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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Why Caring For Others is a Two-Way Street

Posted in: News
Why Caring For Others is a Two-Way Street

For the latest article on the Symmetry Massage blog,  we wanted to talk about treating ourselves.


We all know Valentine’s Day is all about treating other people – it’s important to show our partners, family, and friends how much we care for them.


So many of us are givers. We put so much energy into finding the right gift or writing heartfelt messages in greeting cards.


But we don’t place enough emphasis on how caring for others is a two-way street.


Dr. Gabor Maté is a Hungarian-Canadian physician and author who specializes in childhood development, trauma, and addictions.


In his written work, he talks about the effects of stress on caregivers who look after their spouses. He cites a quote from Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School who said “People are interconnected, and so their health is interconnected.”


Many would agree that the strain of caring for family and friends who are ill can be intense. 


But why shouldn’t we feel similar effects on a smaller scale when caring for those close to us in different ways, whether through acts of service, emotional support, or any everyday action that shows affection?


Why shouldn’t we feel physical strain even when both the energy invested, and the result of our energy are positive?


When we invest our energy in caring for others, we often forget to pay attention to the signals our body sends us (fatigue, headaches, muscle tension). 


The first step is acknowledging these signals. Then comes the responsibility to carve out time

 to seek remedies for these problems – which often makes people feel guilty.


But we need to be able to receive too, otherwise you risk pulling energy from the well until it is dry.


So how do we invest in ourselves in a way that enables us to receive? Taking time to practice activities that make you more open to receiving is a good start. Meditation, yoga, and other mindful activities are a great start.


But if you think about it, it’s not the full picture. There are other ways to put yourself in situations to receive. 


Since it is Valentine’s month, it’s time to think about treating yourself by opening yourself up to receiving gifts from others – and “gifts” can come in many forms. 


Massage is a great example of one of these forms. Devoting time to allow someone to pay attention to you, and your needs is an important part of forging a connection with yourself.


So much of our lives is cerebral (in the mind, thinking about how we feel), as opposed to physical (feeling  how your body feels). An experienced practitioner shows you how to feel and how to notice the little things – especially the connections between your body’s natural systems.


This is especially important for many of us who have fallen into the habit of ignoring our body’s cries for help. But this skill can be re-learned quickly. 


Just like we mentioned in our New Year’s article on sticking to your wellness goals, the initial purpose of our practice is to retrain our body out of any pain that it is in. This process can be picked up or resumed at any time.


It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on yourself frees up more physical, emotional, and spiritual energy to connect better with your partner, family, and friends. And that’s not selfish. 


So take some time to treat yourself this Valentine’s Day, and talk with the important people in your life about the importance of a “both ways” approach to caring. Many folks need a bit of a push to learn how to receive, but most won’t ask for it.