As a single mom of a large family, and as a person learning to live with and manage Complex PTSD, I’ll admit that I’ve laughed at some recent articles I’ve read about “self-care.”
I continue to be drawn to articles on self-care though, hoping to find some elusive answer which doesn’t involve candle-lit bubble baths with flowers floating lazily on the surface. (although, if flowery bubble baths help you, then please do indulge)
a late night list
I must think about self-care quite a bit because last night when I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep (hello nightly panic attack), I wrote a quick list of things I was thinking about self-care.
This is what I wrote:
- Sometimes self-care looks like a surrender or giving up.
- Sometimes self-care looks like a fierce resistance.
- Self-care is always brave.
- Self-care is setting healthy boundaries (which is a fierce way of loving others too).
- Sometimes self-care is forcing myself to go outdoors for a long (or short), hard (or easy) workout – because I know from experience that works for me.
- Sometimes self-care is taking a day off from working out.
- Self-care is acknowledging my emotions (even when I’m experiencing “bad” emotions like panic, fear or overwhelm).
- Self-care is being honest when I’m struggling and reaching out to talk with an empathetic friend.
- Some days self-care is going to bed when I’m so wiped out, panicky and overwhelmed that I can’t do anything else.
- Sometimes self-care is taking my camera outside and searching for beauty.
- Self-care can be fixing a healthy dinner for myself because I know it makes me feel better, and it can also be giving myself grace when all I can manage is a protein bar (Real life disclosure: at this point it’s more protein bars than healthy dinner, and that is okay. This tough season will eventually pass).
What Self-Care Really is
Self-care is going to look totally different for each person, but I can tell you this:
Self-care always involves compassion.
I’ve got plenty of compassion for others. But for myself? Not so much.
I’ve spent the majority of my life operating from a default position of denying my emotions and forcing myself to just keep going, no matter what.
For many years I didn’t really have a choice.
But now I do and I am learning to be compassionate and gentle with myself.
Using the phrase “No wonder” is helpful for me as I learn to be compassionate with myself.
For example, “No wonder you felt so panicky when _____________ happened this morning. You felt trapped just like you did during past abusive events in your life.”
“No wonder you felt overwhelmed today. Just this past week you had to manage 3 very, very difficult ongoing situations with your children.”
“No wonder” is helpful because it acknowledges how I’m feeling without judgement and gives me the space to consider how I can help myself.
This is also the way that my most faithful friends respond to me when I share my struggles with them.
I’m learning to model my own self-talk after the way they interact with me.
Coincidently, this is also how the Lord deals with me.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness”
Psalm 103:8 (NASB)
Self-care isn’t “selfish”
Self-care feels “selfish” but actually it allows me to rely on the Lord as I am honest with my weaknesses, which in turn allows me to experience His grace, compassion and presence in ways that I can’t when I deny my feelings, and try to force myself to be strong.
That allows me to be more present and available for my children.
When I deny my “bad” emotions and try to force myself to keep going I can’t compassionately problem solve. Instead of stopping and helping myself, when I force myself to keep going I inevitably “crash and burn.”
Ironically, this ends up sidelining me longer than if I had stopped and taken care of myself when I first started to panic.
This quote by Megan Devine resonates deeply with me. (I highly recommend her book *It’s OK that You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand.)
“Kindness is self-care. It’s allowing your pain to exist without judgement, in trusting yourself, and in saying yes to what helps and no to what does not. Kindness means not letting your own mind beat you up.
Grief requires kindness.
For all you have had to live.”
– Megan Devine
Let’s be kind, compassionate and gentle with ourselves, friends.
I’m learning that it’s the best way to receive the Lord’s abundant grace.
I’d love to hear what self-care looks like for you. Please feel free to share in the comments.
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