Practicing Self-Care

I talk a lot about self-care because I believe this is something that most women need practice at. We’re great at taking care of others and not so good at doing it for ourselves. I am absolutely in this category – I’m well aware that I am no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself and yet I need to keep reminding myself of this fact. It’s really easy to get into the pattern of “everyone else first” because it feels good to be of service. It makes me happy to see others happy.

And I’m noticing there are some very clear signals I send myself when it’s time to focus on self-care. Here are some of my cues & clues that I’ve dropped the self-care ball:

  • You know that really cute, giant “welcome home” hug from the kids that knocks you over? If that’s annoying rather than adorable, that’s my first sign.
  • I get really bitchy at work and stomp rather than walk
  • I find myself chanting the “not enough” mantra – there’s not enough time, we don’t have enough money, there’s not enough wine in this glass…
  • I get lethargic, apathetic, and have a general urge to curl into a ball on my couch
  • I crave the really junky chocolate (the stuff that you know will make you feel like crap) and generally over-eat
  • I feel frantic and overwhelmed and say things like “There’s no way I can do all of this!”
  • Normally fun things stress me out (eg. planning a birthday party, ordering Christmas gifts)
  • I feel chunky and heavy and down on my how my body looks
  • I smile and laugh much less, and don’t want to talk to anyone

A lot of the things that stress me out are external (eg. busy day at work, messy house, ) but the important thing to remember here is that my ability to deal with these external things is directly related to how well I am taking care of myself. I can handle the stressful meeting with the VP if I’m taking care of myself. I can happily clean the kitchen and do the laundry if I’m taking care of myself. It’s when I try to do all of those things without taking care of myself that they become overwhelming and stressful. So it’s not the external events, it’s how I am interpreting and dealing with them.

So what is self care? Honestly, when I was first asked by my coach what I do to take care of myself all I could come up with was a list of “should do’s” that really just stressed me out – Go to the gym, read smarter books, clean my house, eat something healthy, spend time with kids… etc. I had no idea how to really take care of myself because it had never crossed my mind!

Since then I’ve been working on this and I’ve come up with a definition of self-care that is working for me:

Doing something that feels really good and fulfills the needs of my highest self.

It’s incredibly important that whatever I do fills both parts of this definition. Lots of things that feel good are actually fulfilling the needs of one of my Saboteurs or Inner Critics. To be the most nourishing, self care is really about reconnecting to that part of yourself that is bigger than the physical you. The universe, your soul, God… whatever your word is that reminds you that you’re part of something more, that we are all connected and that you’re not alone.

For example, going to the gym is a “no” for me on the Self-Care meter. Sure it feels good after I’m done and exercising is incredibly important, but the reason I was going was not fulfilling my highest self. I was going because I thought I “should” and it was more of a punishment than anything. The belief was that my body in its current form is not good enough and so I “should” go to the gym because I need to fix myself.

Instead I go for walks. I’ve only recently discovered I actually love being outdoors and going for a walk in nature feels amazing! And here’s the trick – the slower I go, the more the walk fulfills me. The less I am striving to “make the walk count”, the more I get to really soak in the sights and smells and that’s when I’m connecting to my highest self.

Another example – Sour Cream n’ Bacon chips are freakin’ delicious! On the really rough days, snuggling up on the couch with a bag of those suckers feels really damn good. And they absolutely do not fulfill the needs of my highest self. They fulfill the needs of my “F-it!” Saboteur who tells me I should just do whatever the hell I want because I work hard and “I deserve it, damn it!”. That bitch never has my best interests in mind.

My highest self loves me completely, and would never choose to pollute my body with crappy food. My highest self treats this body as it would the body of a child- I love you so much I’m only going to give you the most delicious, nourishing things to keep you in perfect health so you can go into the world and do what you’re here to do.

So instead, I am actively practicing listening to my body and giving it what it wants to eat in the moment. This is a new practice for me and I’ve officially dubbed 2013 “The Year of the Body!”. You know what feels really good and fulfills my highest self? Soup, tea, dark chocolate and KALE! (I love that stuff)

Now, here’s the trickiest part about self-care – it’s going to change. Some days what feels really good and fulfills your highest self will be completely different than other days. Curling up on the couch and reading a great book can be perfect one day, and another day what you really need is to get outside and move your body. Regular checking in and paying attention is a practice.

So, how about you? What are the Cues & Clues that you need to take care of yourself?

What could you do today that would feel really good and would fulfill the needs of your highest self?

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