Most of us know, more or less what we need to do in order to feel happy and healthy, and even though the details look different for each of us, the broad strokes are fairly universal: A safe place to call home, nutritious food and fresh water, regular movement, experiences that enrich our minds and spirits, and healing, supportive connection.
In an ideal world, we would always find it easy and even joyful to tend to these needs regularly and in a loving way. We would make sure to stay hydrated, eat the foods that help us feel vibrant, and avoid the ones that create dis-ease in our systems. We would give our bodies exercise and make sure that our minds are being stimulated and developed. Spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities that light us up would be a priority. For many of us, these choices are easy enough to make at least most of the time, but what happens when you’re having an off day, week, or month and making healthy choices feels more like an obligation than an opportunity to do something truly nourishing for yourself? When you feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to care for yourself as lovingly as you would like to? Or maybe, when you feel like you lost even the desire to do things that support your own health and happiness? What do you do when practicing self care is a struggle?
Well, first things first. If you want to create shift in your life, you’ve got to start by acknowledging where you’re currently at. As tempting as it may be to gloss over how you’re feeling with an “I’m fine” or to take the mind-over-matter route and simply go through the motions of your self-care routines without really feeling nourished by the practices at all, it’s important to create some space to connect with yourself and explore what’s coming up for you. What areas of your self care present the greatest challenges and what internal dialogues come up around this? Are there belief systems in place that lead you to feel like you aren’t worthy of having your needs met? Is there an issue that you’ve been avoiding that might be triggered if you acted in ways that are loving to yourself? Are your expectations for yourself so unreasonably high that you feel defeated before you even begin? Whether it’s with diet and exercise, work habits, or relationships, almost everyone experiences challenges around making choices that serve them at some point in their life, and for each person the reasons are completely unique. Taking the time to understand your own heart and mind will deepen your relationship with yourself and help you determine what you need in order to move back towards an approach to self care that feels sustainable.
Once you’ve gotten clear about what’s coming up for you, the next step is to honor it compassionately. It can be so easy to get trapped in the shame cycle of making choices that aren’t serving us, judging ourselves for not doing better, then making the same choice again as a form of punishment or rebellion, feeling shame around the choice once more, and on and on. The key to breaking this cycle is replacing judgement with compassion. It’s important to remember both that you are human and that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to navigating the often challenging experiences of moving through life and the world. If you’re having a hard time giving yourself a break, try to imagine how you would regard a loved one who was struggling with the same issue. Connect with the tenderness that you would offer them and then allow yourself to receive that same loving acceptance.
Getting clear about what’s coming up for you and giving it your compassionate gaze paves the way for you to be able to release the blockages that are keeping you from showing up for yourself in the ways that allow you to feel vibrant and well. There are many tools that can support this release; breathwork, dance, journaling, and meditation can each offer incredibly powerful support in shifting old energy, thoughts, or beliefs. If your intuition is nudging you toward another outlet, listen. Your being has a deep wisdom and if you tune into it, you might be surprised to find that you know exactly what you need to heal. As you process your experiences, be gentle with yourself. Healing takes place in so many different forms from crying to laughter to an increased need for sleep. Allow things to come to the surface in as many waves as they will and then release them through whatever forms of expression feel most supportive to you.
As you begin to work through your blocks, you may begin to feel more open, lighter, and more inspired to be loving towards yourself. This is a good time to start slowly bringing self care practices back in. Start small by finding ways to offer yourself little gestures of love. They can be incredibly simple things like making yourself a cup of tea and really savoring it, spending a few extra moments in the shower simply enjoying the feeling of the hot water running over your body, or taking a five minute break in the middle of your work day to stretch. Really dig into the nourishing quality of those moments and send yourself some gratitude for taking the time to care for yourself. These may not seem like huge accomplishments, but every time you do even the smallest thing to take care of your mind, body, and spirit, you are sending yourself a message that you are loved and that you are worthy of caring attention, and little by little, the message with be received.
The Wellness Mercantile is seasonal journal that celebrates wellness through community and connection. Grab the Spring Issue here !!