It happens to me all too often. I will be going through my days feeling calm, focused and centered the majority of the time until…BAM! Anxiety, overwhelming thoughts, and sadness hits me in the gut and I stumble backwards from the force.
What causes this to happen? After staggering around for a few days, I start to poke around to try and see a way out of the hole I have put myself in. I notice my sleep cycles. I realize for the previous few nights I have been woken up 3-4 times during the six hours of sleep I manage to average. I look at my diet. I see I’ve been letting fresh veggies and water slip and replaced it with refined sugars and a ton of caffeine. I count back since the last time I went for a run, stepped on the yoga mat, sat in meditation, or wrote in my journal. The calendar shows me I haven’t connected personally with friends in awhile. Probably most obvious, my dry, hairy legs and greasy hair are tell-tale signs that I have neglected the basic of necessities for self-care.
No matter what is going on in your life, if you don’t put basic self-care as a priority (or even a blip on the radar), things start to unravel.
Adequate sleep, healthy foods, and moderate exercise are basic needs that ALL people need, regardless of sex, age, race, socio-economic status, or personal and professional responsibilities. It is easy in our culture to buy into the philosophy that if you are not running at full speed, with a to-do list a mile long and a stress level at code red, you are not carrying your weight as a successful member of society. However, I would argue that if you are not able to step away from comparing yourself with others, holding yourself to standards that are created by unhealthy ideals, and reclaim the things you need to be healthy mind, body, and spirit; it will be impossible for you to be a harmonious member of your family, community, or world which we live in.
As a mother of a three and five year old, I have spent a few years wavering back and forth between depletion and ‘refilling my tank’ when I ‘break down’. When my second son was born, I was working outside of the home full time, my husband worked nights, my infant slept only 1.5 hours at a time before waking for the first ten months of his life, and I had an active two year old who needed my love and attention (not to mention my dog and cat who were dependents who needed me as well.) I put tremendous pressure on myself to be the best employee, wife, and mother I could be in comparison with others. I felt guilt trying to balance all of those things and not doing all of them perfect 100% of the time. I also didn’t have a good understanding of what I really needed. Because of these things, my self-care ended up being dumped at the bottom of the pile under the dirty laundry, reports due, and grocery shopping.
For the past year or two, I am starting to learn that by incorporating regular time to refill my cup, or at least acknowledge and address my needs as best as I can, my reserves of energy, patience, grace, and perspective do not dry up as quickly. When I go several days and my glass seems to dwindle to half empty (or a few drops at the bottom), I know it is time to go to sleep earlier, eat some greens, put on some music and dance, write a few pages before bed, or whatever else fills my heart with wonder and makes my soul sing in that moment.
I also am learning to let go of what I perceive others think about how I am doing. So often, I would compare myself to others who seemed to have it “all together” and wonder why I didn’t function as easily as they did on little sleep, no time to myself, and extraordinarily high expectations on what I could accomplish in a day. I felt inadequate, guilty, and even more overwhelmed when I held myself up to standards that were only real inside my head. More than likely, everyone else was just doing the best they could as well and we are all on different points in our journey. By letting go, I am practicing being able to admit just what I need in any given moment and accept that as my truth.
By giving ourselves radical self-care for a few minutes or few hours that not only replenishes, but maintains vitality and health, we can offer those in our world our best selves. This is a gift that I give to myself that benefits not just me, but everyone who I come in contact with during the course of my day. What do you do that radically cares for your soul?