take care of others. The mnemonic we say to ourselves as we approach a scene is “Number one. I’m number one.” and continue on with our initial checklist. We survey the scent to be sure it’s safe for us to approach.

The same goes for less extreme examples- if you forget to wear gloves in winter and your fingers are so numb you can’t help a client zip up their jacket in the freezing weather, you haven’t helped anyone.

When I am teaching yoga, if I don’t secure my own footing yet try to assist someone into a handstand, we’ll both fall over.

If I don’t eat really well 90% of the time, how can I tell my clients to do the same or teach them how to do so?

If I’m not striving to discover who I am beneath everything I’ve been told, taught and indoctrinated with, how can I coach others to find the same freedom?

The Mother, one of my spiritual teachers from India, said “No words, act.” If I am to care for and serve others through my work, I must first care for and serve myself so that I am best equipped to do that. I must live my message. None of my clients or students benefit if I show up to class or session exhausted, irritated or grumpy because I haven’t taken care of myself. Self care is part of my job description and can be part of yours, too!

The same applies to all of us and we may know we need to take better care of ourselves but many of us do not.

Why?

This is where the real inner work is so important. Why do some people succeed and why do others seem to fail over and over again? Why do I have clients who can give and serve and be incredibly generous to others yet leave nothing left for themselves?

I think many things can be at play here but often, what I see is “I’m not worth it.” The closely held, often unconscious belief that we are not worthy of the kind of care and love we give to others.

This is what I help my clients discover – these deep hidden beliefs that are causing them to sabotage all their efforts toward health, healing and a deeper connection with themselves.

Clockwise from top left: With some of my fellow Field Instructors working in wilderness therapy (Utah); On my own path of healing and discovery to then guide others on similar paths (Kathmandu); Journeys of the heart often lead you to the farthest corners of the globe (Agra, India); my first true guiding experience with the UCLA Unicamp WALL program.

Clockwise from top left: With some of my fellow Field Instructors working in wilderness therapy (Utah); On my own path of healing and discovery to then guide others on similar paths (Kathmandu); Journeys of the heart often lead you to the farthest corners of the globe (Agra, India); my first true guiding experience with the UCLA Unicamp WALL program.

An important question to ask is: “When was the last time I can remember feeling like I deserved love/healthy, nourishing food/positive self talk/enough money in the bank to feel secure…?” “What happened that shifted my thinking?” “What was that event or time in my life that affected me in that way?” When we can start to answer these questions, we begin to see the places in our hearts that need our utmost care and attention.

Because what ends up happening is you can only go on for so long at breakneck pace, caring for everyone else or worrying about what everyone else is thinking before you have a breakdown. (Yes, worrying about what other people are doing and thinking is a form of external focus and only causes anxiety and stress).

Here are some ways you can nourish and focus on yourself so that you can then be there with more presence, love and compassion for others (going beyond the cliché of taking a bubble bath):

-Put high quality, nutrient dense foods into your body and accept nothing less.

-Don’t buy things you don’t need so that you can experience the feeling of freedom and control that comes from having a handle over your finances (also called avoiding unnecessary stress).

-Drink at least two liters of water a day. If not three or four.

-When others aren’t giving you the care and attention you feel you need from them, give yourself that care and attention- focus on you and your life, not on the lack of care from others.

-Meditate- get in touch with your Inner Universe, where all the peace and joy you’ll ever need comes from.

-Invest in healing modalities, therapies and coaching to help yourself do the inner and outer work that needs attending to.

-Eat organic food

-Sleep eight hours a night

-Put the electronics away 30 minutes to an hour before bed so you can sleep soundly

-Say no to things that don’t light you up

-Explore other career options if what you’re doing doesn’t place you in a state of awe and love most days

-Avoid processed, refined or unnatural foods and substances

-Detox your life of any and all people who do not support you, love you or encourage you enough without getting jealous or stuck in their own crap themselves.

-Take yourself on that date you’ve been wanting to go on- the new museum exhibit? A new movie? Out to dinner? Treat yourself and don’t feel you need someone else to accompany you to complete the experience.

YOU are the complete experience – treat yourself that way. {tweet it}

When you start to focus on yourself, you can start to heal the places in your mind, heart and soul that need care. Your attitude shifts, the struggles you had before seem non-issues, you’re not grasping for the care and attention you thought you needed from others, you lose the weight naturally, you begin to see who you truly are underneath all the false beliefs, fears and expectations you and others placed on you.

In the Moment Action step:

Right now, create your “Because I love myself…” list. What does loving yourself, putting #1 first, look like to you and how will this help you shine your light out into the world even more brightly? List 3-5 things you’d like to try going forward and do one of those things today.

I’d love to hear from you! What are you going to put on your “because I love myself list?”

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