empty-cupSometimes, we ARE called up on to help someone in need. Ask any caregiver of an aging parent or a sick child. It’s necessary. It’s right. And it’s good.

But here’s the thing: when “helping” others is a continuing pattern in relationships or even a way of life, it’s not good for us. Especially if we’re the ones doing all the helping.

This might sound counterintuitive, but:

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron has written that we help others to work on ourselves. That is true. But she also wrote that we work on ourselves to help others. And that is key.

We have to fill our own cup first before we help others. It sets us up for the work ahead.  We can’t help others if we are not healthy and whole ourselves.  We must attend to our own needs to be of service to anyone else.

Moms know this well, even if they do not pay attention to their own needs. They know that when they are frazzled, tense, overly busy and unfulfilled, they’re unable to be the best support to their families. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Caregivers of elderly parents know this, too. When someone’s trying to juggle family life, career and other responsibilities with giving care to a parent, something has to give. That something is often the caregiver’s sanity. It’s perhaps the biggest problem caregivers have: no respite from responsibilities.

When we overload ourselves so we don’t burden others

Sometimes, we think we know what the right thing to do is: overload ourselves so we do not burden others. But that’s not healthy, as many caregivers discover, when they, themselves, get very sick from the stress of all they are trying to carry.

It’s necessary to set limits. Don’t carry the burden alone, even if you think you have to. It may take some creativity to find relief and a few moments to yourself. But that creativity will pay off in your ability to really be there for the other person. To really help.

Because it’s really true:  you can’t pour from an empty cup.

This is another in my series of blog posts on setting limits and healthy boundaries. If stress is getting out of hand. hypnotherapy may help. Explore that possibility here.

And remember, you can always sign up for a free call to discuss it with me.

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