I got featured this week in the Year-Long program A Year with Myself. the the topic is “Self-Nurture: How to Make Total Self-Care a Lasting Habit”, and I share what self-care means to me, how I practice it in my daily life, how spirituality and self-care intersect, some herbal recipes, – and – well, since I’m pretty long winded, a heck of a lot more.
And even though you might think I’m some sort of self-care junkie (seeing as this is the 5th post on the subject in three weeks), you’d be wrong. It’s a struggle for me too, and I’m in love with the idea to replace the word “self-care” with “self-cherishing.”
Because that’s what it’s really about – loving up our lovely selves – by doing whatever that means to each of us individually.
Actually, one way I like to cherish myself is my delving into my weekly installment of A Year With Myself!
Am I Worthy Of Care?
When I returned home late last week from my coast-to-coast travels I jumped right into my interview, (in fact I began brainstorming on the plane ride home). And it got me thinking a little more deeply on this topic of self-nurturing.
I came to the question, “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to self-care?” and the answer sprang to mind immediately. Believing that I am deserving of care.
That alone is the hugest obstacle that prevents me from practicing what I know and from truly honoring my needs through self-nurturing. Realizing this made me want to probe a little deeper into the whys behind this.
Because something tells me I’m not alone here.
Why is it that women tend to put themselves last when it comes to caring? Why do we undervalue ourselves, and what can we do to turn this around?
All of this leaps into a sharper focus as we find ourselves staring midlife in the face. It’s a time when (for many of us) our reserves are nearly depleted. Our adrenal glands (which are the storehouse of that energy we so badly crave) are crying out for restoration.
A lot us wouldn’t know how to nurture our pinky finger after all those hours, days & years of mothering, of serving others, of giving, giving, giving.
When we don’t believe we deserve, there’s always another story, another reason why we choose to give ourselves short shrift.
I’ve identified a few common reasons here that many of us women neglect (or think we must neglect) our own self-care, along with some work-arounds. Can you think of any others?
We buy into the time-proven mindset women are supposed to be care givers – to others.
From the Virgin Mary to June Cleaver, from Day 1 we’re bombarded with images and stories of womanhood – especially motherhood – that revolve around selfless giving. Women just naturally take care of things. It’s in our DNA – and it can be quite satisfying to know we’re doing it well
Weirdly, it can even be a form of self-care, because when you’re satisfied and like what you’ve done, you nurture yourself with by feeling good about yourself. (See how easy self-care can be? It can just be a feeling!)
The danger of course lies in overdoing the giving, getting depleted, because then the fun and good feelings are gone. It becomes drudgery, a chore, something to be resented. And, again weirdly, the more resentful and unhappy we become, the less inclined we are to practice self-nurturing.
But, hey, it’s 2012. Time to write a new story.
Whether you’re still changing diapers or rattling around in an empty nest – you don’t need to buy into this idea that your role is to continually give to others and others only.
Distinguish between those times when you truly have to give (baby’s got to be fed and have a new diaper) and when you are buying into others’ ideas of what you should give (Hubby or the 12-year-old really CAN fix their own lunch.)
Who has time? There’s too much to do.
Since this will never, ever change (the too much to do thing), it’s time to just get over it and accept that the list will never be completely checked off. And to go sit outside for 10 minutes, or take that walk, or call that friend.
That list is loyal. It will stay right there on your desk. (Whoa – I think my inner guidance is giving me a lecture right now.)
And guess what? Caring for yourself can happen in 1-5 minute increments throughout your day. A stretch at your desk, savoring a glass of water that hydrates and replenishes, a 2-minute conversation with a friend or coworker who you enjoy. All of this counts
I’m the worst culprit when it comes to focusing too much on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘being’, I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I will many more times. In the end I’m always stronger when I let in time for the being – and always to my surprise I seem to get more done too!
But why should I be surprised? After all I’m a human being – not a human doing!
I just can’t afford it.
There’s a bit of a myth that “self-care” has to be something special and expensive like a massage, pedicure or facial. Ditch that idea right now (not than any or all of those things aren’t a fabulous way to treat yourself when you can.)
You don’t need money to take care of yourself. What you do need is an attitude of self-love (or at least a willingness to consider such an attitude) and a shift in perspective.
I’d say there are literally millions of free or super-inexpensive ways to nourish and care for ourselves. From cuddling with a pet to smelling a flower to cranking up some music and dancing around the living room. What’s your favorite?
Isn’t it selfish (and not very spiritual) to focus on caring for yourself?
This is another one that I struggle with often. Why should I deserve to be cared for when so many others lack the most basic items of survival? Shouldn’t I spend all my free time and energy on helping others?
Honestly, I’m still sorting this one out. What I do know is that when I do not nourish myself, I don’t have what it takes to nourish others. It’s like the oxygen mask cliché – springs to mind because of my recent travels I guess. You’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on first, or you might lose it before you can oxygenate someone else in need.
Try it. Put on your own oxygen mask with whatever little actions that take care of YOU. It might surprise you how much more you have left over to give.
Let’s Reinvent This
As I wrote in Part II of the Self-Care Roundup, I’ve felt a little hypocritical in the past around this whole topic. During those years I ran my store (which was all about natural healing and self-care) I rarely found moments to nurture myself.
At least in the ways that I thought I should be nurturing myself. I’ve since come to realize that true self-care encompasses much more than massage, meditation and adhering to a strict diet plan.
In fact it can sometimes take the opposite tack.
What if self-care was about following what you truly want to do in any given moment?
I don’t mean giving into unhealthy cravings, or self-medicating (necessarily), I’m talking about truly tuning into to your own inner guidance and wisdom – rather than always believing those exterior voices of authority.
Hanging out with friends you love is a form of self-care. Playing – however you like to do it. Noticing when you feel pretty good. Fixing yourself a nice little meal and savoring the tastes. Pausing in the midst of self-flagellation and rephrasing the message. All ways to love yourself.
Self-care springs from the simplest of actions. But mostly it happens when you can believe you are worthy.
As I said, I got pretty in-depth on self-nurturing specifics during my interview in the A Year With Myself Full Adventure Kit. I invite you to join me in this phenomenal community of women and read it in full.
Meanwhile, today I challenge you this: Think of one tiny, tiny thing you’ve done or will do today that could qualify as self-care.
Yay! You do know how to care for yourself! Pat yourself on the back.
Tomorrow add another.