Mid-Life Wisdom: Knowing How to Care for
Caring for myself
is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. --Audre
Lorde, 20th Century American writer
The other day while talking with my twenty-year old
daughter on the phone, she lamented, "I’m feeling
run down and stressed out. Between my job, relationships
and daily responsibilities, I don’t seem to have time
for me anymore!" As I continued to listen, I could
hear the frustration in her voice and recognized how
much she sounded like the old me, the way I used to
sound and feel from taking care of others rather than
taking care of myself. "What are you doing for
yourself?" I inquired. My daughter replied, "I
feel too guilty putting myself first so it hardly ever
happens." I reminded her that it’s truly okay—in
fact, necessary—for her to take care of
herself. And, the more she practices honoring herself,
the easier it will become and the less guilt-ridden she
No one will ever honor us more than we honor
ourselves. I remember writing these same words in my
first book, Gifts of the Soul, several years ago.
And as much as I recognized the truth in those words, it
has taken reaching my 40’s for me to actually put it
into practice. Mid-life is such a powerful place for
many. It’s often a time when our children are becoming
independent; an age when we question our life’s
purpose; an era of wanting to strengthen the connection
with our soul; a period of looking inward and taking
stock of life so we may release what is no longer
valuable in exchange for what has deeper meaning. Such
introspection requires taking time to become quiet;
listening to our thoughts, feelings and heart-felt
urges, and attaining balance within every area of our
This is also a scary time for us because it feels like
we’re in a void, an unfamiliar empty space that needs
to be filled up with something—anything. Many
women try to fill the void with a new relationship,
baby, or through over attaching to children (who yearn
to be free and independent). In closer analysis,
however, a woman’s fulfillment comes not from any of
these "diversions," but rather, from honoring
her life experiences and inner gifts and sharing them
My experience has been that women, especially,
struggle with the importance of taking care of one’s
self. Many women feel to do so is selfish or
insensitive. We’ve been taught that our value stems
from nurturing the emotional and physical needs of
others. Men, too, struggle with taking care of
themselves, having been programmed to believe that their
worth is derived from their performance, career success,
and financial support.
Taking care of one’s self, I’m discovering, is at
the core of a meaningful life. Research has shown that
when people don’t know how to take care of their needs
they tend to experience higher rates of depression,
illness, isolation and self-destructive behaviors. Julia
Cameron summed it up when she wrote, "There is a
connection between self-nurturing and self respect. If I
allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people's
urges for me to be more normal or more nice, I sell
myself out. They may like me better, feel more
comfortable with my more conventional appearance or
behavior, but I will hate myself. Hating myself, I may
lash out at myself and others." When we don’t
take care of ourselves, we tend to become irritable with
others believing that they’re the problem.
Further, when we don’t know how to meet our own needs
we expect more from others than what is realistic. We
become "energy leeches," sucking and draining
the energy from those around us because we’re not
taking the time to nurture the love within ourselves.
Observe your life right now and notice what you are
doing to take care of yourself. It’s never too late to
begin. Here are some tips for taking care of your self
that I personally use and have taught my clients to
implement into their daily lives:
- Record your nightly dreams. The more you write them
down the more you will recall, and the more you recall
the more you will begin to understand the immense wisdom
they hold for you.
- Receive some form of bodywork on a regular basis.
This might involve acupuncture, deep tissue massage, hot
stone therapy or whatever form appeals to you. Daily
exercise is also extremely important and a powerful way
to take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Work with a holistic counselor to learn how to set
healthy boundaries. Boundaries include physical, sexual,
emotional and spiritual. Learn to protect your precious
life force energy so you do not become drained. It’s
okay to say "No" without feeling guilty.
- Spend time in nature—alone.
- Pay attention to your body and what it is telling
you. The body is a phenomenal instrument for reflecting your true thoughts and feelings.
Notice reactions in your body and learn to trust them.
The more you work with your body, the more you’ll know
what you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Connect with like-minded people who are supportive
of your emotional and spiritual growth and life’s work. Be willing to release those
individuals who are stuck and are not ready to move
forward in an empowered and healing way.
- Practice being in the present. Keep bringing your
attention out of the past and future and into this very
moment. Being in the present will energetically
rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.
- Communicate with those around you. Tell them that
you love them, yet in order to be a balanced and happy person you must do certain things
just for you—then do them. Don’t wait for others to
give you permission to take care of yourself, it will
never happen. Taking care of yourself will allow you to
be an amazingly powerful role model for others.
As the phone conversation with my daughter concluded,
she said, "I know I need to take better care of
myself but I still don’t know what to do." At
that point I questioned, "Do you really want
to, or are you getting some hidden benefit from taking
care of everybody else?" "Hmmm," I heard
her say, "I’ll have to think about that
one and if it’s true, I must have learned it from you,
Mom!" Gulp…she was right. Healing works, each
generation gets smarter and quicker than the one before.
Isn’t mid-life grand?
© Copyright 2003
Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved.
Read Laura's Past Columns:
2003 Column - "Dreaming a Happy Life"
2003 Column - "Living the Authentic Life"
2003 Column - "Rising Above the Battleground"
2003 Column - "Healing Through Your
2003 Column - "Are You Going with the Flow?"
2003 Column - "Living the Soulful Life"
2002 Column - "The Power to Change"
2002 Column - "Peace Begins at Home"
Column - "Spiraling to Higher Ground"
September 2002 Column - "Cradled in Nature's
August 2002 Column - "Recovering
Laura Grace is Co-founder of Infinite Wisdom, an organization dedicated to the highest human capacity, and a national author and speaker. As a regular contributor for publications across the U.S. and Canada, Laura writes about human awareness and spiritual growth. Laura is the author of the widely acclaimed books The Intimate Soul and Gifts of the Soul, and the creator and teacher of various programs including the Self-Mastery Program, The Art of Compassionate Forgiveness, Wonderful Women: Reclaiming Our Power, Passion and Purpose, and Cultivating the Intimate Life. Please visit Laura's web site at:
As a spiritual counselor, Laura provides assistance in person and by phone. You may contact her for a free brochure at: