For the last 9 months, I have been taking yoga classes. I am the participant who runs in after the class has started and, to the best of my stealth-like abilities, tries not to disrupt everyone who is getting centered on their mats.
In the past, I have jumped into the yoga pose or stretch that is being led by the instructor. This past month I changed my approach to starting the yoga class. When I am late, I take a few minutes to find my breath and clear my mind. Often I am the person sitting on her feet with hands to heart while the rest of the class is in forward fold. In the beginning, it was difficult because I wasn’t following instructions. Now, a few times a class, I will stay in a pose longer or do a different pose altogether when my body (usually my back) feels like it needs. I will also go to my first position of hands to heart, sitting on my feet when I need to re-center my breathing or need a break. Whenever it feels awkward to me to stand when others are in down dog, I remind myself to stay strong; my experience and self-care are the reason I am in class.
As a parent and caregiver, it is difficult to practice self-care. It is more difficult to stand strong on your beliefs and put yourself first when making life-impacting decisions. In my practice, I have been working with individuals who are victims of physical and emotional abuse. When I first meet them, I ask if they are seeing a counselor and if they are not, I emphasize the importance of being in therapy because I am not specifically trained to help them with the mental health and life challenges. I have been pleased to learn that if they aren’t seeing a counselor, they make an appointment to see one within the time I work on their case. What I can do for my client is to compliment them on taking charge of their life and standing strong with their decision to leave their abuser.
In family law and custody cases, I have learned it is difficult for a parent to stand strong when co-parenting with their ex-spouse or other parent. When parents divorce, it is difficult for the parent who has shouldered the parenting responsibilities to allow for the other parent to step up. My observations in the last six years suggest it also doesn’t happen when parents live in the same house. There tends to be a parent who takes the lead on doctor visits, playdates, birthday parties and other kid-centered things.
As I talk with my clients about holding the other parent accountable for being a parent (i.e. legal custody responsibilities), I coach them to stand strong when co-parenting. When a client is getting divorced it seems nearly impossible for him or her to believe the child(ren) can be well cared for when the ex-spouse has more responsibility. More often than not, if the person stands strong and provides the space for the other person to co-parent it works out.
Picture yourself standing tall in a super hero-type pose. This is your mental image for “standing strong”. You don’t carry other people on your back and only swoop in and help the other person if it is a life-threatening emergency. Practice standing strong at work, at home and with those you encounter. It is your responsibility to care for yourself.