January 27, 2019

When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Last Sunday was stormy so I stretched out on the couch and read. I also reflected on 2018. Although it was a good year overall, there were a couple of ongoing issues that caused me a significant amount of stress.
Throughout the year, I’d been practicing self-care: spending time with family and friends, reading, writing, and treating myself to some pampering.

Still, I was exhausted. It seemed self-care wasn’t working which I found baffling. Experts say self-care helps with stress, insomnia and chronic illness and that if you practice it, you’ll feel better.

As I was thinking about this, something dawned on me: You can’t overextend yourself and expect that the occasional feel-good activity is going to make everything better. Light bulb moment!

Suitably enlightened, I started thinking about ways I’d been sabotaging my own self-care. As answers came to me, I asked myself, “How could this help others?” It was then I realized that I could frame those answers as questions with the intent of getting you thinking about whether or not you may be sabotaging your own self-care efforts.
Here we go…

Are you saying “yes” to extra obligations because you feel guilty? I’ve done this, and instead of just saying, “No, I can’t do that,” I try to come up with plausible excuses or worse, say yes and feel resentful. If you’re guilty of this too, let’s make an agreement to STOP. I’ve had lots of people say no to me over the years, and I didn’t hate them for it. I may have been a bit hurt or insulted in the moment but nothing I didn’t get over. It’s important to determine your limits and not exceed them.

Do you like yourself? I remember being a mouthy little kid who felt good about who I was and what I was doing. Then I didn’t. Somewhere along the way, my self-esteem faltered. If you read my stories in Deep Water Pearls, you’ll find out that late puberty was a contributing factor. That wasn’t the only thing though. Being told to be quiet, be good, be nice, and not complain didn’t help. I’m not blaming my parents because it’s a societal thing. You can also add the beauty and weight loss industries that thrive on making you feel badly about yourself. It’s easier to look after yourself if you like yourself. Let’s work on that.

Do you stand up for yourself? When the boss isn’t happy with your results and is giving you heck, perhaps you deserve it. If that’s the case, suck it up and get moving. However, maybe you don’t have enough resources to get the job done or the time lines aren’t reasonable. If that’s the case, stand up and state your reality. This is just an example. There are many other opportunities in life to stand your ground.

Are you asking for help when you need it? Your partner is ill in the hospital, you’ve got a major deadline at work, and your daughter has a tournament on the weekend. Ask someone to sit with your partner for a couple of hours so that you can take a break. Talk to your boss about getting some help to meet that deadline or make a case for an extension. See if one of the other parents could provide your daughter with transportation to the tournament with a promise to return the favour. Cut yourself some slack and reach out. People will help you.

Do you treat yourself with kindness? Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. How often do you look in the mirror and bemoan your appearance? How many times have you beaten yourself up because of a simple mistake? If you wouldn’t say something negative to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. If there is an area where you’re lacking, do something about it. If you choose not to, accept the situation and love yourself anyway.

It was great to be struck with the realization that my less than stellar self-care results were as much about what I wasn’t doing as what I was. For example, working myself into the ground wasn’t fixed by getting a facial. Don’t get me wrong, I love facials. However, the better approach would have been to work more reasonable hours.

Self-care includes doing things you enjoy and that are good for you. It also means that you stop doing things that aren’t. I learned this lesson in 2018. I hope you can learn from me.