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Why is Self Care so Freakin’ Hard?

One hour ago, I was full of anxiety. I was unfocused; I couldn’t hold a thought, and I was jumping from to-do list item to to-do list, not accomplishing anything.

A small wise voice in my head said, “Go workout, take a break, re-group.”

This voice was met quickly by my Monger saying, “No way you have a TON of stuff to do today and no time for working out, you should have done it earlier, but you missed the window. So get back to work” (yep my Monger can be pretty nasty)

To which I heard the small voice, “You will feel SO much better if you take a break; you will focus more and be more productive.”

“Any excuse to procrastinate. If you would just buckle down and get to work, you could focus and check some things off the list.” My Monger snarled 

For a short time, the Monger won, and I tried fruitlessly to get more done. Finally, out of pure annoyance from being so unproductive, I got up, changed my clothes, and worked out.

And here I am 30 minutes later, feeling like a new person. I am refreshed, my mind is clear and focused (I am even writing this blog post which I tried ten times before I worked out).

There has never been a time where I have worked out, taken a walk, or even practiced the five senses meditation where I have regretted it. But usually, these are the last types of activities on my list.

These types of activities are what the self-help world calls self-care. But as someone with High Functioning Anxiety who tends to put themselves last (even on their to-do list), engaging in self-care can be a challenge.

The first question I would ask is, why do I put myself last? And I have learned over the years that the why is less important. The answer is most likely due to messages we received growing up about only being valued if we were achieving or being productive.

The better question is, what if I prioritized checking in with myself and practicing some self-loyalty instead of only paying attention to those outside messages?

Here are three truths I know for sure

  1. The harder I push myself, the less likely I will take a break. Once my Monger takes charge, it gets harder and harder to unhook her.
  2. I ALWAYS feel better when I Slow Down and Get into my body (stretching, deep breathing, dancing, just physically moving my body in some way)
  3. Practicing Self-Loyalty means I notice and honor all my needs, not just my need to be productive. 

So based on those three truths, here are some ways I have found to make taking a break less freakin’ hard.

Thinking of these practices as energy breaks. When I acknowledge that working out, going for a walk, taking a dance break will increase my energy reserves, I am more likely to engage in that activity. That thinking/phrasing appeals to me more than the term ‘self-care.’ Even though it IS self-care, I can easily break the cycle and engage in the activity if I don’t call it self-care.

Rituals. I have set times throughout the day where I have built-in time to go on an Energy Break. So between clients, I do some stretching or take a dance break. When I finish a task, I take a walk around the house. When I hit a stoplight, I take 3 deep breaths.

Schedule it. I have a scheduled workout time, and today, I just missed it because I was busy. But usually, I schedule in my Energy Breaks, so they become part of my routine.

Pay attention. Notice how you feel before and after you take a break. Build awareness around how anxious/stressed/unproductive you are before your break and contrast with how you feel after your break. As you start to build awareness around the differences in how you feel, you will be more likely to engage in the Energy Break.

In the future, there will be times when my Monger’s push for productivity will win, and I will choose to skip the energy breaks. But when I practice self-loyalty and listen to my Biggest Fan voice, I will catch myself before I fall too far down the productivity rabbit hole. I will turn on one of my favorite energy break songs Alanis Morissette Incomplete and do a little dance.