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Learning the Art of Looking After Yourself

Life coach, Sayeda Habib advises sisters on how they can give to others while taking care of themselves
in the process.

On a scale of 1-10, how energised are you feeling these days? Are you finding that you have plenty to give, or are you feeling sapped, tired, or even resentful a lot of the time? If your answer is leaning towards the latter, then it may well be that you’re giving away all your energy without keeping any in reserve for your own needs. Take sister *Salimah, for example. She is a devoted mother who is determined to give her children every possible opportunity. As a strong believer in a good education, she enrolled her children in a variety of extra activities. Not only was she spending time driving the children to swimming, tennis, and ballet class, but she was also putting in lots of hours at home with homework. About a year ago, she learned that her son was not progressing in school as well as he should have been. He was also diagnosed with behavioural problems. She continued with all the activities and added further hours working with her son. Soon Salimah found herself at the doctor with her back giving in. She then became quite ill with numerous problems occurring simultaneously. Eventually, her body couldn’t take it anymore and she had to give up a few of the children’s activities. She is now working on her health but she no longer feels that she has the same ability to cope.


Sometimes, mothers push themselves that little bit too much, not realising that they may be setting themselves up for burnout later on. Would you prefer to do a little bit less and truly be there for your children and family when they need you? Or would you rather aim to be everything to everyone only to find yourself burning out? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? However, whether you’re a mum or not, you may be giving of yourself and not quite looking after your own needs. So let’s explore a few ways in which you can truly give the best of yourself to others while also honouring your own needs.


Stop the resentment
Have you ever found yourself feeling resentful about how much you’re giving in a particular relationship? Do you feel that it’s one-way traffic? Perhaps you find that you’re expected to give but that are unable to demand anything in return; such a situation can arise in any relationship, including one with your colleagues, spouse, parents or even your own children. If you continue feeling resentful, then this may leave you feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. So how do you change it? Begin to set some boundaries for yourself. Train yourself to respectfully say no when it is appropriate. The other person may not be aware of what you expect of them, so communicate your expectations. This may be especially true of children. Let them know what you require from them, but do this in a way that honours them too. Often, making requests is a more powerful way to communicating your needs than making demands. This allows the person to feel honoured as well as you stating what you need. Remember that people will not necessarily know what you expect and you may need to educate them in a respectful and loving manner. Insha Allah you will find some common ground to build from.


Avoid the guilt trap
Do you feel bad if you take time out for yourself, do something enjoyable or buy yourself something nice? Many mums feel guilty about doing anything for themselves. Not only does the guilt tarnish the moment, but it also demoralises the spirit. Each time we feel guilty about something, we feel bad that we did it, and then further destructive behaviour takes place. For example, eating chocolate and then feeling guilty about breaking our diet. If you notice, what will then happen is that we then figure there’s no point in trying so we eat some more and feel even worse. Not only did we not enjoy the chocolate, we spend the next few hours or days beating ourselves up about it. Guilt stops us from giving ourselves what we need; and that in turn diminishes our energy even further. Avoid the guilt trap if you want to truly be at your best and give of your best. Next time you choose to do something nice for yourself, remind yourself that you need to be good to yourself so you can then be good to others. Check if you’re not doing something that is against your needs or values. If so, then make the adjustments you need to make what you’re doing work within your values. Practice giving yourself these small joys and you will find that you will have more to give to others. You will be in a happier, more fulfilled frame of mind that will show through in your actions.

Be clear of your intentions
Imagine for a moment that you’re in a doctor’s office. You first see the nurse and though she is nice enough, you can tell that she isn’t really interested in the job. She is going through the motions; she is polite enough, but there’s no sense of warmth or caring. Why do you think that may be? It may well be because she has become bogged down with the daily monotony and lost the inspiration behind her choice. Losing sight of our intention means that we’ve forgotten why we chose the path we’re on. If we can’t remember why we decided to do something, then we will probably feel unfulfilled doing it. So if you find yourself feeling tired, upset, or resentful about giving your energies out in whatever capacity, then take a step back and reconnect to why you chose to do what you’re doing. This is especially important when you’re a mum and you’re giving of yourself all the time. Take time to reconnect to why you are doing what you do and what inspires you about it, and most importantly what it brings to your life. Once you keep this intention at the forefront of your mind, you will find that your energies become renewed more easily, insha Allah.

Refill your tank
Do you get a lot of colds, or do you feel just a little bit under the weather quite often? If you are feeling de-motivated, irritable and tired, this could be a powerful sign that you’re doing too much and may well be heading for a burnout. Think about the last time you felt a little bit under the weather and didn’t take time to rest. Did you get worse, and then take longer to heal? Not taking the time to refuel on our own energies can have devastating effects. Yes, being a wife, mother, and a professional has its demands, but you can’t meet those demands if your tank is empty. The best way to refuel is to do so as a matter of habit. Take some time out of your regular routine to do something that will help rebuild your physical and emotional energies. Think of things that you truly enjoy and wish to sustain over time. Something as small as taking a couple of hours off twice a month to meet with friends, or joining a yoga class will have wonderful, far-reaching effects. Now is the time to start establishing the habit of honouring your own needs. Remember, life will get busy and things will come up that will need to be dealt with. Do not be tempted to give this refuelling time up. If you need to reschedule once, that’s ok, but make sure you continue on the path to looking after yourself by giving yourself the time you need. Once you begin to honour your own needs, you will have so much more to give to others. You will be able to live in a way that truly inspires you. Also, you will be able to teach your children how to strike this important balance as well.


Remember that fulfilled women make fulfilled mothers. I sincerely hope that you will find these tips useful in creating a balance between looking after yourself as well as you do others. My best wishes to you and I hope that you will find yourself feeling energised and renewed, insha Allah.


Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com