One of the most difficult challenges a person can encounter is change. As each new year approaches people make many promises with the hope of making their lives better. Whether this is career related, family related, or self related. “This year I will go for that job I have been wanting”, or “This year I will not get angry when my brother visits and takes over the television”, or how about this one for size “This year I will take better care of myself”. Now, let’s look at what happens.
A month or so into the new year those promises seem to disintegrate. Is there something wrong with the promise? Are you incapable of keeping promises? Is the promise unattainable? The answer to these questions is no. It’s not the promise that prevents us, rather it’s the change that needs to occur within us that interferes with our desire to keep our promise. As helping professionals, don’t we strive to empower individuals to change maladaptive behaviors? Don’t we support individuals in viewing events from a different perspective? Don’t we rely on the stages of recovery and the changes that move a person from one stage to the next? Change is the obstacle. The promise is the goal. Now, we need to move through the cycle in order to change the very things that are preventing us from fulfilling those promises.
In order to take better care of yourself, you need to look at what behaviors you are engaging in now that prevents you from taking care of yourself. Change is hard and intimidating. Change ushers in the unknown, but change is possible. This year as you reflect on the ways you took care of yourself, there are questions you may want to ask. Do I take the time to enjoy social activities? Do I take the opportunity to treat myself to at least one thing for myself each day? Do I care enough about myself to allow myself to do nothing if I feel like it? Why are these questions important when seeking how to take care of yourself? Firstly, if you don’t take care of yourself who will? Secondly, if you don’t look at ways to take care of yourself, how can you teach others to take care of themselves?
There are differences in all individuals. As nurturers, we respect this and appreciate the diversity of all, but a common theme we all share regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, regional location, occupation is the need to engage in self-care. What better way to help others transform than to practice it ourselves. Helping others can be challenging which may require holding a lot on our plates. Imagine the old vaudeville performer who ran from stick to stick, turning and balancing the plates on top less they would come cascading down and break. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, than you will understand that the new year not only offers you the challenge of taking care of yourself, but presents the opportunity to help others learn how to take care of themselves as well.
Before change can occur, even before we can move through the stages of change, we must make a promise to change. If we are to be agents of change, than we ourselves need to experience all there is to feel about the change process. When we can do that, we not only model it for others, but truly believe that change is possible. Why wait for a new year, let’s start now!
A graduate from the Adelphi University School for Social Work, Michelle has been serving people on many levels as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Engaged in agency based work for recovery and rehabilitation for people diagnosed with mental illness, chemical addictions, developmental disabilities, Michelle also serves as Program Director for a fitness center solely dedicated to individuals with all disabilities.