Taking the full measure of life

Support for the Year of Self-Care: Embracing Gradual Change

January 7th, 2009 · 8 Comments

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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!

Tags: 26 changes: the year of self-care · New Year's resolution · weight loss

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bee // Jan 8, 2009 at 6:17 am

    wow its the first time I am first! Happy New Year and thanks again Sally for these steps to self care. I am going to focus on this and be more caring of me so I can be a better person for me and everyone around me. I find myself sabotaging myself when I try to diet or quit drinking or other bad habits but I think this will be THE year and thanks to you, this time it will happen and continue to happen. Bee

  • 2 Amanda // Jan 8, 2009 at 11:39 am

    It’s the measurements that will be hardest for me, because I haven’t decided what direction I need to go with this. I just know that I beat myself up mentally waaaaay too often and I have to stop if I want to be healthy and happy and not stressed all the time. Any ideas?

    Within that, I’d like to (gently) exercise more, eat better, save money, and not procrastinate anymore. Maybe I’ll measure how long between when I get assignments and when I actually start them. That was one of my biggest stressors (worrying about not getting it done in time because I’d procrastinated, yet again, till the night before, AND beating myself up about the procrastination when I finally did get started on it) last year. It made for lots of negativity and worry while doing the homework and took the focus off just WORKING on it, for God’s sake. And it probably took twice as long, because every time I’d feel that I needed to look something up or ask someone about it, I’d resume beating myself up mentally because if I’d started sooner, I could have asked someone or had more time to look it up.

  • 3 sally // Jan 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Amanda—I don’t think the time between when you get an assignment and when you start it is a measure of your overall self-care as much as it is a step you need to make yourself take in your self-care. One of the things I’ve learned is that if there’s something I know I should do but that is something I tend to procrastinate on, I have to start it the first reasonable moment I think about it. This morning, the first time I thought, “Maybe my cramps will hurt less if I go exercise,” I had to get up and do it right then, or I knew I would’ve come up with a million excuses not to do it. (And voila, they did get better once I exercised.) So maybe setting up your life where you get home from class and immediately, non-negotiably sit down to start your assignment is a step in your self-care that you can take starting now. (Then, if you are really sick or something like that, you can apply being gentle with yourself about not getting it done right away. But sometimes it’s that’s ‘just do it’ Nike attitude that will get you into better self-care.)

    There are certainly ways to combine exercising more, eating better, saving money, and stopping your procrastination, and this is a holistic process of combinations, BUT that is a lot of stuff to focus on simultaneously, and sometimes they may clash with one another. Perhaps you should decide which of those is most important to you, and let the others be things that are peripheral while you work on the first one or two? Then you can get a clearer idea of which one you should be measuring for self-care purposes. (Or you can journal as a measurement to see how it all goes, but your life is so full that I wonder if you’ll just end up stressed about not journaling.)

  • 4 Amanda // Jan 9, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Good points, all of those. Especially the one about stressing about not journaling. That is EXACTLY what would happen lol.

    I think I’m going to choose three things: the procrastination and saving money, and generally just not being so harsh to myself. I think I can handle that. Not sure how I’m going to measure though. For now, I’m just trying to stop trains of thought that begin with, “I can do it later….” or “I’m such a (insert negative word here) person!” Yesterday was pretty good on that front, and I wasn’t as stressed as usual when I got home. Don’t know if they were related or not, but it seems promising so far!

    Thank you for doing this. You really are a great friend. 🙂

  • 5 Laura N // Jan 15, 2009 at 10:51 am

    great post, Sally. I’m much in the same place, emotion wise. SAD gets me too. And some days I feel great, and some days I feel lousy. Heck, sometimes it’s mere hours that my moods go up and down.

    It’s good to read your reminders of how to respond when things are tough.

  • 6 William Beverly // Jan 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Hi There — Sounds like you and I have a few things in common…. gluten, emotion, feeling “lazy”, beating self up etc….
    I like this praise for “gradual change”.
    I have been studying a bit lately about how gluten is possibly socially, psychologically, physically and chemically addictive. It is REALLY hard to quit. and then to move on…. in a healthy way.
    At least for me it is.
    Good luck with this.
    Stop by my blog some time at http://www.glutenfreesimplicity.wordpress.com
    I have jotted down a bit of my related stuff under links such as: http://glutenfreesimplicity.wordpress.com/category/100-ways-to-g-f-simplicity/ and http://glutenfreesimplicity.wordpress.com/category/g-f-psychobabble/ .
    Come on by.
    Take care.

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