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Lean on me – lean on you

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I call a friend. You all know how much I enjoy spending time with people, and for me, nothing beats a good chat with a good friend. If it’s face-to-face, even better. Add a cappuccino (or dare I say, a glass of wine) – the best!

My friend and I both desperately needed to talk, to lean on each other. Bill Withers expressed it so beautifully in his song Lean on me:

Lean on me,
when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend,
I’ll help you carry on…
for it won’t be long,
till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

My friend is going through a difficult patch. Her elderly parents have moved in, and her mom is immobile. This has completely changed life in their home. After listening, I asked her: How are you taking care of yourself? She was shocked! It was a question that she has never considered. “But I’m too busy taking care of everyone else,” she said.

I have also been feeling a bit fatigued lately. A while back, I told you that my husband, Gys was diagnosed with cancer. He has been incredibly brave, and his treatment schedule has been harrowing. The good news is that he’s been given the all-clear twice now and his next check-up is three months from now. Life always happens in ebbs and flows, and low points and high points are often grouped together. It has been a difficult time for us as a family as my daughter, Gabi, has now been experiencing paralysis in her left hand. It’s been six weeks so far with no improvement. In addition, my schedule has been ramped up with talks and interviews around my new book, and this time of year is busy with workshops, seminars and meetings. I like to help and very seldom turn down a speaking engagement or meeting request. Trying to make a difference, even for one person, makes it all worthwhile.

My friend threw my question right back at me and asked me how I was taking care of myself. It’s a good question. I always say that if you don’t look after yourself, you will be of no use to anyone else.

We are compassionate human beings, and compassion is probably one of the most powerful forces in the world. It embraces the noble traits of grace, empathy and love; it drives hope; helps us see the light in the darkness and makes us feel loved. We’ve seen compassion in action all over the world. Everyone I know has spent time helping others, being kinder, gentler and offering support. It’s just in our nature. We want to help. We want to be there for the people we love.

But we do have to watch out for compassion fatigue, defined by psychologists as exhaustion on a physiological, biological and emotional level brought on by prolonged periods of stress. You may be feeling more tired than usual, or more forgetful, even burnt-out. Decisions become harder to make, your coping skills diminish, and life just feels too much.

So, here’s my question to you: How are you looking after yourself? Are you self-compassionate? Do you take time out to self-care and self-love? I know it sounds easier than it really is. I get that. It is hard to self-care when you are so busy caring for everyone else in your life. But you simply have to make yourself a priority too. If you falter and fall, you will not be there to look after the ones you love.

Apart from making time for chats with my friends, I self-care by taking long, warm baths. I exercise every day, take my daily vitamins and make sure that I’m always able to serve my family fresh vegetables and herbs from my garden. If things get really tough, I practice gratitude to remind myself just how special my world is.

Find someone to lean on if you need a helping hand… they will need to lean on you too at some point. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

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