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Who Takes Care of You?


The other day I read a phrase that virtually begged to be blogged about: “Okay, I’m over self-care. Everyone else can take care of me now.” How wonderful is that? We hear so much about self-care in the media (and in therapy) that the other half of the equation, having others take care of us, often gets lost in the shuffle. The truth is that life is exponentially better when we care well for ourselves and also have others care for us.

You might be wondering what kind of care I mean. Most people think of doing things for people who are sick or have a disability and can’t fend for themselves. That’s one kind of caring, but there are more. I think of caring for people as falling into three categories: emotional, physical and social, but there may be other ways to think about the subject.

In emotional care-taking, people are attuned to us. They don’t wait for us to ask them to do something for them but sense that we may be feeling subpar or need help or support. They say things like, “You seem down today. Anything the matter?” or “If you need someone to talk to over the weekend, call me. I want to be there for you.” No matter what’s going on in their end, they always ask how and what we’re doing because they find us important and valuable and are curious to know what’s going on in our world.

They also know us well and will gently probe to see what’s wrong. They know our issues and situation and show empathy in helping us through hard times. They ask, “How can I help you feel better or is it enough that I just listen to you and love you?” They (gently) tell us what’s best for us even when we don’t want to hear it.

Physical care-taking (aka care-giving) is pretty obvious. It’s not enough for people to say, “Let me know if I can do anything for you.” The better question is, “Will you let me do X or Y for you?” Earlier this year, I mentioned to a friend that I was having a colonoscopy and right off she asked if I needed a ride. I did and accepted her gesture of kindness with pleasure. And my neighbor blows the leaves in our yard without ever asking if we want him to. He just does it. And we are very grateful and show it.

Social care-taking involves interaction, that is, someone making the effort to call, text, email or, better yet, see us. These are people who promptly return our attempts to connect with them, who want to do things with us whether it’s catching up over a cup of coffee or a walk or taking us out for a special birthday dinner. We get the message loud and clear that they value us and enjoy our company.

So, take care of yourself, but also find others who would enjoy taking care of you.