While You Take Care of Others, Who Takes Care of You?©

 Employee Services Management by Rita Emmett

Who DOES take care of you? Whatís your answer?

When I presented this question in the opening session at the first Chicago NESRA Conference, I received an incredible variety of replies. Some said their families or friends or employers took care of them.

Several told me that God takes care of them, and I, too, believe that God cares for us, but I also believe that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Thereís the old joke about the fellow who prayed to God to win the lottery ... and didnít win. The next week he was on his knees again praying to win. Again, no luck. The third week he prayed with all his heart to win the lottery, and again didnít win. At this point, heís so angry that he yells at God, "Iíve prayed so hard to win the lottery. Why havenít you helped me?" And he hears a booming voice answer, "Look, at least meet me half way. BUY A TICKET!" I believe we must meet God half way when it comes to taking care of us.

Once, when I asked this question "who takes care of you?" a woman replied, "I do, but Iím not doing a very good job". Her answer could come from many of us, couldnít it?

We really know that it is up to each of us to take care of ourselves. If someone asked you what others in your life need, you could probably sit down and write a list - a lengthy, fairly accurate list - of THEIR needs. But when the question pertains to OUR OWN needs, most of us have never given it any thought. How can anyone else be in charge of knowing what we need when we donít have a clue what we need ourselves?

So - intellectually at least - we know itís up to us to take care of ourselves, but in our hearts, donít we catch ourselves hoping - just a little - that someone will come along to ease our pain or lighten our burden?

Yet think about it. How can anyone else take care of our needs if they don't KNOW what we need? And how could they possibly know what we need if WE don't know what we need? Then - to further complicate it - because we are human, our needs change all the time.

Havenít you ever experienced being so angry that you tell everyone near you. "Stay away from me. Keep out of my face. I need space. Gr-r-r-r" (Well, maybe YOUíVE never said that, but youíve probably read about people who do...) Then , a week later, you find yourself thinking, "Iím so upset. I wish someone would just hug me"

So - when all is said and done - you DO know the answer to the question, "While youíre taking care of others, who takes care of you?". If you ever find yourself saying "No one", then you know YOU are not doing what needs to be done. Thereís a job to be done and itís up to you to do it.


Iíve been conducting a sort of "unofficial, unscientific" survey over the past 2 1/2 years. When people call me to request information about the names of topics I present, Iíve been asking them, "Whatís your toughest challenge?"

Work, money, health and time pressures are pretty hefty concerns, but the top challenge - the top stressor - of over 400 people is "caring for others".

NESRA members have the usual "caring" situations that others have - caring for aging parents, kids (who never seem to leave home ... and when they do, some of them "go forth and multiply", them return home again), co-workers, friends, neighbors, and other family members.

And NESRA members have the additional challenge of constantly trying to come up with new and different, exciting and interesting events. Plus, they are trying to keep these events under control when - as weíve all observed - crowds, weather and so much else is simply beyond anyoneís control.

As you strive to "enhance employee quality of life", you KNOW you need to also care for the quality of YOUR life, but -- well -- you get to the end of the day of caring fro everyone else, and there just doesnít seem to be any time or energy left to care for YOU, right?


A great place to start caring for yourself is to stop expecting perfection. When we barrel through life expecting ourselves to be perfect, expecting others to be perfect and/or expecting life to be perfect, we place almost unbearable pressure on ourselves and others. Nothing causes stress like perfectionism. It also destroys our self-esteem and our relationships. It also makes us crazy.

So, if perfection can make us crazy, what are we supposed to strive for -- mediocrity? No, not at all. If you have anything to do with NESRA, my guess is that you would never accept a standard of mediocrity. What we need to recognize is the difference between excellence and perfection.

The biggest difference is that excellence is achievable, perfection seldom is.


One variation on this business of perfection is the fear that most people have of making a mistake. Part of being human - and therefore "imperfect" - is making mistakes, yet so many people beat themselves up and refuse to forgive themselves when they make a mistake.

