Does Self Care Really Matter?
Why do they keep saying, "You have to take care of yourself."
There was a time that I slept with my head hovering just above my pillow, my body ready to jump into action as if there was a constant threat. I also slept with my car keys and my wallet. If you’re reading this, I am sure you know why. My neck was chronically sore, my body was coursing with stress hormones and my nervous system was fried by my hyper-vigilance. I was underweight, under rested and overwhelmed. Taking care of myself was not on my radar. I was squarely focused on keeping someone else alive and meeting the needs of my three children. What I didn’t see was that my body was breaking down and the distress was hurting me. If I didn’t take better care of myself, I wasn’t going to make it either. My body was protesting the neglect with an inflammatory auto immune disorder and borderline disordered eating.
I had to turn some of my focus back on myself. On my body, my mind and my spirit. Because of that devotion to self, to the care and feeding of my body, something deep shifted in our ecosystem. My self care rippled out in a positive way but that’s not the reason I did it. I did it because I deserved care as much as my family did.
While “self care” has been commodified, capitalized on, turned into a whole thriving industry, the roots of it are not something you can purchase on a shelf or on amazon. It’s not a shopping spree. It’s a way of being towards your SELF.
Another phrase you’ve probably heard is, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” meaning its your responsibility to take care of yourself so others can have more of you. As mothers, our roles have been largely defined by the actions of caregiving, care taking and being in service to our kids, our families and our communities. Self care has been requested of us so that there is more of us to go around. That’s not what it is really about.
We take care of ourselves not in service to giving more and care-taking more, but to develop our own sense of wellbeing and build resilience for times of stress and challenge. Life is always going to have its challenges. The systems, the culture we live in, the water we swim in is stressful and asks way too much of us. Therefore our resilience is necessary. By resilience I don’t mean tolerating dysfunction. I mean being strong in our spiritual and physical core and therefore able to weather the inevitable challenges of life without losing our sense of self, peace and natural wellbeing. We nourish ourselves so that we are healthy and feel good in our bodies, minds and spirits. We can take care of ourselves so that we are able to be loving, kind, emotionally regulated mothers. To provide an emotionally and physically safe, stable environment for connection, healing and growth.
We take care of ourselves because we are also humans that deserve care and nurture. We devote to self care so that we are not only resilient in times of challenge but also present to experience the beauty, the joy and happinesses that life has to offer as well. To be at peace with life.
What kind of care and nurture resonate with you? There are “multiple pathways” of recovery and care for mothers in the same way that there are multiple pathways of recovery and care for our children. Honor the pathways that feel nourishing and nurturing to you. Take the time and space needed to feel that nourishment and care in your body. There are ways to “take care” that cost nothing.
One of those ways is the way you treat yourself. It starts with self compassion. Compassion is one of the most essential ingredients in having loving relationships. It matters to us that we connect with others on a heart to heart level. Oftentimes we blame ourselves for our loved ones behaviors, we shame ourselves, we magnify our mistakes, we demean ourselves and diminish our intelligence. We typically don’t treat others as harshly as we treat ourselves. Being unkind to yourself is a lack of self-compassion.
Self-compassion says, “I am worthy of the same loving kindness and gentle treatment I give others”. It says, “it's okay to acknowledge and express my own suffering and pain.” Self-compassion tells us to give ourselves tender loving care: to rest, eat, take a breath, take a break, take a walk, drink more water, get in a warm salt bath or get in your pajamas and just be. Self compassion is believing that you deserve peace, joy, balance and happiness, and it is with your thoughts, words and actions that you contribute to those feelings in your life. Sometimes this also means setting a limit around what you will tolerate from others or saying no to a situation that puts your safety at risk or disregards values that support your well-being.
Three ways I contribute to nourishment and care of my body, mind and spirit are: sleep, water and movement. When I finally noticed I was sleeping with my head hovering, I practiced relaxing my body with my breath before going to sleep, I practiced not hovering my head. It was a conscious effort but an effort that improved my mental health with adequate rest. I honor my body’s need for hydration and drink more water than anything else. Water is an essential need for your brain and your body. Ways I move my body to get the good chemicals flowing, reduce inflammation and stress hormones are walking and yoga. Getting outside and walking in the sunshine and fresh air, always lifts my mood. It’s both spiritual and physiological. A regular yoga practice strengthens not only my physical core but my spiritual core.
These daily rituals keep the nervous system regulated which makes way for emotional regulation and the felt sense of peace in your body, mind and spirit.
Your self care matters.
Take Good Care of You,
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