If you struggle with self-care, here are 5 practical ways to practice it
When I called in that orange calcite last week, I had NO idea how inspired it would make me - I have so many thoughts to get into the hands of people who might need them. So many thoughts that I considered writing a post per day every day this week... a thought that was quickly taken back because that wouldn't be good for my mental health when I have so many things going on outside this blog.
The urgency I feel to write these posts while holding down a social work job and nurturing my relationships and body leads me to what I want to talk about today: we can't do everything.
Most people drawn to my site/life have a tendency to forgo their own needs to help those in need of support. And though a big heart is a beautiful trait, forgetting about yourself and your needs is not beautiful at all. No wonder so many of us struggle with mental health challenges; we are trying to be everything to everyone without taking moments to stop and be anything for ourselves.
The other day I heard about a social worker who died by suicide due to the stress she felt from her job. And the scary thing is, the story didn't feel so far removed. Almost every day I interact with social workers who just can't do it anymore. In many ways, I've become one of them. We are so good at showing up to carry and transmute the pain for others but not so good at acknowledging the pain in ourselves. Self-care is a radical act. ESPECIALLY for women in the helping profession. We are natural nurturers. We get a high from helping others. But emotional labor is a very real thing and it's time we start acknowledging and being accountable for the fine line between supporting others and killing ourselves.
Something I didn't anticipate with the online world was the constant need to be available. Unlike a traditional counselling job, I can't put a closed sign on the door at 5pm. Messages and e-mails asking for support come at all hours. I woke up to a few this morning. And I know part of that is my fault. I wanted to create a culture where people who weren't understood could reach out and be heard and directed to the support they need. But I also started this blog to start a new conversation, one that shined a light on a different way of life. A way of life that reflected the needs of sensitive people. To be honest about what it is to feel and care so much in a world that sometimes seems to not care at all.
I want to model a new way of being for all the sensitive people who read this site and are part of my life by making it OK to have boundaries, say no, and take life a little (read: a lot) slower. To say, I want to help you, but I can't. To feel comfortable with not being available for everyone all the time. AND THAT'S REALLY, REALLY HARD. Because people are hurting and we have the knowledge and skills to help them. But I'll tell you this, when we are overworked, depressed and run-down, we can't help anyone.
And that takes accountability.
Because wanting to help everyone all the time is my natural tendency. It's our natural tendency as a community of sensitive people. And like any tendency, we need to get honest and accountable to change it when it starts to impair our wellbeing. So this is what I'm doing to take my power back and get myself to a place where looking after myself becomes just as important as looking after other people.
Maybe some of these will work for you too.
1. I realized others are capable of caring for themselves.
One of my favourite online personalities is Cornelia Grimcorn, a YouTuber from Norway and when I was feeling a bit lost and insecure last summer I sent her a message. I still haven't heard back and you know what? I'm still here! Stronger than ever, because not hearing back from her caused me to problem solve and find another way. The need to help usually stems from a feeling that others can't do it themselves. But they can, just like I did. It's OK to let my inbox and DMs pile up and trust that my gut will get my attention if there is someone I'm personally meant to connect with and support.
2. I took back my mornings.
Our vibrations are the highest when we first wake up. Mornings set the stage for how our days will go so it's important I get intentional about the energy I put out. Mornings are also when I am most productive. So I've decided to take my mornings back and fight my tendency to reach for my phone by shutting it off and keeping it out of arm's reach. I now wake up at 5:30am, chat with my inner guide and then walk down to the ocean to take a few deep breaths before I even THINK about turning my phone on. The mental clarity and genuine productivity that has come from this new practice has been beyond powerful.
3. I made a list of who gives me energy and who takes my energy.
We all give or take all day long, even us givers take from others. I used to believe all relationships needed to be balanced, that there had to be equal flow of give and take to make a relationship successful, but I've come to realize this isn't necessarily true. There are people in my life who I know were put here to re-energize me at this particular time so I could show up for other people. Those are the relationships I take from. There are also people in my life who I know I am meant to support who I don't get anything from. Those are the relationships I give to. Then there are relationships that are balanced, back and fourth. Making a list of who I personally take from and who I give to has allowed me to get honest about whether or not my life is balanced. Giving without receiving is healthy WHEN it's balanced with other relationships that are getting without giving.
4. I remembered I am here for a reason.
I care about everyone. I just want the pain in this world to stop. I want everyone to feel safe being exactly who they are and to have the support they need to succeed in every area of their lives. I want animals to run free and be respected for the wisdom they have to share. I don't want anyone to ever have to contemplate leaving this earth before their mission is done. I want to care for, love, hold, support, teach, share with and guide everyone. But I can't. I've been put this body and experienced the things I've experienced to support a very specific group of people with very specific needs, and I have to trust those in different bodies with different experiences will follow their hearts to show up for the specific causes they are here to care about.
When I start veering out of my lane I ask myself, "is this where my personal energy is best spent?" And if the answer is no, I force myself to back off. I can't attend every march, take on every volunteer task, support every person who asks, and that's OK, because if I am showing up to my blog each and everyday, that is enough. This space and the mission associated with it is what I was created for.
5. I realized most people don't care why I can't do something.
When I have to say no to someone it goes a little something like... "I'm so sorry I can't do that for you. I totally would but I'm really trying to care about myself and put myself first so I don't get drained. And I already promised someone else that I would help them out on Saturday after scheduling that day off for myself. I know it's really important that you get your project done and I really want to help. Maybe we can do it another time. Actually, how about you just e-mail me and I'll do what I can tonight when I'm home after work. I was going to go to gym but you know what, no it's totally OK. I like to write and want to help you out. Wait, no I can't, I really can't. I'm so sorry. I really am. I need to go to the gym. I need to put myself first. So sorry."
And no... one... cares. I don't have to explain myself and I don't have to apologize for not being able to do something if it's something I can't do. A simple 'no' will suffice. Anything more is for me, not them, and it's important I acknowledge that.
I know it's really, really hard to put yourself first, but if any part of this post resonated, you have to. Normally I'd leave a link to my comment box and encourage you to reach out if you wanted to talk more about how to look after yourself. But today I won't. Because I know you have to strength to find those answers yourself... and I have to take a little break.
(It feels so weird to even write that.)
(So, so weird.)