When we think of self care, we often think that we take care of ourselves, and doing really good taking care of ourselves, right?
Some of us do, but often times in society, we just run ourselves ragged and burn the candle at both ends. Would you agree?
To me, even in these crazy times of the pandemic it seems we still want to actively… do things, in spite of a global virus being air born where people congregate. Is that taking care of one’s self?
Well, that’s an interesting question. Basically it feels judgmental and accusatory, right? Being negative and judging others is not a part of self care. If you stay home and stay safe from the virus, which seems like the right answer, we must ask… how’s your mental health?
We as human beings are social creatures, are we protecting ourselves from the virus only to be harming our mental health? How big a deal is our mental health and how much harm is living in fear of others and the air and potentially contaminated things out in the world? It can be pretty daunting and intense depending upon how much fear we let in, right?
I guess my point here is this… no matter what we do, there is always two sides of the coin. There are good things we do and maybe at the same time bad things we overlook. Before the pandemic, would you say you had a self care routine you did daily? Certainly things like brushing your teeth, showering and the like are self care and I assume you do them regularly, but what about your mental health? Do you take care of your brain and your emotions? Most people neglect this area. I certainly did.
It wasn’t until I found myself in a deep dark depression that I said… “hey, wait a minute. How did I get here?” In all honesty it was more like… “What the HELL is going on? Why is my life shit right now? Why can I NOT seem to break this thing? WHY is this happening to me?”
It was then I realized I need to DO something different. Now I am not saying self care can help ALL problems, but for my situation it greatly helped and it changed my life for the better. I am a better person for those who know and interact with me on a regular basis. Certainly better than I was before I started my self care routines.
So what is self care?
Raphailia Michael, MA, in her article What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t says… “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”
Is self care selfish?
Now, in society, we often think it is okay to take care of others, but frequently neglect ourselves, and I think this is where the problems come in. I think we don’t often realize how far we’ve let ourselves go until it is too late. Sadly, because this stuff is sort of tied to mental health, this topic is not discussed much. Mental health is a taboo topic for many and NO ONE wants to be labeled as ‘crazy’ so we avoid the topic and in my opinion self care practices at large. Is that healthy? Of course not!
Another piece of the puzzle is that we also live in a time that we pressure ourselves to climb the corporate or career ladder, or build a great business, or be the top parent, or keep up with the joneses. All of this stuff rewards activity, but not downtime. Things like meditation, or taking walks, or sitting silent and reading a book, can seem selfish in our culture. Are they? HELL NO!!!! You see taking time to recharge, is what is needed. Our bodies and minds are just like the smart phones we are addicted to. They NEED to be recharged regularly in order to work, let alone perform at their best. So does our brain and our body.
What causes our overlooking self care?
There is a culture of shaming and a culture of misunderstanding of what brings true happiness. This culture keeps us chasing the next best things on the hedonic treadmill (or hedonic adoption as it is potentially called in more medical circles). The Hedonic Treadmill is the state of finding a desire in something. It could be products like music (a personal weakness of mine), or books, or electronics, or cars, or homes, or vacations, or drugs, or sexual conquests, or any other thing we don’t currently have right now. Advertising, media, and society validate our desires which amplifies our ‘need’. Then we get what we want. We then get ‘adapted’ or used to having this ‘want’, but soon lose interest and get bored of it. Then we feel we ‘NEED”, the next shiny object, but because our happiness was so fleeting, we assume we need a bigger, better fix and so we buy a bigger, better item or try to up our conquest and/or achievement, and the treadmill continues and things gets worse and worse.
Check out this graphic for a visual representation of the Hedonic Treadmill which was created by the Mark Shall Game Design’s article – Hedonic Treadmill
How to get off the treadmill
For me, I had no idea what the Hedonic Treadmill was, or at least that I was on it. I was not even aware that there was a term for this. I do however think this was part of my problem. The first step is recognizing there IS a problem. Hopefully you do this long before you end up in a bad place like I did. Trust me you DO NOT WANT TO PLAY THERE. That place is BED NEWS.
The next step is realizing this is one of the issues and exploring where your own weaknesses are. This is part of the reason I created the SELFCARE Mindfulness Course, to help people identify where things might be going sideways in their mind and daily practices because I didn’t have tools or understanding about this stuff related to my mental health or self care. I mean I was familiar with the term “keeping up with the Joneses“, but I thought I was good at avoiding that stuff as I wasn’t a mass consumer, but I was blindsided by these things showing up in different ways. Ways beyond just buying homes, and cars, and vacations, or whatever. Mine showed up based on personal development, business development, and where I found my self-worth. These are ‘good’ things typically, but one must keep an eye out for when ‘good things‘ take a turn for the worse.
What are the 3 Things I Did to regain control and get my life back?
