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How to Be Supportive without Feeling Drained: Indigenous Wisdom that Changed My Life

Leadership | 0 comments

Prioritize yourself. I know. It sounds great but how?

Here’s what I mean.

Many years ago, I heard an Indigenous elder tell a group of us to take care of ourselves first. It was an eye-opener. I heard that teaching over and over again by many elders, including Dan and May Lou Smoke pictured here,  and thank Spirit I did.

I was a single mom at the time, and these elders weren’t talking about neglecting our children.

They were talking about making sure we don’t neglect ourselves.

Really breathe that in.

Those of us who really love helping others often struggle with two things:

  1. Getting support for ourselves.
  2. Bringing ourselves up from the bottom of our priority list to the top.

Even when I could barely make ends meet as a single mom, I made sure my little boy had everything he needed, including the cutest little outfits. Meanwhile, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone shopping for ME. I was working, housekeeping, and later on even going to university, while I held 2-3 jobs.

I was doing it all, the proverbial Superwoman. Ugh.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. I only knew how to give it.

Ever feel like you’re being selfish when you take extra time off or let that pile of clothes sit a little longer, or let the sink fill up with dishes? It’s hard, isn’t it. Well, it’s worth the practice.

We need to take care of ourselves first, so that we are not giving from an empty, drained place.

One thing I’ve learned as an empathic entrepreneur is that if you can’t delegate, you will end up drained and frustrated while your business struggles.

I had to face my inner control freak (shhh!) who surfaced the moment I tried to hand over tasks to someone else. Yikes! But it was sooooo worth it.

I had to face the part of me who was afraid to ask for help, and all the emotions that went with it.

As you can see, I’m not saying it’s easy to make yourself a priority… If it were, so many more women would be living their dream life.

I AM saying that it’s the best thing you can do for yourself if you’re feeling drained. It’s also not as hard as you might think.

When you make yourself top priority, you open up so much more space within yourself, and your ability to hold space for others opens up too. 

Prioritizing yourself and having self-care doesn’t mean you have to close the doors on everyone all the time, or stop helping others, or that you have to be selfish.

Prioritizing yourself means…

  • Taking self-care breaks in between caring for family or community, so you can recharge.
  • 5 minutes of breathing deeply or getting some fresh air throughout the day.
  • Choosing YOU, and being mindful of who gets your attention, time and energy.
  • Saying yes wholeheartedly but not when you feel resentful.
  • Saying no wholeheartedly and then doing your best to let go of the guilt that pops up.
  • Listening to your body and emotions to discern between what to say yes or no to.
  • Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries on all levels: emotional, spiritual, physical and mental.

When you prioritize yourself, it doesn’t take away from your day or make your workload get bigger. It makes you more productive, relaxed and less stressed.

I know you want to help and make a difference. You still get to do that, and in fact, that difference you make will be AMPLIFIED.

You wouldn’t take a ride in a car that’s running on empty, right? You know the gas will run out, potentially leaving you stranded without a way to get home.

What if you could supercharge yourself with just the right fuel, anytime, anywhere?


Apart from your responsibilities to any dependents you might have…

  1. Don’t say yes to what doesn’t feel good to you.


  1. Don’t say yes to people out of obligation.


  1. Say yes when you feel called. When you feel that magnetic feeling, when you feel energized, when your eyes light up, when you feel excited about what you’re about to do… say yes.


  1. Breathe your way through your decisions, allowing yourself time to feel and to notice what your body and emotions might be telling you.


  1. So what about that inner control freak that rears its head when you go to let yourself be supported? Honestly, it was scary to let myself be supported in my personal life, but because I did, when I lost my son, I was truly supported in all the ways possible. I can’t think of a time in my life when I needed to feel supported more than that. In my business, the first time I hired a Virtual Assistant years ago, I couldn’t believe the freedom I felt! I just had to babysit my inner control freak for a little while and keep letting her know that we got to have more time in the calendar, more fun and less stress. Not only that but because my Virtual Assistant was an expert at what I was not, it took her a fraction of the time it took me to get the work done that I had given her.


I know sometimes it’s harder, more personal, and it can feel scary to hurt someone’s feelings by saying no. I know it can feel awkward and like you’re being selfish when asking for or even just letting yourself receive support.

You deserve to feel supported. Without support, the impact you can have get squashed down. With the right support when you prioritize yourself, your impact is like ripples in a pond.

Start small and go from there. Practice, so you can make it a habit.

What will you do today to make yourself more of a priority?

Share in the comments. You just might help someone else.




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About Brenda MacIntyre

About Brenda MacIntyre

Known by her indigenous name Medicine Song Woman, Brenda MacIntyre has shared her evocative melodic voice and fusion of reggae, rap and indigenous hand drum healing music with appreciative audiences of 30 to 3,000 across North America. The Toronto-based Juno Award-winning singer has been featured nationally on MuchMusic, CTV, CP24, APTN and most recently, Global and the front page of the Toronto Star.

Powered by her grief from losing her son to murder in 2016, Brenda MacIntyre pours her soulful voice over a confluence of indigenous hand drum healing, soft rap and conscious roots reggae in her album “Picking Up the Pieces,” released in September 2019.

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