While many of us know we need self-care, for some of us, just the basic notion that we are worthy of care can stop us before we even get started.
This idea that we are not worthy of care or compassion isn't something that we tell ourselves outright...it's more unconscious and subliminal. Sometimes we care so much about other people that we sacrifice our own care without even noticing. And we can do that for quite some time, until the lack of care we've given ourselves shows up negatively in our health or well-being. Sometimes this is called burn-out.
For those of us in the field of serving others (social workers, nurses, therapists, educators, etc.), we often tend to disregard our own care or minimize it in relation to those we serve. It's hard to feel bad for yourself when working with victims of torture, to take time to make yourself a healthy meal when working with homeless clients, or to rest when there is always "one more thing" you could do to help.
BUT we also know that we cannot help others if we haven't helped ourselves. By this I mean, we cannot be ready and able to assist others if we are tired, stressed, angry, etc. We must take care of our own needs before we can meet those of another.
I want to take this one step further.
Because the work we do is so much more intense than the normal stressors...our self care must be more intense as well. This version of intensive self-care is what I call Radical Tendencies.
Radical Tendencies are intentional and purposeful deep habits of being that help us notice when the body or mind need support and offering that support in real time. If you're hungry...eat. If you're tired...sleep. If you're sad...cry. Those ones seem obvious enough, right? And yet, it is still so hard to do. But to get even more radical in our care for ourselves is to notice what comes up for us around our work (sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc) and self-care (worthiness, comparison, stress), and be honest about what is keeping us from living our fullest, healthiest life.
In order to really look at what is holding us back from self-care, we need to go deep. And we need to be a bit courageous. We need to look at our stresses (this may include past traumas...you didn't think you were going to get away from that, did you?) and explore what about our current situation is triggering what from our current situation or our past. Or what unhelpful habits are linked to what maladaptive survival technique from our past. Then we have to take some deliberate action to try to honor and heal whatever comes up.
As you can imagine, this is not easy and it takes time. It may also take guidance and help from others. (Yeah, I know...we're not very good at asking for or taking help either) From my personal and professional perspective, there are three tools to help us get to deep, courageous, Radical Self-Care.
Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation. The trifecta.
I have found that a combination of these three modalities can help heal quite a bit of trauma. Of course there are others, but these three, in my estimation, are the biggies.
Future blog posts will dive deeper into these topics, but for now, just know that healing is possible and in order to heal, we must take care of ourselves. We must begin to adopt a new approach to deep, courageous self-care. Getting to the root of our stresses and traumas, and learning tools to handle what comes up, is the only way to heal them. These are Radical Tendencies.
You deserve to do good work in the world and do good for yourself.
You deserve to live a happy, healthy, vibrant life.
You deserve self-care.