There’s Something I Want To Tell You About Self Care

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Recently, I experienced several weeks of anxiety. Physically, I felt as though someone was sitting on my chest and crushing my throat with their hands. I couldn’t breathe. Mentally, I was scattered and unable to concentrate. And emotionally, numbing sadness covered me like a cloud.

Work and parenting distracted me in the daytime hours. My son’s birthday and the Easter holiday also offered short reprieve. But, later the symptoms returned. I was heavy-hearted and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep well. I had stomach pain and agitation. I was fearful that my thyroid or some other vital organ was imploding. Or, maybe I was simply stressed.

Desperate for a fix, I pulled out every self-care trick in the book: I scheduled a 90 minute massage, took walks, meditated, wrote, faithfully ate my adaptogenic herbs, cleared my calendar, made plans with friends, prioritized sleep and willed myself to feel better. But, I didn’t. So after days of trying to escape my feelings I did what I am so quick to advise others – I welcomed the feelings instead.  

I got curious. I studied them. I sat with them. I made friends with them. And what I discovered after accepting my distress, is that my body and mind were grieving the anniversary of a traumatic event. Subconsciously, I was remembering a very painful experience and in a sense I was reliving it (over and over again). Realizing the origin of my anxiety was a gift. It allowed me to mourn. It prompted conversations with friends and family. It led me to express forgiveness. It forced me to articulate my lingering disappointments.

And though it was, at times, agonizing to deeply feel the emotions I had worked so hard to evade – 

I DIDN’T DIE. 

IN FACT, I DID QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

I LIVED.

And that is precisely why I am telling you about it.

I welcomed my difficult feelings and I lived.

And so will you.

So often, we look at self-care as an arsenal of actions, things that we do to love and honor ourselves. Get enough sleep. Wear comfortable clothes. Listen to music. Schedule a pedicure. Drink water. Take your vitamins. Move your body. Eat real food. Have sex. Go outside. Read a book. Call a friend. Be of service. Take a bath. Eat dark chocolate. Seek counsel, etc. And that arsenal is great. Trust me, I’ve done the work. I’ve spent time collecting valuable tools to soothe myself that wouldn’t leave me standing red-faced at the pantry door with cereal crumbs gathering on my collar. And I’m quick to recommend that my clients experiment with various practices to manage stress and discomfort in order to supersede the default comforts of controlling and/or abusing food and body. Self-care actions are useful and absolutely necessary. 

But, there is care also in inaction, in getting still and facing our pain long enough to know its name. When we accept our brokenness without scrambling to find a distraction from the mess or sweep away the fragments, healing happens. Sure, maybe we’ll step on the jagged pieces. Maybe they’ll cut us. Maybe we’ll cry out. Maybe we’ll bleed. Inevitably, we’ll bear the scars.

BUT WE WON’T DIE. 

IN FACT, WE’LL DO QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

WE’LL LIVE.

And that is precisely why I am telling you about it.

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