Once upon a time, a few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My life was chaotic – a single parent with years of undiagnosed ADHD, four children, a job, and many other distractions. Through one particular self-care technique, I quickly learned how and why my life had become what it had become. However, with that new found knowledge, realized that I could transform my life.
Now don’t get me wrong. There was no magic moment of change with voices singing from the heavens and suddenly everything was better. No, this has been a journey. It has been long and difficult as I faced the demons that had been created over the prior 30 years of my life. Every step forward has been worth every effort invested. Even now, as I help others on their own journey, I discover areas that can help gain better control and confidence.
I would like to offer some steps to help on your journey, whatever that may be. I challenge you to work through the following with me, and see what develops for you or your child, and how taking care of yourself can impact those you care for.
Self-Care: Build a Supportive Habitat
One of the things that I have been working with lately is environment and how it affects productivity. Often times, a person’s environment can seriously impact how well they operate. Part of being mindful is having an awareness of how things in our universe are connected. Even as unique individuals, we are all intertwined into a system together. One of these systems, specifically, being family.
When I am coaching a child, teen, or adult, one of the major factors that play into their success is their environment, sometimes referred to as their Habitat. This habitat is a complex system of relationships with everyone and everything in and around them. This habitat can be supportive and energizing, or it can be draining.
As parents, teachers, or mentors of some type, our habitat greatly influences the children around us, and their ability to create a successful environment for themselves. By reducing the drains in our own habitats, and creating more energizing ones, we build a stronger support system for ourselves and for others we care for.
“People are changed, not by coercion or intimidation, but by example.” – John C. Maxwell
Self-Care: Construct a Habitat that Thrives
I can’t tell you what your habitat or your child’s habitat should look like. Just like each individual is unique, so is every family or household. Every environment will have positive or negative effects on everyone in that system. The point is to be aware or mindful of how your habitat is working. To increase your awareness, ask yourself the following:
- Is this habitat supportive of me and my family, or one that drains and builds stress?
- Take into consideration how well your environment supports you in supporting your –ism or your child’s ism’s.
- Be mindful of how life changes. Does my habitat change with those life changes?
- Is my habitat adding to my anxiety or stress?
- What beliefs do I hold around my daily habits? Do these habits serve me well?
When Life Get’s Challenging
When life throws you curve balls, you can:
- Bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away,
- Muscle your way through it like a bull in a china shop and hope someone else will pick up the pieces, or
- Assess the situation and adjust how you’re using your resources to address new challenges.
Assess the Situation
Energy is the main resource that we are working with here. There are things in our lives or our environments that both drain our energy, and give us energy. Ideally, a person would want to look for balance by filling their lives with energy givers or things that have a high return on investment for the energy we put out.
Energy drainers can be people, jobs, projects, clutter, habits, or other demands put on us by life. Every one of them requires an investment of energy. Just like with a budget, you want to avoid the red.
If you’re letting too much energy be drained, it results in increased stress, anxiety, fatigue, and moodiness. Your overall ability to function quickly decreases. It becomes more and more difficult to successfully meet the demands of work, social events, home, family, and of course, the –isms. It is not physically healthy, not to mention the emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Cost vs Benefit
Below, I provide a tool you can use to identify and address your energy drainers. It is up to you to decide the cost vs. benefit of any change you make in your habitat. Remember though, clearing up your energy drainers will go a long way in giving you the supportive atmosphere and energy to focus on what is important to you, and get the best return on investment. It can’t be stated enough – self-care is important, you have to take care of yourself first to really be able to care for others.
Self-Care: Plug the Drain
1. Create a List
First, list out your energy drainers, giving each of them a name. Sticky notes or note cards work well. Put one drainer on each sheet and stick them to the wall or the table.
These drainers could be situations, people, things, or a combination. Piles of paperwork on your desk, that squeaky door hinge that needs to be oiled, the atmosphere in the office at work, or maybe your mother-in-law.
It could even be more internal things like negative self talk, poor money management, consistently running late, issues with procrastination, feelings of low self-worth, etc.
Energy drains can be different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong answer on your list. It’s OK if it’s short list. Just start somewhere.
2. Create Categories
Move your sticky notes into three different categories as follows:
- Things I can’t change or control;
- Things I can have an impact on, but can’t control; and
- Things I can change and control.
3. Prioritize your Lists Within
Next, prioritize your energy drainers into each category. Do it however is easiest for you to work with them.
Things I Can Change and Control
These are the things you are 100% responsible for creating or for letting happen. Examples may include staying up too late at night on Facebook, reading blogs, or maybe impulsive spending, poor time management, or other unhealthy activities. Items in this category are the habits that don’t serve you well.
Create a self-care action plan for each item and deal with the energy drain. Write the plan down so you can go back to it. Track your progress and reassess your action plan if necessary. Talk to someone you can trust about your plan to ask for support and to create accountability.
Things I Can Have An Impact On, But Can’t Control
This could be your child’s ism or it could be that person in any aspect of your life that is always in a bad mood, overly critical, or just has poor boundaries.
Remember, you can’t make people change who they are or what they do. However, by practicing good self-care techniques, you can have an impact on the situation by establishing boundaries and creating a clear plan for managing difficult situations.
Write out your plan for dealing with each situation. Assess the impacts you’re making. Be careful that how you are dealing with the issue is not more draining then it was originally. Identify your personal standards and boundaries as these will be helpful in situations like this.
Things I Can’t Change or Control
You have two basic choices here: accept it or avoid it.
Getting worked up over things you can’t control or change is a waste of your energy.
For example, yelling at the boarding agent at the airport because the plane is delayed for bad weather isn’t going to bump up the take off time. You’re going to get just as far slamming your head into a brick wall. Remember – self-care is more important!
By accepting the fact that you have no power here, releases you of feeling powerless. Instead, focus on what you can change, like keeping an attitude of gratitude. Having a positive attitude will reflect back to you.
The choice of avoiding means removing that item, situation, or person from your life. Sometimes this is necessary when there is no changing it and there is no way you can tolerate it for whatever reason. This also is a way of setting personal standards and boundaries. As you start recognizing and naming more and more of your energy drains, you may be surprised by the list of items that you remove from your life.
Food for Thought
Not all energy drainers are bad. Some do have a return on your investment that re-energizes you. For example, maybe you volunteer at a local food shelter. It takes your time and is a cost to your energy, but it adds a value to your life. Just be aware of whether the payoff is worth your investment, and if it is in line with your values.
My hope is that with this tool, you can asses the energy drainers in your life. If you can make even a small change that will help you smile more, laugh a little louder, or give you the patience to successfully meet your day’s challenges, then this investment was worth the return and you are on the right road for good self-care!
“Personal Transformation: Barriers and Tolerations.” ADD Coach Academy. 3rd ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
“Personal Development: Your Holonic Self.” School of Coaching Mastery. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Ursiny, Timothy E. “4.2.” The Confidence Plan: How to Build a Stronger You. Naperville, IL: Source, 2005. N. pag. Print.