“I always thought that taking care of myself meant that I had to deal with everything alone”

Bijgewerkt: 29 nov 2019

Anderson is quite a guy, athletic, a great (Latin) dancer, father of three and his smile shows two golden teeth to top it off with. He used to work for the Dutch army but needed to change careers after getting a trauma. He now works as a health and fitness consultant, personal trainer and Latin dance teacher. We obviously met on the dance floor, never I could have guessed that behind his moves and confident smile such a trauma was hiding. A stark reminder to never judge a book by its cover! I truly admire his honesty and also his perspective on self-care.

Anderson, your story is pretty intense. Can you point out a specific moment in your life when you felt self-care is very important?

“I have always been aware that I needed to take care of myself. But I always thought that taking care of myself meant that I had to deal with everything alone. I have worked for the Dutch army and I have worked in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. My last exchange has done a lot to my mental health. That was the moment I realized that I can’t do it all by myself, that I needed to call for help in order to take care of myself.”

“The true wake-up call came when I was in such a bad place that I risked losing my kids. That was the moment I decided to go into therapy. I started to ask myself, where should or could I go? What else can I do to process my experiences of the wars? I was open to any help so I tried many things like: EMDR, 3MDR, group therapy and visual therapy. The thing that helped me the most were the one-on-one conversations with my psychologist.”

What does taking care of yourself mean to you?

“It means to take care of myself mentally and physically. You can eat healthy and exercise daily but you can still be in a bad place after all. Taking care of myself means to fully enjoy the things that I do, I am really picky in what I do and with whom. I want to enjoy my life so I try to do mainly things that give me joy and energy.”

“Taking care of myself also means that I listen to my feelings. So before I make an important decision, I take a break and listen to my inner compass. And as well, I choose my battles. I don’t go into every discussion or make something big. In some cases it is sometimes just better to ignore things and go on. An hour later, you do realize it wasn’t that important anyways. That is a way for me to manage my energy and that is self-care too!”

“Last but not least: I avoid negative people. I am very aware of others’ energy, so I leave or let go when something or someone doesn’t feel good.”

What do you do when you feel the need to take care of yourself?

“I still have nightmares from my time in the army. When I wake up after a nightmare I feel really bad. What I learned over the years, is to accept my emotions and my feelings. So when I feel bad, I don’t try to fight it. Everything you hold on to, becomes bigger. After a nightmare your breathing is very intense, so I sit and I breath slowly, to calm myself down and to just be in that moment. I really love the breathing exercises!”

“I am not flexible but I really love doing yoga! I don’t do it to become more flexible but because it makes me very calm. It is my way of meditation, I can get my thoughts organized during those yoga classes.”

“I write. It is amazing. When I start writing, I don’t know where it ends. Sometimes it surprises me where it takes me and it is a way to process my emotions.”

“And also, once in a while I talk to a psychologist. It is like a mental check up for me. She points out the things that I could oversee, so it is like mental prevention to me. That I can work on the things that bother me or that I haven’t processed yet.”

What is your TCOYS tip to other people?

“Take the time to feel. Ask yourself some questions before you make a choice or a decision. A question like: ‘how does this feels to me?’ instead of making choices or a decision from only your mind. And in addition to that, try to let go of the fear of disappointing someone, be yourself and do what feels good to you.”

“Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Our society and social media only shares the beautiful things, don’t let it fool you. Be your own role model!”

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