"You can't pour from an empty cup."
"Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting those who need help."
"I just need a goddamn nap."
Sound familiar? Especially in this boom of health and wellness, the term "self care" gets thrown around A LOT. But what does that even mean? Am I not taking care of myself by occasionally sleeping, trying to eat healthy, working out, all while maintaining the other aspects of my life?
Here is the COLD. HARD. TRUTH.
Most of us exist in this lifetime disconnected from our most authentic self and our deepest needs and our joy. We live in an age of quantifiable data where we would rather trust our FitBit or Apple Watch to tell us that we've worked out hard enough, drank enough water, eaten enough calories, than trust that ancient wisdom stored in our souls. We've become obsessed with hitting metrics because we think that will bring us joy.
I get it. I've lived that life before where the data was everything and my own intuition was suppressed. As you know from my last post, I had a crippling eating disorder. Self care was entirely foreign to me a few years ago. I was actually doing the opposite for such a long that I had to re-learn how to listen to my inner wisdom. I had to re-learn compassion for self. I had to re-learn how to trust myself.
I learned how to take care of myself.
These hard-won lessons about self care can help you rediscovery yourself, your joy, and your life.
Learn to say NO and YES. People have their own agendas. How could another human ever REALLY know what is best for you? They are entitled to their opinion, but only YOU know what is right for you. "No" was a hard one for me because it meant not succumbing to pressure from others. I'm a people pleaser. When I know I'm not meeting the expectations of others, I feel guilt. Even now, when I know that I'm exhausted and that neither I nor others will benefit from my exhausted self showing up to a gathering, I feel that nagging guilt telling me that I am letting people down.
Guess what? NO. I'm sorry I can't go out tonight because I have an incredibly big day tomorrow and I know that I will not be my best self if I don't sleep tonight.
No one likes to be told "no". No one likes to be disappointed. If you take a moment to listen to your wisdom, you'll know what's right for you. That means separating your voice from the voices around you.
Saying "yes" was just as hard for me to learn. Saying yes meant committing, even if the choice was not popular or conventional. Saying yes to my own needs before addressing the needs of others made me feel selfish. Self care is not selfish. Self care is enabling you to show up as the best version of you for the people that matter most.
We MUST pause. I like science. I like proof that all of the hippie-dippy stuff is actually true on a molecular level. It doesn't get more real than the nervous system. Our bodies have two states: fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest. We can only be in one or the other. Rest-and-digest is exactly as it sounds. Our bodies physically heal, absorb all of the information from the day, process and eliminate toxins. When we continually move, whether physically or mentally, we force ourselves into fight-or-flight; we prevent our bodies from healing themselves. Guess where most of this healing takes place? During SLEEP. Remember that thing we used to do? Turns out, it's vital to our ability to heal ourselves. The yoga practice also takes us out of fight-or-flight and eases our nervous system, returning us to rest-and-digest. This is part of the "yoga high" that we feel when we wake up from savasana. If we are always running, we can never relax. When we take care of ourselves, we stop running. We relax. We heal. We start to LIVE again.
Self care is not a one-and-done deal. It is something that you invest in every single day. It is a daily willingness to listen the the wisdom of your body. You don't get to stock up on self care. Everyday, we have to practice compassion for ourselves. We must nurture our passions and indulge in our own softness.
It is a constant negotiation and discerning. To keep myself honest, I often ask myself these questions:
- Are these choices serving my most authentic self?
- Are these choices allowing me to take the time and space I need to soften and relax?
- Am I creating a moment every day to nurture my passions?
In that way, we avoid the build-up of feelings and thoughts to the point where they are overwhelming. Make it part of your daily routine to do one small thing for yourself that doesn't feel like a chore. It can be a five-minute meditation. It can be listening to your favorite song and signing or dancing along. It can be reading a chapter from a book. Whatever you do, have your whole attention on that one thing. Feel the moment vibrantly. Do something that brings you joy each day, no matter how small.
The way that I used to function, and the way that I see SO MANY people exist here in New York City, was pushing until a breakdown. That meant pulling 16-hour days, working out, partying hard, and sleeping little. I would do and work as much as I could until I inevitably ended up sobbing over the weight of deadlines and micro-dramas. I was going through the motions of my life because I was in survival mode. I had lost sight of the tiny miracles of everyday living. By taking care of myself, nurturing my heart, feeding my soul, my life has become so vibrant. Simple things like a a sunrise, the sound of birds chirping, the taste of iced tea, bring me such joy.
Now, it's time to chat! What are some of the things you do to take care of yourself? How do you know when you've been neglecting caring for you? How do you balance care for others, living life, and caring for you?