I’m sure you know that when you have a checking or savings account, you need to put money into it before you can take any out. And if the total amount of the checks you’ve written and the withdrawals you’ve made is equal to the amount of money that was in the account, then you can’t spend any more money from it until you’ve made another deposit to it. And, of course, there are unpleasant consequences for spending more money than is in the account.
Besides knowing about checking and savings accounts, you very likely know that when you have a chronic illness, doing things for others – such as your partner or spouse, your children, and other important people in your life, is like writing a check on what I’ll call your energy and emotional wellness account. And just like with the other accounts, when the total of the “checks you write” exceeds the deposits you’ve made, your account becomes overdrawn and you suffer the consequences.
As I said, you are probably already aware of the idea that you can become “overdrawn” when you do things for others without “making deposits” by taking care of yourself. But knowing about it is one thing, and acting on it is another.
So as a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I’m going to encourage you to take action: Create your own currency and give it a name. (As an aside: several years ago in my family we created an internal monetary system and called the basic unit a “doogle.”) Then assign values to the things you do for others and the things you do for yourself. For example, on the minus side, taking your child to soccer practice could be a five unit task and fixing dinner for your spouse could be ten units, while on the plus side, spending time relaxing could be worth seven units and getting a massage could be worth fifteen units. You don’t need to assign values to everything you do, but it’s important to assign them to your most frequent and most draining tasks.
The next step is to keep track of your balance and take care of yourself so it stays positive. When you do, not only will you start feeling better, but when you tell your children that you can’t take then to their friends’ parties and other places they want to go because your account balance is too low, they will probably start becoming much more aware and supportive of your self-care endeavors.
Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people struggling with chronic illnesses feel a lot better and enjoy life a lot more.
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