I've been trying to figure out what is separating me from some of my people I want to support when I'm talking about self-care. I was re-listening to a recording by Renee Trudeau and it hit me. So many of us focus on the what and not the how.
Of course we do. I mean, it's so much more manageable to schedule something in a calendar than change a mindset. And that's saying a lot because scheduling 30 minutes to relax can feel daunting.
The trust of it though is that self-care isn't just the things you do for yourself: running, going to yoga, getting a massage, finding time for lunch... Those things ebb and flow. They happen and then they don't.
Self care is the approach you choose to have towards yourself and your life.
I can do things for myself. I can schedule a massage, I can go to lunch with a friend. But, if I spend the remaining times tearing myself down, putting my feelings after others, then all of those "events" I did for myself lose meaning.
Let me give an example. When I started my internship I was working with very poor clients exposed to huge amounts of violence and trauma. Our agency had a workshop on vicarious traumatization and talked about setting boundaries to protect yourself. These boundaries consisted of things like rituals to start and end your day to sandwich work (and theoretically, our thoughts and feelings) into a location or time period so that it didn't spill over into "real life."
eh hum bunk. excuse me. yeah, no.
Trauma, emotions, feelings in our bodies... they don't follow those rules. The lives and experiences of our clients live in our bodies, in our hearts and our minds. We are caretakers of them and carry them with us. Pretending it is not so only ignores the tension in your shoulder, it doesn't fix or prevent it.
Luckily I had a wonderful wonderful supervisor/teacher who introduced me to mindfulness meditation, self-compassion and Tara Brach. She helped me learn to be kind to myself: something few women had ever offered me. It was through this path that I was able to begin to learn that the attitude that I had towards myself was far more important than the things I did to take care of myself.
When you love yourself, and value yourself, there is no other option but self-care.
Because of her, I learned that self-care wasn't just the "doing." It was how I approached my life. It meant that I knew when I had young children I needed to protect my evenings and not work then, even if it meant an existing client could no longer fit in my schedule. It meant that I needed to charge more so that I could cover the higher "cost of working" (i.e. childcare) and still have the money I needed and wanted to be comfortable. It meant that I loved myself enough to believe I deserved to be comfortable. It meant that I needed time in my week to just be me -- not be "mom" or "spouse" or "therapist" but to explore who I am and what my values are in nature and solitude.
I urge you to take some time this week and reflect on the values you have, and the attitudes you carry, that show that you are important, too. This might not be accessible at first. Renee Trudeau talks about how the acts of self-care are the first steps on the path to self-love and I strongly agree. This is a journey. Your massage you scheduled, or flaking out in front of the TV are awesome and amazing steps on that journey. (Ones I particularly cherish.)
What are your next steps?
Where are you in your journey? Do you need to start with setting aside time to do the self care tasks? Are there ways you can bring the value of self-compassion to your day to day? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or find me on facebook and let me know.