When even self-care gets hard

Recently, I saw a social media post about self-care steps someone was taking after coming through an intense few weeks, inviting folks to talk about the ways they were taking care of themselves.

Not surprisingly, an impressive list of massages, nature rambles, spiritual experiences and the like followed.

What was surprising to me was the mixed set of reactions I felt when reading them. 

There was my usual surge of “Go you!” appreciation for people truly caring for themselves. I also felt exhausted and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to attempt any of these truly beautiful self-care practices myself. And then came an ache of aloneness and an alarming pulse of shame. (Shame?)

You see, my life right now is a storm of worry and off-the-charts stress. There are hard, hard things happening for two people I love. Two people who are inextricably woven into the fabric of my daily life. People for whom I have a foot - and a heart - in the role of caretaker.

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I'll pause here to let you (deeply kind, so very compassionate and caring folks) know I’m OK. I know you’re all wise in the ways of healing and self-love - and - I’m not asking you to do the labor of offering advice (with gentle appreciation for any who had that impulse). I simply offer this snapshot of my life to give you bit of context so what I’m saying next about self-care makes sense.

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Since a lot of my work centers around helping people cultivate resilience, my aversion reactions to this post gave me this ghostly sense of being an outsider in a space I typically call home.

That pulse of shame? She's there because "I know this stuff and I should be doing better." Which is hogwash, of course. But - as I'm sure you know - when our resilience is stretched rice paper thin, that's when our inner monsters stage their coup. 

Hello monsters.... Nope. You don't get to take over...

So right now....

--- because it’s all very intense and utterly beyond my control
--- because it's swampy with all the feelings, especiall grief
--- because my time isn't my own - or doesn't feel as if it is
--- because the weight of this is bringing me to my knees - sometimes literally
--- because massages and painting classes and long walks and silent retreats feel mythical. Unreachable. A climb up Everest in flip flops.

...my version of self-care looks like

  • Remembering to eat.

  • Breathing a quiet “yes!” when it’s veggies rather than donuts.

  • Wearing the softest, most comfy clothes I own.

  • Embracing unplanned naps.

  • Stopping by a park for 10 minutes between transportation runs, rolling down the windows and breathing. Getting out of the car optional. Walking optional.

  • Wrapping my hands around a warm cup of tea. Breathing.

  • Letting plans - for my business and life - go dormant for a bit.

  • Holding schedules - for my business and life - gently and loosely. 

  • Whispering "I love you. You've got this." when I catch a glimpse of myself in random reflective surfaces. 

  • Kindness and patience when none of these work. 

  • Kindness when the patience fails. 

  • Retroactive kindness when the kindness fails. 

So, here's my invitation to you this time: Take a moment to notice the state of your resilience. And, if it feels nourishing, whisper "I love you. You've got this." when you catch a glimpse of yourself in random reflective surfaces. Savor how that feels. Build yourself a sweet well of self-love to draw on when life gets hard.