86: When everyone needs help, take care of yourself first
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When it feels like the world is crumbling around you, and so many people need help, how do you know who to help first? Who is the most important person to take care of?
You might be surprised to find out it’s not anyone out there. Nope. The most important person for you to take care of is the person reading this blog post.
*Hear this topic much more in depth by pressing the triangle play button near the top of this post!*
My inbox has seen a lot of emails lately from well meaning folks asking how to figure out how to help all the people, and also how to deal with the overwhelming sadness and frustration that comes with not being able to help everyone who is currently struggling.
A word of caution before you go out and try to save all the people: the most important person for you to take care of is yourself.
Self-care is different for everyone…
Taking a break to drink some tea and relax in a bubble bath might be your thing, but that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. Self care means a lot of things and it’s different for everyone. Tea and bubble baths make really good graphics for social media, but those aren’t things I would choose if I need to take care of me. Maybe self-care looks like dancing in the kitchen to swing music, planning a bigger garden, stepping away from social media, walking on the banks of a river, or deciding to remove yourself from certain commitments, conversations, or obligations.
…but “taking care of you” doesn’t just refer to popular self-care methods
Self care has become quite a buzz phrase, but it really should refer to taking care of yourself in all the ways—physically, mentally, financially, spiritually—your whole person. While bubble baths, a glass of wine, or good music might be helpful in some ways, we need our entire being to be filled up in order to help others best.
The truth is, we can’t always help….
I have had so many people ask me for flour and yeast in the last couple weeks. People know I do a lot of baking and probably have some flour and yeast on hand, and they want some of what I have.
Listen. There is nothing I want more than to give everyone in the world flour and yeast—or at the very least, spin myself into overdrive and bake for them. But if I gave flour and yeast to everyone who has asked me for it in the last couple weeks, I wouldn’t have any left here to use for my own family.
In a from scratch family, flour doesn’t last that long. 25 pounds of flour lasts my family about 2 weeks. And if I baked for everyone who has asked me to bake for them (which I would love to do) I would use up the resources I have here—and then be in the same situation as everyone else who is looking for flour and yeast.
That doesn’t fix the problem at all. It just changes who is dealing with it.
It’s hard to want to help everyone. We’re taught from an early age that we should help whenever we can, and when we can’t, we’re just being selfish. However, the current situation many of us find ourselves in has us questioning what is the best way to help in such an overwhelming situation when resources are short.
I have friends whose small businesses will probably not recover from this. That’s not being dramatic—that’s a level headed assessment they’ve made. I have friends who own businesses who are currently trying to figure out how long they can pay their employees, and what to do when they get to the point they can’t anymore: do they let them go and hire them back? And will there even be an opportunity to hire them back?
You and I hear these things and want to help everyone. We want to send them scads of money that we might not even have. It’s hard to want to help everyone and not know how to move forward. We just see there is a problem and know we want to fix it and overwhelm ourselves in the process.
…but we are most helpful to others if we help ourselves first.
So what can we do?
Put on your own oxygen mask first.
And remember you can’t fill from an empty cup.
And understand that taking care of yourself and your family is not selfish.
Being a martyr and working yourself to exhaustion in order to help others, or depleting your resources in order to help others, doesn’t fix anything—it just changes who needs help. You may be filling a hole in one place only to dig the same hole somewhere else.
You are a bigger help to people when you are functioning at the best you can, than when you give everything of yourself or of your resources and end up essentially turning the tables to be the one who needs help.
And trust me, I have over thought this and over thought this. Yes, figure out the ways you can help. But you don’t have to fix everything. You can’t fix everything. It’s not your job to fix everything.
It’s your job to take care of you, so you can take care of who you can take care of. Your family. Your extended family. Close friends. Whoever is your inner circle. Because when people take care of themselves, they can take care of their inner circle. And when everyone’s inner circle is taken care of, what an amazing world we would have full of people who can then go out and serve even more people.
Ma Ingalls understood this. So did your great-grandparents.
Many people have told me recently that people in the Great Depression took in total strangers in order to help them. And while that may be true, the fact of the matter is that the kind helpful folks of the Great Depression couldn’t do that unless they had a home to take those people into that had enough food to share.
And they only had that if they’d taken care of themselves and their homes first.
Yes, tough times are the times for us to step up and help our neighbors. I absolutely agree with that, and in fact, without getting political, I would say that us helping our neighbors is really our job and no one else’s. But I can’t stress enough that if you aren’t taken care of, you cannot be effective in helping anyone else.
And if you are someone who is really driven to help others and save the world, let that passion to help others be the reason for deciding to take care of yourself.