10/07/2014 03:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Power of Taking Care of Yourself

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Next week I will be starting a new adventure; I will begin participation in the Power of Self Program, offered by Marcia Clark and Associates in Southlake, Texas. This year-long program is promoted as an "opportunity for women, enhanced by individual coaching, that offers women greater clarity and a strategic framework for making deliberate choices in all dimensions of their lives."

It sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

Before the program begins, participants are asked to complete a number of assessments. A question on one of the many assessments asked how I would describe this time in my life. My response?: My turn, finally, it's my turn. It just popped into my brain and went right out onto the answer sheet; I didn't even have to think about it.

Now, understand, no one ever asked me to give up anything for anyone. And I don't feel like I gave up my freedom for others. But, as I have come to realize, I did put my own personal needs on the back burner in an effort to provide what I wanted for those I loved. And isn't that what most of us do? Aren't we supposed to work to make things better for our children? Take care of our parents when they become elderly? Make concessions for siblings or friends that we know are important to them?

While I don't regret any decisions I made with my children, family, or friends in mind, I have come to realize that, even though I may have made decisions hoping to meet the needs or desires of those important to me, my actions actually cost all of us more than I would have ever imagined. What I have learned, and learned through my mindfulness practice, is that if you don't take care of yourself then not only will you suffer the consequences, but you will also have less to give others. Even to those you love more than the world itself.

I am not the first to make this mistake, nor will I be the last; when my dad's health was declining, my mom gave almost every second of her time to his care. She didn't think about getting to know others in their new retirement residence and didn't socialize beyond sharing a table at a meal; she didn't play bridge, wasn't interested in taking any of the excursions out to the movies, malls, or restaurants, and only went to resident group functions if they were also appropriate for my dad. And it took a toll. It beat her down and negatively impacted her health, both physically and emotionally.

Putting ourselves on the back burner takes a toll on all who do it. When we take care of ourselves, and put our personal needs on the same level as our children, spouse, and other family and friends, everyone will benefit. We will be happier and healthier, will have more to give others, and what we do give will come from a much healthier vantage point.

What's on that "we all need it" checklist?

  • Devote time and attention to physical and mental well-being: exercise, eat nutritiously, and get enough sleep.
  • Nurture personal relationships at home and within the community; strong ties to those in your life provide you, and them, with a strong support system, as well as the joy you receive from those relationships.
  • Exercise your attitude of gratitude, noticing beauty in art and nature and the daily components of your days. Looking for the positives around us helps remind us of the gifts and treasures that surround us every day.
  • A philosophic or religious point of connection that helps you cope with life's daily changes and challenges. Things are going to happen, and we're not going to love every single one. Yet, with the right attitude, support system, and clear thinking, there is always a "best choice" for every situation.

So, starting today, remember that you count. You are important. You matter. And you deserve the time it takes to take care of yourself.

You are worth it. We all are.

Dr.Wolbe can be contacted via her website at