Women are natural caregivers. They seem to be born that way. It's just part of their DNA. They take care of their children, their husbands, their aging parents, their coworkers, the ailing woman down the street, etc. Bottom line is, they simply care about people and want to help them. This is definitely not a bad thing. It's just that this natural gift needs to be monitored. If it gets out of perspective, it can become a burden almost too heavy to bear. Besides not being able to "be there" for loved ones, you can become ridden with guilt over it.

The antidote is to take that natural tendency to help others and apply a little of it to yourself. First we'll show you why it's important, then we'll give a few suggestions as to how you can do it.

Why you need to take care of yourself

If you don't, you will burn out. Burned out means you are done in, spent, exhausted to the bone - mentally and physically. If this continues too long, you can even have a breakdown. This is serious business. Once that happens, you are no longer the caregiver, but the care receiver.

Your family will suffer if you don't take care of yourself. That's right, you won't be the only one feeling the agony, so will they.

Your marriage will take a hit. Burned out brides/spouses aren't fun to be with. They simply can't function on the level needed for creating healthy relationships.

You need to feel the joy of living. That, alone, is reason enough to take care of yourself.

Ways you can take better care of yourself

Step back and evaluate yourself

. According to family therapist, Elaine Hill, who counseled women in a recent lecture, you need to recognize the symptoms of approaching burnout. A few are:

Feeling underappreciated.

Resentment for having too much to do.

Insecure about your competence and abilities.

Overcommitted with responsibilities.

Becoming cynical and bitter, irritable and anxious.

Feeling powerless and hopeless.

Learn to say "No."

Hill pointed out how important it is to be able to say no to things in which you don't need to be involved. The world will actually go on quite well without your hand in the mix of all good things. If you can say no when you need to, then you will have the energy and wisdom to say yes to what matters most. Just remember, you can't do everything. You can do something, just not everything.

Get rid of guilt feelings

Feelings of "I should never have done that," or "I should do more," can plague your brain and drag you down. If something in the past bothers you, clear it up if you can. If you can't, and most things past are simply that - in the past. Don't dwell on it anymore. It isn't worth your energy. If it lingers with unresolved feelings, take it to your Heavenly Father. Ask him to take that feeling of guilt from you. He's good at it because he loves you. He will help you.

Make a change

Hill suggested that part of taking care of yourself can mean you need a change of routine or circumstances. Take a break, go on a vacation. Hey, have a pedicure. Do something fun and different. Doing something a little out-of-the ordinary can help you better deal with the ordinary.

Renew friendships

Sometimes when we get so involved in our own frantic race we forget to nourish our friendships. Take the time to go to lunch with a friend. Or just stop by to chat like old times. Helen Keller said, "I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light." She knew the value of friendship. Friends are healing. They listen without judging. You need some, at least one, to pour your heart out. To reminisce. To laugh. Keep your friendships alive.

Pinpoint your most stressful areas

. Once you are conscious of the culprit, you can minimize it. Sometimes women demand too much of themselves. Cut back. For your own sake, figure out what is disturbing you most and make some changes. All stress is not bad. Some is a healthy motivator. Too much is destructive.

Take a relaxing bath

We have a daughter who calls it "taking a tub." Sometimes it's the very prescription you need to de-stress. Fill up the tub and pour in the bubbles. Close your eyes and enjoy your pampering solitude. Light an aroma candle to fill the room with peaceful ambiance.

You matter. Take care of yourself. When you pay attention to your own needs, you will be better equipped to help others and have a more joyful life. Here is a lighthearted reminder of the importance of valuing oneself.

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