The last couple weeks have been tough. My kid got sick with croup, which for a seasoned parent is probably terrible, but does not fill them with soul-sucking terror. I'm not that parent yet, though I aspire to be. I was sick too, and that was balls. Plus, the holidays, family drama, blah blah blah. It's fucking sucked.
The rub is that you need self-care the most when your life is terrible, but you probably don't have the time or energy. I didn't. My body got completely messed up -- I have hip pain, jaw pain, insomnia, headaches, tense muscles, and I am carrying more anxiety than I can really handle.
Finally, last week, after two sleepless nights, I snapped. I just couldn't take it anymore. I immediately made appointments for my GP, acupuncturist, chiropractor, hot tub spot, and a new massage therapist.
I followed through. I've been diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome, given a prescription for PT, and deep tissue massage and myofascial release has been pretty effective at managing my hip pain.
My doctor basically said that everything else was related to the stress and anxiety in my life and recommended the Jon Kabat-Zinn 8 Week Mindfulness Stress Reduction Course (which I've already taken). His assessment of the situation made me realize that I'd been neglecting self care. Really, I'd been neglecting myself altogether. And I needed to start the process of taking care of myself again.
To me, there's two kinds of self care: foundational and supplemental. Foundational self-care is getting your ass to the doctor, getting decent sleep, eating food that makes you happy and helps your body do what it needs, moving your body, and working on stress relief.
Supplemental self-care is what you do when you need a little something extra when the world is dark. It's the kind of self care that articles are written about; that can be summed up as "be nice to yourself."
You would think that the supplemental is hardest for a new mom, right? Making time for bubble baths and and journaling and so on, right? Au contraire! I actually really struggle these days with maintaining a solid, healthy routine. Meal prep is a perpetual challenge. It's hard to find time to exercise (ok, well that's not so surprising) or sleep (oh wait, not surprising either. Ha! THERE GOES MY THEORY.)
I did a fair bit of supplemental self-care this past weekend. An old friend was visiting, and we made time (thanks to family and friends who babysat -- thanks guys!) to wander, to hike in the redwoods, to hot tub under the stars. That's when things really started to heal.
(Note: I recognize my privilege here. For many folks, getting childcare and making time and money for self-care isn't a possibility. Do what you can with what you have. Ask for help. I'm hoping that we'll all be a little more community focused this year, in light of the election results, and reach out to the vulnerable in our communities and offer to help. A lot of those people are working moms.)
As for the foundational, well, I suspect that a lot of 2017 will be going back to something like this. (Though I laugh at young, naive me. All transformation takes effort.) It will be about establishing habits, routines, and patterns that support my health, and then doing them. Over and over. With no end in sight.
For someone so project-oriented I thought that would be super boring and not at all motivating, but honestly, I can't wait. I used to care so much about how I looked; now I care a lot about how I feel. It makes for a nice change.