One of my favorite quotes is, "The person who never makes a mistake probably isnít doing anything".

As long as we are involved with and living life, we will make mistakes. The couch potato who never does anything is likely to make way less mistakes than people like you who are involved in a complicated profession -- and are involved in life. This quote is so powerful, Iíve had a postcard printed up and keep it at my desk to remind me that as long as Iím involved with LIFE, I will make more mistakes than if I were a couch potato. If youíd like a postcard, call me. Iíll send you one.

We donít have the choice of whether we can live a life of zero mistakes or not. Because weíre human, the mistakes WILL be there. But we DO have a choice of whether we will beat ourselves up over the mistake or use the mistake as a learning lesson.

Have you lived long enough to know that much of what youíve learned in life has been from your mistakes?


Now itís time to decide on some action.

What can you start doing today that will bring some fun or joy in to your life? Itís almost as if Iíve been trying to "sell" you on the importance of taking care of yourself. Your time spent reading this is wasted if you donít make a decision to DO one positive, joyful change this week. If you let the time pass, youíll probably never start.

It can be as small as taking some quiet time 5 minutes a week or as big as returning to college. It can be a "one-shot deal" or something youíll do every day. You canít go wrong as long as you begin doing something to take care of you now. This is definitely an assignment which is "different strokes for different folks". What recharges one personís battery can drain anotherís.

Sometimes it helps to remember what delighted you as a child. A woman once told me she was an "out door kid" who never watched TV, always was outside. But now she had reached a point, she said, that the only time she would smell fresh air was from her house to the car, and from her car to work.

She started going outside for walks during her lunch hour a couple of times per week. Soon her walking-time expanded to after work and week-ends, and she re-discovered the joy of walking in the rain and the diamond sparkle of freshly fallen snow in the moon light. Then she found herself drawn to parks and a local hiking trail. Now, several years later, she finds herself being an "out door woman" who hikes and rides a bike regularly. Incidentally, she has lost 47 pounds and now feels "human and healthy", as she phrases it.

Here are a few random ideas for self-care. Maybe NONE of them will grab you, but the hope is that they will open your mind or your heart to start a new, healthier, more balanced, more tranquil, less stressed way of life.

  1. Unplug the phone and enjoy some peace and quiet
  2. Sign up for a class
  3. Buy yourself a present
  4. Laugh
  5. Pet an animal
  6. Spend time with a small child (consider borrowing one, the parents might appreciate the break)
  7. Try a new restaurant
  8. Call a friend - long distance
  9. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  10. Make love
  11. Read a book for no practical purpose but enjoyment
  12. Work out
  13. Have lunch with a good friend or someone youíd like to know better
  14. Fix something thatís been broken
  15. Give a hug
  16. Receive a hug
  17. Blow bubbles
  18. Do something you love to do
  19. Do nothing but listen to your favorite music for 20 minutes
  20. Make a list of your favorite activities

Now take a piece of paper and write an Action Plan. Date it and list three things you will start doing to take care of yourself and add joy to your life. Then put it in your wallet, calendar or on your mirror where you will see it every day.

If you are caring for others and feel you canít carve out the time or energy to care for you, consider this. What will happen to those others if you burn out and are replaced by someone who doesnít care as much as you do?

One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to get rid of the guilt; to start reminding yourself that every time you use some form of self-care, you have paused to "re-charge your battery" and will come back more loving and giving, more caring and ENERGIZED.

Back to the opening question: "Who DOES take care of you?" I hope itís you. You deserve it, you know.


Want to write a book? Go to Ritaís web site www.RitaEmmett.com and click on The Writerís Room. Take a look at Rita's The Procrastinator's Guide To Authorship: Stop Putting Off Your Success. Find a free article about writing proposals in The Writerís Room

Donít procrastinate in going there now.

Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinatorís Handbook and The Clutter-Busting Handbook, is a professional speaker who presents Keynotes and Seminars nationwide. She can be reached at 847-699-9950 and email is Rita@RitaEmmett.com

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