Prioritizing You So You Can Help Others
We explore the concept of prioritizing one’s own emotional and physical health in order to heal one’s community through the work of the 100% New Mexico initiative.
Most people reading this article are engaged in society, an active participant in helping and healing others. While some of us are healthcare providers, caregivers, and educators, others are offering wise counsel, mentorship, and emotional support. There will also be those engaged in the political sphere and community mobilization focused on social justice. We know from experience that our work can be exhausting. We are givers and it’s just the way we are wired. Because of this, we may not prioritize our own needs as much as we should. For some, we were taught that others come first – always. This can be a belief we may struggle with, especially when feeling tapped out.
We believe that in order for us to heal from our states of trauma and engage in altruism, we must prioritize our health. For those of us paying attention to society’s upheaval and seeking to design solutions, it’s clear we are in this process for what we call “the long game.” We need to pace ourselves in order to be as fit and energized as possible. By prioritizing our peaceful state of mind, we find the inner resources to integrate the selfless caring of others into our daily lives. The act of prioritizing oneself will be easier for some than others. Balancing work, family, altruistic activities, and one’s emotional stability can be exhausting without prioritizing actions that include “me time.”
One reason we must carve out time for ourselves is that it’s the only way we will have the inner resources to engage in significant acts of large-scale altruism. We prioritize our emotional health in order to help our neighbors across town who lack the resources to find a moment’s worth of calm.
Prioritizing oneself might feel like a radical act at times, but it’s far from an act of selfishness. On the contrary, prioritizing yourself can harness the energy and focus to create a generosity of spirit, acts of kindness and a life of selflessness that then heals family, friends and neighbors.
Four ways we can look at how you prioritize you, then others
Here we can take some long calm moments to reflect on one question. Given all your commitments, how easy or difficult is it for you to create “me time?”
The question is to what degree do your household members know the benefits of “me time” and carve out time to reboot and reset? A bonus question would be what are the consequences of household members not taking the time to replenish?
Our 100% New Mexico initiative believes strongly in pacing and self-care. Self-care is actually one of the twenty key concepts we teach in our 100% Readiness workshop for initiative participants. To what degree people are taking care of themselves, especially in our era of colliding crises?
Your opportunity is being part of the initiative that can assess, in each community within your county’s borders, the degree to which residents ever get a break from stress and hardship. We know from surveys that a percentage of almost all counties will have people in what we call “survival mode.” This is not a place where people can take “me time.” Self-care is nearly impossible when food and housing insecurity are a reality. We are working on the long-term strategy of creating a society where everyone has their survival needs met and can carve out a tiny bit of time and space to focus on their own emotional health. To what degree is your county ready to commit to ensuring access to healing services?
First, we want to provide a meditation on healing oneself. Second, we seek to see people healed so that they can help their communities heal. In our years working with dedicated stakeholders who have committed to mobilizing their entire county, we watch closely as they teach us about balance. We have some very type-A folks, working 70 hours a week who add on another 20 to supercharge local activities. It requires a deep passion to do altruistic community-building work across a city and county, which to change agents is not so much work as it is a life of meaning. We are always gratified to hear during our weekly check-ins with initiative leaders about their self-care. Whether it’s a weekend with the mobile turned off or a trip to the mountains, we are always relieved to see how people take care of themselves. Our initiative participants are very aware that we are engaged in long-term work, creating communities where everyone has the resources to thrive, and we can only achieve our goals by making sure “me time” is part of the process.
This article contains excerpts from Culture of Caring by Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello.