Too many people work so hard at getting things right with their partners, that it becomes their only focus. They forget about themselves. They forget that a good relationship takes teamwork and each team member must be fit and up to the task of playing well.
You can’t have a good team if the individual team members aren’t looking after themselves. Members of any team (think sports teams) have to train their bodies and minds; they can’t rely on their team members to do their training for them.
In relationship, if you don’t practice self-soothing and self-care, you will not be in a fit state to be relational. You’ll be reactive instead of responsive and immoderate instead of moderate.
What is self-soothing?
Self-soothing activities are actions you take to calm, comfort and care for yourself. The aim is to train yourself to self-soothe any time you have intense emotional or physical reactions, no matter what causes them.
I recommend that you have a pre-planned list of activities written in your phone so you know ahead of time what you can do to calm yourself. These actions are your personalised, internal first-aid kit. When you apply emotional first-aid to yourself, you soothe your own reactions. This calms and prepares you to relate and respond in moderate, respectful and adult ways to your partner.
What is self-care?
Self-care is the ongoing maintenance process of giving adequate attention to your own physical and psychological wellness. These are actions that you take in order to reach and maintain optimal physical and mental health, no matter what circumstances you are in.
In sport this involves creating and actively implementing a proper rest and recovery schedule to prevent athletes from getting to the brink of injury and burnout. By avoiding unhealthy extremes and prioritizing rest, athletes improve their physical and mental capacity. To build a good relationship team, similar ongoing personalised maintenance, rest and recovery actions are required if you want to last the distance.
The importance of self-soothing and self-care
Without a regular practice of self-soothing and self-care activities, you won’t function well in any area of life. You lose concentration at work. You lose interest in friends and engaging in pleasurable activities. Sometimes you forget to eat or you eat too much. You use drugs, alcohol, work, sex or sleep to dull your pain. Self-soothing and self-care are totally absent.
If any of these unhelpful methods of coping sound familiar to you, think about this. While you’re working on your relationship, you must take good care of yourself. You can’t help anyone or be a good team player if you’re not in good shape yourself. You need an ongoing focus on self-care if you want to optimise your relationship.
“What have I done recently to keep myself healthy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?”
If you have trouble answering this question, you probably feel tired, depressed, anxious and unhappy. You are probably ignoring important things and people in your life. Your immune system may be weakened and your zest for life will be gone. By not regularly practicing self-soothing and self-care, you are lowering the chances that your partner will see you as the loving, interesting, attractive person you are – the one they were attracted to in the first place.
It’s time for a change. Starting today, make a promise to yourself that you will make you a bigger priority.
What you can do for your body, emotions, mind and spirit
There are many self-care activities you can practice. Get off the couch and exercise. Do a form of exercise you enjoy at least three days a week. Research shows that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants for people who are feeling down or depressed. You can also do breathing exercises to calm you. Breathing mindfully, even for a few minutes, brings a sense of peace into your life.
Yoga and meditation are excellent methods for self-soothing and self-care. There are classes near you. You can learn how to meditate at home or borrow DVDs from a library. Don’t worry, meditation is not a religious practice.
According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness meditation is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Focusing on the breath helps you to cultivate attention on the body and mind as they are, moment to moment. This helps with both physical and emotional pain.
Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn’s online MBSR courses (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) are readily available. This is the most well-researched stress reduction programme, with effective methods for reducing stress and increasing a sense of well-being. Dave Potter, a fully certified MBSR instructor created Palouse Mindfulness which offers a 100% free online MBSR training course based on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Do something constructive
Being a couch potato or pacing nervously won’t help you or your relationship. If you’re eating too much or too little, practice mindful eating. Nourish your body sensibly. Eating well fortifies your body and spirit. And don’t forget massages, manicures or pedicures. Being touched respectfully in these ways fills up your senses.
Keeping a journal helps reduce anxiety, depression and stress. It is also beneficial for gaining perspective and insight into yourself and your patterns. Get a notebook and start writing. Apparently writing is more beneficial than typing, but that may not work for you. Do it every day. Research shows that writing can be incredibly healing.
If you are a people-oriented person but the energy to be with others is absent lately, push yourself out the door. Avoid avoidance! Remind yourself that there is a world outside of your current uncomfortable situation. It will be good for your body, emotions, mind, spirit and self-esteem to connect with others.
If you are spiritual, make sure you spend some quiet time in prayer, contemplation or meditation. You can find solace in your faith.
If you can’t look after yourself, no-one else can either
You might be saying to yourself, “I know all of this stuff. There’s nothing new here.” I agree with you. You’ve heard it all before. One question I have for you is, “Are you acting on this stuff you know or does it just stay in your head?”
Insight is necessary but insufficient for change. Action is needed.
It’s well known that when people get stressed, they often stop being kind to themselves. I want to remind you that you deserve kindness, care and love. Even if things are tough right now, you still deserve to be cared for and cherished. If you’re not getting this from your partner, you need to do it for yourself.
Watch Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert in self-compassion talk about how to start being self-compassionate.
And don’t forget, if talking things out helps you clear your head and feel more centred, call a friend or relative to whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Or if you feel that your situation is too personal, consider talking to a relationship counsellor or coach who can help you feel better about yourself and approach your life and your relationship more proactively.
Whatever you decide to do, do it today! Better times are possible.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.