Don’t use that dirty word….self-care.

Resistance to Self-Care

Even after practicing self-care for years I still very much dislike that word. As a heart-914682_1920teacher there are “self-care” trainings from time to time- I always pick something else. So why as a parent and a teacher do I resist self-care and even the concept of self-care? I think the problem is multi-fold. Let’s explore some of the reasons we may resist self-care, some ways to by-pass the resistant brain, and what practicing self-care may look like in the “real world.”

Resistance is the Real Deal

The concept of self-care is foreign to many us. Keeping busy, getting the job done, and indulging in instant gratification all led me away from self care. “It takes too much time,” “I have too much work,” “This is stupid,” “I will do it later,” is what my mind said again and again. The funny SNL skit with Stuart Smalley always popped into my mind. I could just imagine myself standing in front of a mirror saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dog-gone-it, people like me.” I surely didn’t want that to happen. All-or-nothing thinking also kept me stuck. If I couldn’t go on a retreat for a few days, or take several hours, or do it “perfectly,” then it wasn’t worth it. That kept me from taking advantage of any benefits at all of practicing self-care.

Tricking Myself into Self-care

Although my mind is fairly smart- it can plan, plot, and achieve- but it is rather simplistic when it comes to resistance. It seems so strong but it is one-pointed. If I go a different route than it is pushing against I can help direct it to where I want it to go. Self-care, for instance, is a thing my mind resisted terribly. I couldn’t find out why I resisted self-care so much. But, like a friend once said to me, “I could ask ‘why’ for the rest of my life without changing the problem. What I need to do is change the question to a ‘what.’ What can I do to change the problem?” This question implies action. My first step to self-care……tricking myself.

Ways I Trick Myself

1. Time is an illusion (not really). In a very real sense I only have so many hours in a day. I have so many things jammed into my schedule that sometimes I don’t know what day it is unless I look at the calendar. But like a sidewalk, there are spaces. If I fill those small spaces- 5, 10, 15 minutes with a little self-care over time (like the cracks in the sidewalk) that care adds up.

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2.  Double Trouble- I pair my self-care with other things I am already doing. If I am going to a meeting close to the house I get some exercise in by walking or riding my bicycle. I also stop by a park sometimes on the way home from work. I sometimes take a few minutes to do some mindfulness in the car before going into work or for an appointment. I use stop signs and red lights to remind me to do some mindful breathing. I have even been known to do affirmations in the mirror while getting ready for the day.

3. Adapt and Experiment (one size does NOT fit all)- my schedule changes, my needs change, my self-care needs to adapt. I experiment with different kinds of self-care. Not all kinds of care work for me and even the ones that do work don’t work in all situations and all the time. I approach taking care of myself with excitement and curiosity (and sometimes frustration and begrudging determination).

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Final Word on the Dirty Word…..Self-Care

Taking care of myself, finding ways to trick myself into doing self-care, experimenting with different kinds and adapting to my changing needs takes time. I am never going to be perfect at it. There are times when it self-care is easier than others. There are times when practicing self-care is extremely difficult even though I have done it for years. What I continue to tell myself about self-care is, “Take it easy but do it!” If practice self-care as best I can with the little time that I have my life will blossom like flowers in a side-walk.

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