If caring for yourself is so important,
why is it so hard to do?
We know we should do it.
We think about it.
We talk about it.
We tell other people to do it.
We don’t do it.
Why is it so hard to care for ourselves?
I mean, really?
If we’re spending all of this time thinking about it, talking about it, and getting billed monthly for the Korean face mask subscription we don’t use, and we still aren’t looking after ourselves, something’s up.
It’s a head-scratcher, alright.
When it comes to “self-care,” most of us have a long way to go.
What is the problem???
Why don’t I take care of myself?
What’s your problem?
Why don’t you take care of yourself?
I mean it’s easy, right?
Go to sleep. Eat some cashews. Rub nice-smelling stuff all over you. Do things you really want to do and enjoy doing. Read a book. Walk. Hang out with people you love and make you feel good. Breathe.
Now what’s so hard about that?
Sounds pretty easy. In fact, it sounds downright like a vacation!
I’m so IN.
In theory, yes.
Realistically, we’re blocked. Too many things pop up to interfere. We forget. We take care of other people first then we’re out of time, and on and on….
I propose you have three major categories that trip you up when it comes to taking care of yourself:
Environmental and Logistical-
There aren’t enough resources. The amount of time, money, energy, and help is not entirely in your control.
Your set patterns and routine already work for you- well, they work for you enough.
Once you’re in a flow, whether it’s healthy or not, it’s difficult to interrupt it. This “flow” includes physical, mental, and emotional ways of being and doing. It takes focus, work, and time to learn and unlearn habits.
What You Believe-
What you think is the last trickster at play here. What you believe about yourself, what you think you deserve, what you find necessary, expected, and possible are all significant contributors to how you choose to (or not to) take care of yourself.
*This feels like a full-course meal topic. It’s a lot to absorb in one go. I’ve decided to break things up so each self-care struggle gets time in the spotlight. Check out the next two blogs to confront habits and beliefs.
The Environmental and Logistical Barriers To Self-Care
Below are some things that can interrupt your self-care plans:
You feel like you don’t have the resources. No childcare, not enough money, not enough time, no help, and your energy is zapped.
Scenario: You daydream about a getaway to the Northwest. It’s been a while and you just had a friend tell you how stunning her trip to Oregon was. You begin to picture yourself, basking in the beauty of the mountains and greenery, serene and relaxed. And oh, it will be such a treat to sample the food and drinks from the region.
Example of environmental and logistical hurdles keeping you from self-care: Suddenly, you snap out of it!
“Stop wasting time googling trip ideas. I don’t have the money for this. I certainly don’t have the time. Relaxing? Right. I’d be so tired from planning, researching, taking the flight, and packing and unpacking that it would wear me out. And who’s going to watch the kids? A babysitter?! Yeah, how much is that gonna cost me?! Nope. I’m out. Whew, that was a close one!”
Example of enjoying your life and caring for yourself: You consider your reality. And say to yourself, “This is something that I’ve talked about and have wanted to do for a while. I’ll sign up for alerts for travel deals so I can go at a discount. Oh, and I’ve got some points I can use too. A seven-day trip feels like a big commitment, but I could certainly swing a four-day getaway. I can ask my friend who just went for her Oregon recommendations so I won’t have to plan it all from scratch. And I’ll pack light and download some books I’ve been waiting to read for the flight. I bet I could ask my mom to watch the kids the first two nights and my best friend to have them over for a sleepover the last night. Yesss! We’re going to have such a great time!”
You’re too tired to rest. Taking care of yourself feels like one more thing you have to do.
Scenario: You’ve been working all day and when you get home the house is a wreck. So you tidy up, clean the kitchen, take care of the pets, prep what you need for tomorrow. Geez, you’re exhausted. Your body is sore and weary from what’s felt like a marathon of chores and work. You wish you could take an Epsom salt bath, have a cup of tea, and get a good night’s rest to recharge yourself.
Example of environmental and logistical hurdles keeping you from self-care: You hastily decide it’s too much work. So you open a bottle of wine and lay on the couch in your dirty clothes from the day with your makeup still on. You turn on a series about serial killers to watch and you pass out on the couch. At 2 am, you wake up, realize you’re on the couch with a crick in your neck, see that the bottle of wine is nearly empty, and your face feels dry and cracked from not washing it. You’re too tired to do anything about that now or change into comfy pjs, so you just drag yourself into the bed as is to finish the “night’s rest” in your room. “At least I’m off the couch.”
Example of enjoying your life and caring for yourself: You look at the clock and recognize it’s getting late. You decide you want to give yourself ten good minutes to set yourself up for a restful night and a pleasant wake-up. You remind yourself that sleeping is a crucial way to take care of you. Instead of soaking in the bath for half an hour to rest your muscles, you decide a three-minute hot shower with essential oils will give you relief, make you feel clean, and help you get to bed drowsy and on time. You choose to finish your skincare and bedtime routine and add a few minutes of deep breathing to help you let go of the stress from today. While a long bath would be nice, and you wish you had time to journal or read, you understand what you need most. Rest. You wake up, refreshed, and ready to start the day with a positive outlook.
You may not know what actually restores you. You know there are certain things that are grouped as “self-care,” but you don’t really know what to do or what you like.
Scenario: It’s the weekend and you’ve had a loooong week. You’re mentally drained and you’re restless. You are tired and wired all at once. You think to yourself, “I know I need something. What?”
Examples of environmental and logistical hurdles keeping you from self-care:
You decide it’s easiest to do what you always do. Order takeout, watch a show, and text your friends. You feel okay about it. It is something, after all. And it’s low effort. So that’s good enough. But you don’t feel satisfied or at peace. And every day, you repeat a version of this. You decide that something is better than nothing.
Example of enjoying your life and caring for yourself: You consider how you’re never really at peace and decide to investigate. You choose to see this as a happy opportunity to learn what makes you tick. You decide to hold an experiment. Like an eight-year-old who wants to learn the violin, take gymnastics, and go to art camp, you write a list of ten things you want to try in the next three months to help you feel still inside. You research, ask friends what they do to care for themselves, listen to podcasts to get ideas, sign up for nearby classes, and register for a few free trials for meditation apps and virtual yoga classes. You’re willing. You’re open. You try. And you keep at it until you find what works for you. You find a few things you really love to do to manage your unrest, anxiety, and fatigue. Now, you’ve got choices for what you need, when you need it. You’ve got some things that genuinely satisfy you.
There are some common points in each of these scenarios.
To move from surrendering to the obstacles that keep you from self-care to enjoying your life and caring for yourself, you need to do the following:
Stir your creativity
Respect your circumstances
If something isn’t ideal, or even possible, give thought to what you could do if you were willing to make changes and adjust dates, duration, location, people, and expectations.
Stir your creativity-
If something isn’t practical, play and ponder how you can shape the idea so it can work for you. “What if…” is a magical phrase.
Who said you need to do it all alone without support? And who cares anyway?! Accept genuine offers of help, ask for a hand when you need it, and know that that’s part of being human- for everyone. We need each other. We give help. We receive help.
Respect your circumstances-
You may-can do all of the things you want and need to enjoy life and care for yourself… one day. Look at the season of life you’re in. Examine your resources. Some things are for today. Some things are for tomorrow. Make a plan for “tomorrow,” but give your attention to
“How can I care for myself today?”
While the environment and logistics may legitimately be an impediment to looking after yourself, it’s something to acknowledge, challenge, and outmaneuver.
When you embrace flexibility, stir your creativity, welcome help, and respect your circumstances, you CAN take care of you.
Next up, Part Two- All about habits.