“Self-care” culture is stronger than ever right now. This makes sense, as we have all individually, and collectively been put through the ringer of 2020. You’ve likely seen many posts and messages about setting boundaries, getting some fresh air, journaling or making yourself a nourishing meal. The self-care message has morphed, for the better, from a picture of face masks, glass of wine, and a candle to adding things like: good sleep, the practice of self-compassion and giving yourself permission to rest, and feel the feels.
This is all wonderful, but, let me tell you something…when you’re sitting in the suck of feeling lonely, sad, depressed, anxious, defeated, whatever, you’d be lucky to get through your nightly hygiene routine, let alone write in a journal or slap on a face mask.
Sometimes, it can be hard to practice self-care, especially if an immediate result isn’t there. It’s been a slow and gradual practice for me. I find myself getting better and better at sitting with my feelings and practicing compassion. Sometimes things feel intuitive; other times forced, and even a little phony, but I keep on in my practice. The road of self-care has taken many wrong turns in my path, and I have previously thought “ugh, whyyyy, it’s so much easier to avoid/suppress/numbs these feelings”.
One day, it became apparent to me that we do need to talk about the “why”.
“Why should I practice body respect?”
“Why should I take breaks and set boundaries in my life?”
On this day, I woke in the morning, feeling excited, productive, and even connected with a new friend, which, for 2020 standards, speaks big energy volumes. By the same evening, I awoke from a nap and found that I was feeling the exact opposite: loneliness, self-pity and fatigue. I was missing my family, friends, and ironically, live blues music. How could I be feeling such polar energies in less than a 12 hour period? #life, baby – that’s how.
These uncomfortable feelings are never exactly invited, but here they are. In being the natural hostess that I am – I let ’em in. I put on some music, shed a tear or two, and audibly named, “I feel sad”. Patsy Cline was a braver woman than I, going out after midnight and all, but I decided I’d go a walkin’.
My hope was to get outside of myself and connect to a bigger energy around me. I thought about why we should engage in self-care, about the progress I had made throughout the years, and the many people I know who struggle to practice any form of self-compassion. It is not lost on me the privilege, and work I have done, to even have the thought, “I better go out for a walk” when I’m feeling lonely.
Self-care does not reward us instantaneously. It’s not likely that you’re going to feel a grandiose flood of dopamine after eating intuitively, practicing meditation, or saying “no” in the name of rest. So why do it then, why add yet another task to your lengthy to do list?
It’s so that suffering (which is inevitably going to happen) can be just a little more tolerable. To be able to play a record, light some candles, and sip a beverage while processing emotions, takes work. Intentionally resting, feeding, and practicing kindness to yourself happens at a frustratingly slow pace. And don’t I know it. As a natural avoider, and someone who does not have a consistent journaling routine, putting pen to paper when shit hits the fan, is not exactly my go-to activity. Believe me when I say I know this process takes work.
I also know the pay off is well worth it. So when I think about my why, here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Numbing, avoiding, and diminishing my truth is not teaching me anything, in fact, it only builds towards a bigger and more uncomfortable emotion later down the line.
- In asking “Why do I take care of myself in the ways that I do? Why do I try to practice journaling, writing, meditation, rest, and boundaries?” For me, it’s so that I can cherish the moments that do feel good, and trust that the suck will be just. a. little. less. tough
- I practice self-compassion so I can be kind not only to myself, but have empathy and hold space for others
- I do it for me and I do it for you: because I believe in the interconnectedness of all life form
I’d like to think that we share in our “why’s”, but I’ll never know if you don’t. Below I share what’s worked for me when I’m feeling low, it may or may not work for you, but there’s only one way to find out.
What Works For Me: Ways To Practice Self-Care When You’re Sitting In The Suck
- go for a walk
- listen to music on said walk
- listen to music not on a walk
- play a record (thank you Valerie June)
- light candles/incense
- get cozy in a soft blanket
- take a bath
- one of the hardest, yet most rewarding: journal it out
- take a nap
- one of my faves: watch a movie and cry it out
- cleanse – like organizing a little bit, for example cabinets, closet or your fridge
- sage cleanse
- guided meditation w/or w/o stones
- drink something warm (tea, hot toddy, hot cocoa)
- put on some essential oil
- make ice cream extra special with toppings like strawberries, naners, chocolate sauce, nuts or whip cream!
- call a friend, call me, I’m here for it, you got this.