What is codependency? and how can practicing self-care help?
Codependency stems from a place of kindness, helpfulness, and compassion. Codependency is born from a wish or a need to help others. Codependency is often a learned behavior that is passed down from generation to generation, especially in families where a parent is mentally ill and/or an alcoholic or addict. Codependency impacts your ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. If you are codependent, you may feel like you have lost yourself in the lives of others’ and forgotten who you are.
Codependents are raised to believe that taking care of ourselves, putting our own needs ahead of others’ needs is selfish!
There is a HUGE difference between practicing self-care and being selfish. When we practice self-care, we understand that if we neglect our own needs we are no longer effective helpers. We become burned out. We are tired and cranky. We have little patience for small annoyances. We may snap at the people we love, potentially damaging those relationships. We anticipate others’ needs and wonder why they don’t do the same for us. We may start to feel resentful and bitter. This is not who we are. This is not how we want to be in the world, but we can’t help it because we have given so much of ourselves away to others that we are depleted. Codependency develops when you are so focused on doing for/caring about/ helping others that you neglect yourself in the process.
Signs you might be codependent:
- You worry a lot, especially about others
- You are stressed out and exhausted much of the time
- You are a perfectionist
- You tend to be “in crisis” a lot more often than others
- You like to be in control
- You are scared of anger (your own and others’)
- You stay super busy in order to avoid your feelings
- You seem to attract needy people
- You feel guilty saying “no”
- You rescue others from their mistakes
- Your boundaries are weak or non-existent
- You have low self-esteem
Learning how to practice self-care is an important step towards healing from codependency. Self-care starts with re-discovering who you are and re-connecting to the things that bring you joy and/or happiness. Self-care is learning to say “no” and creating balance in your life. Self-care is making sure your batteries are fully charged before you cast your helping net out into the world. Self-care is selfless. Self-care is loving yourself enough that you make your own health and well-being a priority.
How do I do that? Although co-dependents are masters at helping others, many codependents have no idea how to take care of themselves (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Here are some ideas to get you started:
Emotional self-care ideas:
- Develop better boundaries and practice saying “no” – this is excruciatingly difficult for codependents (more on this in part 2)
- Forgive yourself
- Treat yourself with kindness and respect
- Play (if you have forgotten how – think back to what you enjoyed as a child)
Physical self-care ideas:
- Eat regularly and mindfully – nourish your body instead of eating whatever is easiest
- Move your body – no need to run a marathon (unless that’s your gig) – go for a walk or a hike, ride your bike, dance, practice yoga….
- Wear your favorite clothes
- Get some bodywork (massage, reiki, rolfing, physical therapy)
Spiritual self-care ideas:
- Spend time in nature and/or with children and animals
- Practice gratitude
- Develop a practice that nourishes your mind and your soul – however that resonates for you
- Read literature that deepens your faith and expands your understanding of yourself and the universe
If you would like help healing from codependency, I invite you to schedule an appointment so we can co-create a self-care plan for you as you take the first step towards healing from codependency and working towards a happier, more balanced life. You’re worth it!