How Do You Serve Others Without Draining Yourself?

Serving others can be incredibly fulfilling and is an amazing way of connecting with others in our world. Helping those in need is what builds relationships…and communities! But how do you serve others without draining yourself? By taking care of YOU first!

In a world of constant do-ing and taking care of our daily responsibilities, it can be hard to think of doing more to serve someone else.  On a daily basis we all have our share of things that have to get done: feed the animals, pack the kids’ lunches, do the laundry, conduct that meeting, write that important email, get that tire fixed, prepare another meal, clean the house, pick up the dry cleaning, pay the bills.  Sleep.  Wake.  Repeat.  Lots of us have young kids who require non-stop attention, or maybe you are taking care of an elderly parent while still trying to handle everything in your personal life.

You may have heard some well-known quotes about giving and serving others:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” –Anne Frank

“We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” –Winston S. Churchill

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –St. Francis of Assisi

You might have great intentions of serving others outside of your regular responsibilities but often find it hard to keep up your energy on top of all the other stuff that you HAVE to do.  Serving others can then feel like a burden, which can make you feel guilty because you don’t feel the sentiment from the quotes above. You may even feel resentful having another thing on your to-do list.

In my previous Monthly Tips, I’ve talked about Strengthening Your Spinal Cord, Your Core Energy.  I’ve also talked about Seven Ways to Improve Your Self-talk.  Incorporating these things into your daily life is a great way to increase your energy and open up mental space to serve others: changing that mental dialogue from “What else do I have to do” to “How can I help” automatically switches the mindset from “extra load” to “I have enough…(insert time, energy, money, etc.)”

Another way to serve others without feeling drained is to feel the love that you are giving in your service coming back to you. Envision yourself accepting this return of love and energetic service with gratitude.  When you are feeling energetically strong and are serving from a positive place within yourself, you both give AND receive more freely.

And last, but certainly not least, is to take care of YOU first.  Three more well-known quotes come to mind:

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” –Lucille Ball

“Be kinder to yourself.  And then let your kindness flood the world.” – Pema Chodron

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” –Jack Kornfield

Giving and serving when you are not taking care of yourself is the equivalent of being drained and feeling empty.  The flight attendants’ speech about putting on your own oxygen mask first is quite on point: in order to give of yourself, you must fill yourself up first, or at least in the process.  There are oodles of ways to do this: exercise, take a hot bath, get out in nature, meditate, see a funny movie with a friend, play with your kids and/or animals…YOU know what connects YOU with YOU! Go fill yourself up! Doing so will help you give of yourself more freely and with more energy!

I would like to add that I get filled up and energized by the work I do, and I am putting the following question out to my EWB community: What can I do to serve you?  I would love to know!