I started doing some regular things to break free of my struggles about 7 years ago. Here are some of the things I did. I tried a ton of things like asking for help. Sadly no one knew how to help me or what my problems was and the ol’ stand by “snap out of it”, or “just be positive” or “just be happy” was not helpful. I struggled finding medical help as many people I talked to didn’t take health insurance and/or were pretty costly for my situation. So I went on a personal journey to ‘fix myself‘. Some things worked. Some didn’t. Here are a few that worked for me…
- Exercise: I started walking regularly because this was quick, easy and free. As a matter of fact, when I walked, I listened to positive music or videos to help set my mindset while exercising my body. I was also happy to be getting some vitamin D from the sun. This was a good one, but I needed more than JUST this alone.
- Companionship: So being that I worked for myself and didn’t talk to people daily, and at this time hit a slow patch, I think I was lonely. I would not have ever thought that or said that, but I do think this was one problem when I look back. The more I realize we are social animals I can see this might have been part of the problem. So I joined Toastmasters, which is a public speaking organization and was inline with my personal development and my business development journey. I also joined a small Accountability Group. Both were high-touch and ultra-supportive. I love both of these groups and all the people I met in them. This helped, but I had more work to do.
- Meditation: This was a big one! I started meditating daily using the Headspace app. I got a free 7 day trial or something and this was an easy to do meditation app and a great place for me to start. I then bought the paid version of the app and used it for about 2-years and meditated daily. The I quit paying for the app and tried meditation on my own. I personally struggled doing it without an app to keep me on track and make things easy for me. So I then found Insight Timer which was free (there is a paid version, which I do use now, but I used the free version for like 3-years). What I loved about this app besides being free, was the diversity of meditations you could do, the analytics tracking my daily activity, and the quasi social media side of things that added a weak community aspect. If you try this one, look me up and let’s connect.
I know everyone is different and these ideas may not work for you, but they are the main ones that helped me. I tried getting out in nature as much as I could and this was helpful, but not easily consistent for me. I also changed my consumption both in food/drink and media. I started eating a more healthy diet for a while when it came to food, but I soon feel back in to old habits. I really changed my media diet to a more positive program filled with music, movies, social media, and books that were more positive. Additionally I started acting more intentionally positive around family and friends and on social media. All this stuff helped as well.
The funny thing is I also got turned on to the Tao Te Ching which lead my to mindfulness and eventually Buddhism. I have been digging into this stuff for several years now and this stuff helped me take it over the top and kick things for good. WHY? Because I created a MANDATORY daily practice. My meditation turned into a bigger picture of mindfulness and once I overcame my mess, I felt like I had to go sing the praises of this stuff to help other people.
Mindfulness is like exercise for the brain, for your emotions, and for your responses or actions in life.
How do I know this stuff works, and needs to be a mandatory practice?
I have read hundreds of books on meditation and mindfulness and put in hundreds of hours of practice (meditation and mindfulness). Although all that stuff is great, it was the pandemic that proved to me that I was totally on the right track. 8-months in and I am doing fine. Yes, I have struggles at times, but overall I have been coasting on a high note with only small downtimes. You see, I think of things this way – Imagine yourself carrying a backpack. Everyday any bad thought you have becomes a small rock and is dropped in your backpack. Even the ones that are subliminal or that you are unaware of. Then add anything that makes you angry, or upset, or sad, or anxious.
Another rock here, another one there. What ends up happening (at least for me) was the weight finally collapsed on top of me and it was like I couldn’t breath, or like, I was a turtle on my back. I couldn’t flip over so I had to start doing work, self care. Each time I meditated, I got to throw a rock out of the backpack. Slowly and surely I emptied the pack, but it was the consistent self care work done daily that kept me from filling the pack up again. Maybe I have a bad day and put a rock in. Then I meditate and toss it back out into the world. The daily practice is preventative medicine keeping my pack light so I can live life to the fullest.
Seeing that even in crazy times that are out of control, like in the pandemic, I am keeping my cool and keeping my pack empty is real proof. A decade ago this pandemic would have done me in and been a big weight on my back. Sadly, I know people are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, or binge watching Netflix shows, or over indulging in sexual behavior, or turning to violence and beating their kids or spouse. Suicides are up. Child abuse and deaths are up. Divorces are up. Our country is super divided and angry. And honestly the weight is going to turn into trauma that will weigh on some people for years, maybe the rest of their lives.
So is self care mandatory?
Yes, I truly believe it is.
That is why I created the 8-week online, SELFCARE Mindfulness Course.
I felt obligated to help others for years, but when Covid hit, I knew if this was a longterm thing, there would be a big fallout. I did Facebook Live meditation and mindfulness videos daily for over 100 days starting mid-March. I realized people would need more, and so I started researching how to offer a science based and consistent program to help people open their eyes to making mindfulness a part of their daily journey as well as a way to implement meditation.
This program should be a great place to start to your journey if you are new to mindfulness and even educated people well down the path of mindfulness. I tried to find enough info for both the newbie and for those a little more seasoned.
If you’ve read this far, you might want to check out my free Introduction to Mindfulness & Meditation mini-course. This might be the best place to start. Click this text or the image or button below to learn more.
Want to try adding mindfulness and meditation to your self-care routine? Click below to get details about the Introduction to Mindfulness & Meditation mini-course.