Why was it such a hard concept for me to master? This whole idea of “taking care of myself”…

I mean really take care of myself – Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul. Like most things in life, I needed a mindset shift to make it happen. I had to realize that taking the time out of my day to exercise, read a book, call a friend, or just sit outside in silence was not selfish. It felt selfish.

Learning how to set aside that ever growing to-do list, and to sometimes say “no” to something or someone, so that I could take care of myself first – that ranks right up there as one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

One of my therapists told me (repeatedly, because I’m like my kids and don’t listen the first time… 😐) – to think of life as an airplane trip, where we’re instructed to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. “It’s the same in life,” she said, “you need to take care of yourself first or else you’ll become unable to help those around you.”

Right. I heard her loud and clear, but I didn’t really get it at first. I honestly believed I was taking care of myself. Enough, anyways. I was setting aside time to have a hot bubble bath. That’s self-care, right? Well… not exactly when I was using the 60 minutes to over-analyze every feeling of guilt and overwhelm that was going on in my brain.

Pfffft… I knew how to take care of myself – I made healthy meals for our family, and I had every intention of going to a yoga class this week. Well… the yoga class never happened as something else always came up, and that healthy meal that I inhaled so that I could quickly move on to the next thing on my list, that wasn’t really taking care of myself either.

I have dozens of examples of the “fake” self-care that I used to partake in. The bottom line was that everything else in my life was more important than me. My kids, my husband, my friends, my family, my community, my seven volunteer commitments… everything was more important than me.

Can you relate?

Well, the ball dropped (or perhaps, more accurately, the seventeen balls dropped) when my health started failing me in multiple ways. I was struggling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Pain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and depression were taking over my life. My secret life. I tried to keep everything under wraps and proudly wear my Super Mom cape so that the rest of the world didn’t know what was going on. Apparently I did a bang up job because only a handful of people closest to me saw my struggles. I used to wear my ability to “hide” things as a badge of honour. Not anymore.

When the Connection became clear to me, when my emotional breakdown started a chain reaction of events that led to greater healing, I finally realized what my therapist had been saying all along. I was turning into an unstable wife, an anxious mom, a distant friend, and a crappy volunteer. Because I wasn’t giving myself the care and time that I needed, I wasn’t any good to anyone around me either.

That whole “you can’t pour from an empty cup” analogy. A beautiful quote, but for some of us it’s easier said than done.

For any of you needing help making this shift in your own life, try spending some time reflecting on this:

You have one body, one mind, one heart, and one soul. If you don’t take care of those parts of yourself, you don’t get replacements.

  • Find the time. Tiny pockets of time. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there add up. Pause life and your to-do list to get in some exercise, to plan healthy meals for the week, to read a few pages from a good book, to call that friend that fills your heart up with joy. All it takes is a little pause.
  • Get rid of the guilt. Taking those pockets of time will do no good if you attach guilt to them. When I shifted my perspective to understand that it is my number one job to take care of myself, I felt less guilty. I am simply doing what needs to get done.
  • Repeat steps one and two, and add a healthy dose of self-love. You deserve to become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself. It’s never too late. Now watch yourself blossom into the best you in all areas of your life. Crazy how spending time on ourselves actually gives us more time and energy to spend on our loved ones too.

You are #1. Seriously. That realization changed my life dramatically, and the moment I took charge of my health and happiness was the moment my life started moving confidently towards all of dreams and goals coming true.

Here’s an excerpt from The Healing Compass that talks about how well-versed I became in the art of “fake” self-care:

Self-care is important. You won’t hear me debate that fact. I’m kind of new to the game, and in many ways I am very much a rookie at many aspects of it. What I can say though, is that as I try to become better-versed and more experienced at the whole practice of self-care, I start to worry about all of the fakers out there, including myself.

I have faked it for years. This is the self-care I used to practice:

  • Self-care = having a bubble bath
  • Self-care = taking “me time” to watch a TV show
  • Self-care = buying myself a fancy, yummy coffee

What makes it fake self-care? If the act itself doesn’t provide real rest and rejuvenation, or if the act itself doesn’t promote self-compassion and self-acceptance – then it’s not self-care.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

  • Was the 60 minute bubble bath relaxing? Yeah, kind of. But did I gain an ounce of self-compassion while I continued to build my to-do list in my head and over analyze my interactions with my kids that day?
  • Was the TV show rejuvenating? Not really, while I zoned out with two glasses of wine, avoiding some uncomfortable feelings I should work through.
  • How about that yummy latte? My Instagram picture might show a beautiful cup of coffee with the hashtag #selfcaresaturday. Yet it doesn’t show my frustration with the long lineup or the overwhelm I felt with so much noise inside the coffee shop.

I’ve recently changed my view and value of self-care. Today, I believe that to understand it better, I have to dig a little (or a lot) deeper. Self-care doesn’t belong on the surface. We can’t just dabble in it on a superficial level. We have to get down into the trenches, exploring self-compassion and self-acceptance.

Now, I call this self-love. That’s the art I practice, and it truly is an art – the more you practice it, the better you get at it.

STEP TWO:
Make taking care of yourself a #1 priority in your life.
You are the only one who can take charge of your health and happiness.

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