“What are the obstacles to self-care?” I asked this question to a group of graduate students in a workshop recently. We went around the circle and came up with an impressive list:
- Too much responsibility
- Need to do a good job to please others, tied in with integrity
- Not listening deeply to myself, “caught up in my head”
- Not feeling that I deserve self-care
- Not having a limit before going over the top on busyness
- Not believing myself worthy
- Going for immediate gratification
- Give Give Give to others
- If there is a “should” attached to it, I will not do it, even if it is good for me
- Feels like an avoidance of something, numbing myself with busyness
- Old established patterns squelch new emerging patterns
- Cannot be on a “to do” list, will avoid that
- I sacrifice pleasure, to be good, which is irrational, as it is not good for me
- Electronic devices pull us away from our inner selves and our deeper needs
Any one of these is enough to put good self-care on the back burner, perhaps indefinitely. For some, it was a matter of one specific area that was lacking, most often physical activity. Eating well was also right up there as one of the patterns to establish or re-establish. In my opinion, those two are the foundation of any healthy life, and I am hardly alone in stating this: get enough movement in your life and eat well and all the other pieces will follow. You will sleep better if you are physically tired, for example. You mind will be more alert and your energy higher if you eat well. Do you know how to eat well? There may be some education needed in order to establish new habits.
Back to the obstacles. How do we navigate them? First, make your own list. Or use this one and circle the ones that ring most clear for you. Do not tackle them all at once, if you have more than one. Choose one, perhaps the one you feel you have the least resistance to. Sit or lie still and breathe in a relaxed manner. Close your eyes or soft-focus. Now imagine how you might abolish that obstacle. What will it take on all levels of your being to dissipate that barrier to self-care? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Is there a spiritual component? What will it look like? Sound like? Is there a taste or smell involved? What would you feel, in the tactile sense? Engage all your senses in getting rid of that impediment to your own well-being. How does that feel in your imagination? Stick with it! Maybe you cannot completely remove this obstruction in one session of imagining. But you can begin.
Self-care is a lifelong practice. It can and will indeed become easier over time, but it remains a practice, a discipline, if you will. My personal take is that if it feels good enough, it will not feel like a discipline in that it is something you make yourself do. When I was in college and not getting enough outdoors time, I took up dancing, because it was more fun than “working out.” It has become a lifelong daily practice that I love and happily anticipate.
Speaking of love, all of this comes down to self-love. Self-care equals self-love. And if we want to have plenty of love to give others, we must love ourselves and take good care of ourselves. Create your own self-care eco-system and experience the tangible results!