I have an ongoing struggle with self-care which goes as follows. In the hustle and bustle of life self-care can easily become another pressure on my time. Rather than helping me relax or de-stress, forcing myself to do self-care can make me feel even more stressed and sometimes even resentful. More than once I've finished an hour of yoga or baking feeling angry and annoyed. Sometimes it's just the prospect of it after a long day at work.
Often our minds play tricks on us. It convinces us that we'd be better off going for a walk in the freezing cold when the hot water of a bubble bath is beckoning. Unless we fancy going for a brisk walk we will probably find that we are standing in the middle of the park at some ungodly hour. We will probably also feel cold and miserable and once we're finally home we'll be warm but tired and annoyed we've wasted our time.
When self-care becomes another thing on our to-do list or another thing we didn't do, it has ceased to be self-care. Self-care isn't meant to induce guilt or be another reason to berate ourselves. Self-care is there to help not hinder. It needs to work for us not against us. This is a trap I fall into all the time. They say the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions; so too is the pathway to feeling rubbish. It's important to have aspirations about our self-care. It can be a great motivator. Planning ahead or putting time aside can ensure that we actually get around to do it. BUT we must also take the pressure off and forgive ourselves if it doesn't happen. I know, so easy to say and much harder to do.
Make Self-Care Work For You
So how do we stop self-care feeling like a burden? How can we make it work for us?
Results Aren't Always Immediate
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want to see results and we want to see them now. When we're extremely busy/stressed/overwhelmed/sad/angry (insert adjective here) the last thing we may want to do is self-care. It can be hard to find the time to invest in ourselves when our to-do list seems never ending. When we're overtired or depressed we may have zero interest or motivation for self-care. If we could see instantaneous results it would be a better incentive to drag ourselves out of bed, off the couch or away from our computer or desk. But sometimes self-care doesn't make everything better. We still feel (insert adjective here) after our chosen self-care method. Sometimes it just doesn't seem to have worked. The benefits of self-care are many and will depend on what's going on in our lives, who we are and what kind of self-care we're engaging in. Sometimes we will feel instantly rejuvenated after a workout for example. Or we may have a burst of creativity after a hobby or feel relaxed after a warm bath or mindfulness session. And sometimes we won't. It's sticking with self-care even when we can't see the results which can be hard. But nothing worth having comes easy, right?
Find the Time
Powering through is sometimes the only way through (read here for getting through stress). Having said that, managing my time and my calendar has helped ensure that I do have some time for self-care. This means balancing my commitments in a week. I try and ensure that I go directly home from work one evening a week and stay there. That's my evening to catch up on my to-do list, spend time with my spouse or do something I enjoy. Just knowing I have that time in the week helps me manage everything else I'm juggling. Saying no also comes into play here. To me that two letter word can be my most powerful form of self-care. By saying no I'm committing to putting myself first. It's not something I feel particularly comfortable with or that comes easily. It's a massive work in progress for me. Sometimes it means saying no to things I want to do. But usually I'm grateful that I have. I've had to learn to go with my gut when I sense things are getting too much. I've learned to trust it as I'm feeling that way for a reason.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You push and push and push all week and tell yourself you'll play catch up over the weekend. By Sunday you're planning on back to back classes at the gym, starting a new book and trying out a new recipe. And yet, our Sunday self hasn't got the memo. It doesn't foresee all the things that pop up out of the blue and desperately need our attention. Our self-care routine needs to have a certain amount of flexibility. Self-care is all about being kind to ourselves. Sometimes that may mean choosing one form of self-care for another. Another time it may mean pushing off something else or saying no to prioritise your self-care. And often it's forgiving yourself. We may plan to do some self-care on a weekend only find that we stayed out later than we realized or everything took us longer than expected. We might find that someone pops over unexpectedly or friends decide to do drinks last minute. Other times we've had a long, hard day at work and we don't feel like exercising or being creative. And some days we may want to bury our head in the sand and do nothing at all. Maybe we're feeling ill, under the weather or lacking in motivation.
Whilst self-care will almost always help us feel better there's days we need to forgive ourselves too. No we didn't go that exercise class, call that friend back, write the new blog post or spend some time on a favourite hobby. But we did manage that disaster at work. We did go to the birthday drinks or maybe we managed to say 'no'. At the end of the day self-care has to work for us. Even when we push it offer or forgive ourselves it's still there for when we need it. Do any of the themes in this post resonate with you? Do you find it easy to find time to do self-care? What's your preferred self-care method?