Help wanted

Image courtesy mrpuen/

As a nurse I know myself and many of my colleagues get caught up in our “caring instincts” and spend the majority of our lives focused on helping others. This is not a bad thing. However, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that unless we take care of ourselves and our own health we won’t be able to effectively  help others .

Anyone that is a “helper” or “care-giver” can get so wrapped up in helping another that he or she forgets how important  caring for oneself is. Of course, if we are incapacitated by illness we are forced to look at our own health, and it is obvious that we are in no position to help others. But this morning, I am being “led” to examine another way of helping that often gets blocked by my lack of self-care behaviors—-and that is helping others by example.

Here is what P., Bill; W., Todd; S., Sara (Sara (2009-06-03). Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects – Steps Six and Seven (p. 19). Hazelden Publishing. Kindle Edition.) have to say about helping: ” Helping others to stand, however, is not quite as meaningful as helping others learn to walk. Nor is it as meaningful as helping others find a direction and destination to walk toward. We help others by setting the example rather than telling them the example.” As I read this slowly this morning, I found myself “mentally nodding” my agreement with what it has to say about helping someone to stand and to walk. What  really hit me in the proverbial “gut” though was the importance of teaching by example rather than with just our words. This truth isn’t just for nurses—I think it is important for everyone to realize the impact one’s example has on others.

If I am working with someone who is a Type 2 diabetic and desperately needs to lose weight, I can say and do “all the right things” to motivate them to lose weight but if I am obese myself there is a good chance they won’t pay attention to what I am saying.  Likewise, In terms of recovery, if I am trying to help “newcomers” to understand that once they have stopped drinking or using it is essential for them to begin practicing spiritual principles in their lives but do not show them how by example, my poor example will speak louder than my words.  When what we say and do are not congruent our effectiveness in helping others is adversely affected.

The good news about setting an example is you don’t have to do it perfectly; you just have to try to do it  to the best of your ability. Taking care of our own health begins with willingness to change. Willingness (motivation) is often the hardest part of the change process, so much so that most interventions in addictions medicine today focus on helping someone’s motivation level to change rather than on the perfect, complete change of the targeted behavior.

I need to willing to do what it takes to change my behavior to nurture my own physical and spiritual  health. Some days my willingness to change is fully present; it wanes on others. However, in terms of self-care, I have learned a new “truth” in one of my book-study groups:  “The fact that I will daily question my willingness to change will increase my ability to be increasingly willing” (P., Bill; W., Todd; S., Sara, 2009-06-03, Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects – Steps Six and Seven, p. 18,. Hazelden Publishing. Kindle Edition).

I know, that last quote is a bit difficult to understand….at least it has been for me. I have had to read it over and over again. To me it means when I question my willingness to practice healthy behaviors it brings me one step closer to being motivated to actually start trying to change whatever needs to be changed. The key is awareness, breaking free of the “business” of my daily routines, considering myself and my own health, and questioning whether I am willing to “practice what I preach” in all aspects of my life. Sometimes I don’t like the answer, but at least I know I am making progress in the right directions just by being aware and questioning my own motivation.

Please comment and share your ideas about helping others by helping yourself. May God bless and keep you.