The Trouble With Self-Care
Ah, the elusive treasure of our modern era: free time. After navigating a labyrinth of responsibilities and commitments, two weeks ago I found myself standing at an afternoon of actual free time. It was my hard-earned pocket of freedom; I had spent several weeks planning this. Yet, as I faced this coveted free space, I realized that my struggle with practicing “self-care” was still very much alive and kicking.
Drowning in the “Should” of Self-Care
We’ve all been there. Those weeks/months/years when every second seems dedicated to everything but catching your own breath. It’s a sort of exhaustion that carries a hint of apathy, fatigue, and maybe a sprinkle of restlessness. When this shows up for me, I am well aware that my body is waving the urgent red flag: “Slow down, or I’ll make you slow down”.
But the crux of attempting to accommodate this message is so familiar it’s painful. The things that usually fill me up with joy are the LAST things I want to be doing when I’m so depleted. When I’m in this place, starting my long-put-off workout plan sounds terrible. Gardening? I feel less than thrilled at the prospect of battling weeds for hours. A scenic hike with a long-lost friend? Just thinking about the logistics and planning exhausts me.
But why?! Those things are usually the very descriptors that I use to convey who I am to the outside world. Those things usually fill me up, rather than put me out. If I’m feeling depleted after months of working my tail off, I should be taking care of myself by doing the things that I love. That’s self care, right? Welcome to the dilemma: internal tug-of-war over what we think we should be doing, versus what we truly want to be doing. Cue the pressure to do what we believe is “self-caring.” Ouch.
Self-Care = Listening
Here’s the cold truth: in that state of burnout, the thought of engaging in high-octane activities sounds more like a punishment than self-care. And let’s be real, the more I push myself into those adventures while my inner voice is screaming the opposite, the louder the chaos in my head becomes.
True self-care involves listening. As corny as it may sound, tuning into the messages that your body and mind have been bringing to the table for some time now, that’s where we find the answer to what our flavor of “self-caring” is. Taking this information and weaving it into a tangible reality requires a hearty dose of mindfulness. It demands that you recognize what your present moment craves, rather than what your over-achieving mind dictates.
Let’s rewind to my earlier scenario: the summer sprint that left me gasping for air, yet finally handed me a slice of time. When I truly listen to what’s going on in my mind and body, the tune shifts from “Do more and you’ll feel better” to a softer “F*** your to-do list, let’s lay out in the grass for a bit.”
Self-care isn’t always a pretty picture. It’s not always an Instagram-ready scenario when you’re neck-deep in a session of self-caring. It’s not always a perfectly posed yoga pose on a serene mountaintop or a meticulously arranged breakfast spread at your favorite cafe. Sometimes, self-care is messy, unglamorous, and raw. And you find it by tuning in, silencing the noise, and actually hearing what your mind and body need in the present moment.
So, here’s your assignment: embrace the idea that self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. It’s not about conforming to the latest wellness trend or checklist. Instead, it’s about forging a deeper connection with yourself, understanding what truly nourishes your soul, and acting on it—even if it doesn’t fit the mold of what you thought self-care should look like.
Remember, there’s no gold standard for self-care. It’s a personal journey that involves active listening, self-compassion, and the courage to honor your own needs.
Set a timer for 2 minutes on your phone. Put your feet on the floor, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath until your timer goes off. Your only job is to observe your body through each inhale and exhale.
Reflect and write your response to these questions: What does my body tell me that I might need right now? How might I honor what I am feeling & needing, right in this very moment? How might I honor this as I move through the rest of my day?
If you’re not sure where to start unpacking what you uncover, schedule a free consultation here.