I’m a nurturer. I have a soft spot in my heart for the downtrodden, the weary, the hurting.

Chances are, if you’re working in a helping profession, you’re a born nurturer too. We love to care for others. We try to help those in our world who are suffering. It somehow just seems to come naturally to us.

That’s mostly a good thing.

But sometimes all that compassion can backfire. In our diligent efforts to tend to others, we often forget to take care of ourselves. We don’t always perceive our own best interests.

And that’s not a good thing.

Caring for others shouldn’t hurt. But only caring for others while forgetting to care for ourselves can cause problems – for both you and those you care for.

When I was managing the crisis line I was dedicated to supporting the efforts of my staff. I told them it was okay to call me any time they needed me. But sometimes when they would call me in the middle of the night, a small part of me was annoyed. And after dealing with an issue, it was often hard to get back to sleep. So I would feel drained the next day. It was a little harder to be an energetic leader on those days.

As a mom, I do the same thing. I want to do anything and everything to maximize happiness and minimize the suffering of my children. Sounds crazy even as I write this, but I know any parent knows what I’m talking about.

But if I’m too involved, not only do I deplete my own time and energy, I may be depriving the very people I’m “helping” of their own growth opportunities – their chance to build resilience.

There’s a popular saying on the island of Alumanaya, “Everything is connected.” When we hurt ourselves, we end up hurting others too.

To feel the joy of your calling, try to regularly find time to disconnect from life’s demands through daily acts of centering:

  1. Hold your heart. I learned this technique at a workshop years ago. Place your hand on your heart and hold it there for a bit. It’s amazing how comforting it is, almost like giving yourself a hug. Do this on a regular basis, even when you’re watching TV.
  2. Find solitude. I know I talk all the time about spending quiet time alone. That’s how valuable I think it is. Whether in nature or in the comfort of your favorite chair, a regular practice of stillness can change your life.
  3. Practice tiny rituals. I love my first cup of tea in the morning. Nothing special, but it starts my day off with something I enjoy. Think about the little things that comfort you and make you smile. The simple pleasures don’t cost much, if anything, but they bring balance and a consistent routine to your life.
  4. Cherish your spirit. You are not your body or your works. The real you, the inner you, is beautiful and extraordinary beyond your wildest imagination. Be grateful for the unique and special person you are.
  5. Respect your limits. Learn your limits – how much you can handle and keep your boundaries firm. I know that’s hard for a nurturer. But remember this mantra practiced by the Kamuas on Alumanaya, “Before you can take care of someone else, you need to take care of yourself.”
  6. Make your home your haven. Is your home your sanctuary? Do you feel peace and tranquility when you walk in the door? If not, clean away the clutter and get rid of any items that drain you. Create a space where you can rejuvenate and recharge your inner glow.

Self care is not selfish. You have to nurture yourself BEFORE you nurture others. It’s the best way you can effectively help others. Practice personal renewal and not only will you be a more effective caregiver and leader, you will ignite your deep passion for caring . . . . . again and again and again.