Few of us would imagine that we might avoid self-care because we simply don’t feel like engaging in it. We generally think of missing out on self-care for other reasons; not enough time, insufficient resources (often money) or inability to access the exact thing we hope to do (I can’t get my nails done today because my nail technician isn’t at the salon!).
We also invent reasons for avoiding self-care, sometimes because we’ve confused self-care with pampering or self-indulgence (as might be the case with the nail scenario above). Self-care isn’t simply about making ourselves feel important (worthy?) or comfortable, or attractive – self-care is about consciously taking action to feed the soul, nourish the body, nurture the spirit and most of all, replenish the relationship we’re building with ourselves!
As you might suspect, I had one of those days when self-care (this time, in the form of a regularly-scheduled yoga class) was readily available, but I just didn’t feel like going.
- First, I mused, “I’m in a funk this morning – no need to haul those feelings into the otherwise positive energy of this class!” – how thoughtful of me.
- Then, I figured, “I’ll just stay in bed as long as possible and feel better when I do get up & get going!” – sure, ignore the feelings and they’ll go away!
- Finally, it occurred to me, “Of course I don’t want to take my funk to yoga, but that’s exactly where I need to go with it, because yoga will draw me out of my head and into my body, where I can actually deal with whatever is causing this funk today!” Finally, I’m making sense.
I did not need to be in the yoga space very long before I became very clear about the nature of my funk. I was grieving. What I needed most was permission to cry – yoga was precisely the place to find that opportunity and the freedom required to just let go of the funk I was in. Not ten minutes into the class and I was dabbing my eyes with my paper tissue. Not sobbing (that wasn’t what I needed), just weeping quietly, privately mourning the loss I was feeling that day.
Grief hits us like waves and often our culture tells us to ignore it, let it pass, don’t sink into it, or perhaps we’ll get swept into its vortex and never emerge. That’s not a healthy way to deal with grief! Grief (like many other painful emotions) needs our attention, our compassion, our time and our willingness to honor it’s presence and purpose in our life. That’s what yoga let me do that morning – honor my grief.
What’s your excuse for avoiding self-care? What do you know that you need, yet you put it off, fail to ask for it, choose not to “let yourself” pursue it? What are the painful feelings you’re afraid might bubble up to the surface and make you cry? What is your soul and body asking for? What does your spirit need? What would allow you to replenish that nurturing, self-compassionate relationship with yourself? That’s the heart of self-care. Investing your time in whatever would serve you toward those ends – real self-care is never self-indulgent it is truly self-preservation!
Stop avoiding what you need! Let go of your pride (“I don’t want to cry in yoga class!”), your denial, your stiff-upper-lip (stay calm & carry on) nonsense! Give your whole self exactly the care and feeding it needs so it can serve you for a healthy lifetime.
There may be days that you simply DON’T feel like doing the very thing that would serve you – exercising, eating a nourishing meal (rather than that candy bar), going to bed an hour early, calling the friend whose feelings you hurt. Self-care deficit disorder is a real thing – but there’s no need for it to be YOUR diagnosis.
I urge you to go ahead, engage in self-care. It is truly the strategy that gets us all through life, especially when we’re having days that feel difficult, challenging or even full of grief.