Women these days can do it all, right?
Have a career, be a good friend, create an amazing nest, and care for everyone in it – wait, what? Everyone? Hmmm…
Especially for women who have experienced narcissistic abuse, we tend to overgive. We usually put ourselves last on the To Do list of people to care for. (And a lot of times, we don’t even get to us.)
When my clients first come to me for recovery from narcissistic abuse, many of them say that because they have so many things to do, there’s little time left for them.
By the end of the day, they’re too tired from overgiving to do what they want – make a healthy meal, take a relaxing bath, or read the book that’s been on their nightstand for years.
They’ve gone through their day devoted to everyone else, leaving themselves out of the giving equation once again.
They promise themselves they’ll go to bed earlier that night, get a good night’s sleep, and start a self-care routine tomorrow.
But the same pattern happens day after day. They never reach the point of consistent self-care that would unlock the beginning of healing from narcissistic abuse.
Does this sound familiar to you?
What makes you overgive?
You’re the only one who can take care of you. Of course, you know that already. But if you know that, what’s stopping you from doing it?
For women who’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, whether it was in childhood or as an adult, we learn to have a default of overgiving to others and under-giving to ourselves.
Overgiving stems from a narcissistic abuser directly or indirectly sending a message that you aren’t worthy to receive. So, you become accustomed to getting little from others. Then, you attract under-givers in your other relationships. Narcissists specifically search for people who overgive.
If you overgive as a result of emotional abuse, it’s probably a safe bet that you’d like to change that behavior.
Is your To Do list endless?
You don’t have to do every single thing on your To Do list every single day.
The world won’t stop if you take a few (or 60) minutes for yourself each day.
Here’s the truth: If you’ve been narcissistically abused and you don’t find a balance between giving to others and self-care, it will lead to stress, health issues, and sleep problems (if it hasn’t already).
Here’s one solution
Start setting boundaries with yourself.
Others in your life may appreciate all that you do for them, but they’re typically not thinking of how much you actually do for them. People are preoccupied with their own concerns.
So, don’t wait for others to tell you to take time for yourself. That’s a decision you have to make. Right now would be an ideal time to start.
Make a commitment to put self-care at the top of your priority list. And keep it there.
Write it out on paper to make it more official: “Starting this moment, I’m no longer going to neglect myself while putting others first. My self-care is going to be my top priority.” Or something like that. Whatever gets your blood going when you read it.
Does this mean you stop caring for others?
I’m not saying stop taking care of others. Just reduce it. Believe it or not, you can learn how to care for yourself and others; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Factor yourself into the giving equation and preferably at the top. Then create ways to make time for yourself.
For example, if you make your kiddos’ lunches, teach them how to do some of the packing themselves.
Or, if you plan and make all the dinners, let your partner know how much you’d love it if s/he would make dinner (at least) once a week, say you’re ordering in a few times per week, or choose a night where everyone makes their own meal (and cleans up after).
Or is it time to hire a housekeeper once a week?
Or, if you’re an entrepreneur, is it time to hire a Virtual Assistant? Even just for a small project here and there?
Or is it simply time for you to get back to your daily walks to send a message to those in your life that self-care is now a top priority for you?
Make sure to use your newly acquired time to do something good for yourself.
3 Quick and Easy Self-Care Tips
Here are ways you can start caring for yourself immediately:
Walk 3 minutes every hour.
Up and down a hallway at home, on the job, or walking around the block.
Use your phone or a timer as you walk. Or carry a pedometer so you see how far you walk each week.
Fast or slow, just do it. No excuses; get your body moving. It’ll have a positive impact on your mood, I promise. Check out this super short article on the mental benefits of physical movement.
Close your eyes and just breathe for 3 minutes every hour.
You’ll be amazed how long (and wonderful) 3 minutes is when you aren’t doing anything but breathing.
Set the alarm, so you don’t have to keep checking how long you’ve been breathing…just enjoy the peace.
When thoughts come, gently send them away, knowing you can deal with them when you’re done breathing.
Adding this on after your walk would be ideal.
3-Give Your Brain and Eyes a Rest
Stay off your phone and computer ½ day per week.
A personal note on #3 – I recently stayed off my phone and social media one entire day ~ and I experienced immediate benefits! I felt a feeling of grounding and peace within myself.
And guess what else? It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I found myself looking forward to my next day off social media.
Put your attention on the present moment.
During my social media break, I admit I felt the urge to check my phone or email at least once per hour. I let the thought go in one ear and out the other, then re-focused on what I was doing.
When the thoughts to check my phone or email came again, I observed them, then put my attention back to the present moment. Over and Over.
Each time I was able to do that, my joy slowly increased.
By the end of the day, I felt exhilarated!
Definitely make your social media break for a certain time frame (e.g., 1 to 8 hours). And don’t give in when your habit insists you check your phone because you’re totally missing out on all the essential Facebook posts…because it will.
Pride yourself on not being like Pavlov’s dogs.
This exercise will teach you mindfulness, which is essential if you’re an over giver who’s healing from narcissistic abuse.
Learning mindfulness is the same as going to the gym; it just takes repeated practice to build your mindfulness muscle.
Are you selfish for wanting “me-time”?
Some of my clients worry that self-care or “me-time” is selfish. This is a common belief of empaths who are recovering from narcissistic abuse. You can become so accustomed to overgiving while depleting yourself it feels unnatural or “selfish” when you start to learn self-care.
Listen, you’re not selfish when you make time for yourself. Think of this the other way around – it’s actually selfish if you don’t take care of yourself.
When you take care of yourself, you’re a much-improved person to be around (read: less grumpy) and a better role model for your family, friends, co-workers, fellow drivers, etc.
Self-care is essential to learn when you’ve been traumatized by narcissistic abuse.
The better you care for yourself, the more successful you become in all areas of your life.
And the more you start to attract like-minded people who treat themselves (and you) well.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be one or the other – you can learn to care for yourself AND others.
Need more convincing? No one likes to hear people rattle off a list of what they do for others while neglecting themselves.
Being over-busy and overgiving just isn’t cool anymore.
Learning self-care takes time and practice, especially for over givers in trauma recovery.
Do these 3 steps for more days than not.
You don’t have to start out saying you’re going to do all 3 tips every day for the rest of your life. Be reasonable. The more realistic you are, the better your chance of succeeding.
One last thought ~ When you find yourself saying you don’t have 3 minutes to sit and breathe, consider the Zen proverb that says, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” You get this, right? Now go breathe. And be the amazing human you already are.
Are you ready to heal and thrive after narcissistic abuse? CLICK HERE