We’re one week into 2008, and one week into the Year of Self-Care! How are you feeling? Are you pumped about this year being one where you will grow in your ability to feel more soothed, more fulfilled, and healthier? I know I am.
I’ve struggled lately, emotionally. About half the time, I feel fine. The other half, I just don’t. Some difficult life events added to the fall/winter season (S.A.D., anyone?) and the stressors of moving and job-developing and the empathy I feel with so many other people’s struggles—the combination has washed over me so much sometimes lately that I’ve felt that I was drowning.
But I’ve had a toolkit to help me make it through—the self-care that I’ve been learning to administer for these past two years and am continuing to develop still. In the case of my emotional struggles lately, self-care means several things: I continue to make food that will nurture my body and mind even when I don’t feel like it; I continue my habit of exercise, knowing it will boost me up even when I don’t want to do it; I make myself go to the doctor to get the prescription for the S.A.D. full-spectrum light box (no, you don’t have to have a prescription—but if insurance will pay for 80% of the cost with a prescription, I want a prescription); I remind myself that good times will come again and that I’ve worked through hard times before; I treat myself gently and avoid berating myself for how I wish I didn’t feel; I keep asking myself what I need to feel better, and giving myself permission to use my energy for that, to get myself to a point of better stability.
In the past, I would’ve simply berated myself by saying I was such a crazy, stressed-out, lazy person. I would’ve treated this depressed state as a prime opportunity to overeat and overspend. I would’ve overeaten and overspent immensely because the food and purchased items, while not fixing my life’s difficulties or my emotional state, felt good for a moment and at least let me avoid how I was feeling for a while. I would’ve dropped the exercise and other healthy efforts because I just didn’t feel like them. And ultimately, I would have made myself more miserable than I had been before. But no more—I take better care of myself than that these days. It’s not always easy, and I’m certainly not perfect at it, but it’s worthwhile, and I’m working on it every day.
Self-care doesn’t mean your life will always be great, but it does mean that when tough times come, you’ll have developed a stronger sense of self-worth and habits that can be a life raft while you wait for the storm to calm.
In the first step toward self-care—embracing gradual change—I set out a few ground rules in the last post. Let’s review those now that we’re a week in:
1. Accept where you are.
2. Be gentle with yourself.
3. Trust yourself to take care of yourself.
4. Decide on some form of measurement, and stick with it. Take the first measurement, in whatever method you’ve chosen, of your current self-care state and/or health state.
5. Accept opportunity cost.
6. If you’re living with a family, make the obvious changes a family affair.
Over the next week, your task is to review the ground rules and work through your thoughts and emotions about any of them that might be a struggle for you or a particular gift for you. (Which of these will most change your life? Which of these will be hardest to accomplish?)
Next Wednesday brings step two in the Year of Self-Care!