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Are You Sabotaging Your Own Self-Care Efforts?

self-care Jun 08, 2022

I met a woman who told me she had taken two weeks off from work because she was burnt out, and she was going back to work feeling just as drained as when she left. Wow.

That got me thinking. Self-care is more than taking time away from what stresses us. It’s nourishing ourselves, too. Her story is proof that stepping away from the stress (or part of it) isn’t the full solution. It’s one thing to stop hurting yourself and another to heal yourself. Self-care is both together.

Do You Know What Nourishes You?

One thing that trips up many of us is that we don’t know what nourishes us. We confuse entertainment with relaxation, distraction with healing.

We need to be clear about what we:

  • truly do to take care of ourselves (not what we pretend or intend to do)
  • already do well to maintain our well-being
  • are willing to improve on

Self-care is about wholeness, that means considering all 8 dimensions of wellness:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Financial
  • Intellectual
  • Occupational
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Environmental

Try Something More than Once

Once you’ve done your self-assessment, you can choose what you want to improve and find activities that help. Be careful about thinking something doesn’t work because you tried it once before. Have an open mind and consider that maybe you:

  • didn’t have the training for what you were trying to do
  • may not have tried it for long enough
  • might not have matched the right solution to the wellness you needed at the time

Plus, people change! What worked for you today, might not work tomorrow. What didn’t work for you last week, might work next month. So don’t give up on something you tried once.

Are You Using the Right Solution?

There’s so much information available on the internet that it’s easy to think we’ve found the answer and it just didn’t work for us. But what if we didn’t find the whole answer? For example, there are millions of affirmations available on the web, but how many of them follow the rules for effectiveness? And how many come with instructions on how to use them to change our thinking?

Before I knew there was scientific evidence for how affirmations can change the way our brains function, I thought saying positive things would change my attitude. But now I know that effective affirmations begin with the way we write them:

  • Present tense (Future tense puts your goals just out of reach.)
  • Positive words (Your brain focuses on the main word, so make it uplifting.)
  • Stated as fact (I Am are two of the most powerful words.)
  • Emotional tie (Connecting with strong feelings creates a greater influence.)

And they end with how you use them. (We just learned about effective affirmations in the self-care pillar this month in my online community, Inspired by Indigo.)

Journaling is another tool that people either love or hate. Choosing the wrong method can make you think journaling doesn’t work for you. For people who are feeling overwhelmed, a brain dump might work better than using a prompt. A gratitude journal might be too much for someone feeling depressed and isolated. Again, you need to match the self-care solution with your emotional state and the right dimension of wellness.

Make Self-care a Habit

Believing that self-care is something you do once you notice you are stressed is another pitfall that many people fall into. We think if we feel fine, we don’t need self-care. Then we notice that we’re grinding our teeth at night and hunching our shoulders to our ears, and we think we need a vacation.

What would happen if we worked in a few minutes of self-care each day? Spend some time with meditation tonight. Journal tomorrow. Do some stretching and deep breathing the next day. Mix it up and cover all the dimensions. Can you imagine how baby steps could keep you from reaching that point of overwhelm so quickly and make your recovery easier?

Get Started

Need help with some baby steps, reminders, and exploring what works for you? In my online community, Inspired by Indigo, we learn and practice a different self-care modality or concept the first week of the month. Self-care is the first pillar of my 4-step program for making equity a habit and it's woven throughout each of the other steps as well:

  1. Self-care – because healing is a form of protest
  2. Know Your Facts – to undo myths and lies
  3. Undo the Work – undo what we’ve learned (and lived) about race, privilege, and equality
  4. Rest and Celebrate – to avoid burnout and disillusionment

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