I’m coming to you today to talk to you about a topic that has taken me a long time to understand.
Self-care shouldn’t hurt you.
To explain, let me tell you a story about a time when I thought I was taking care of myself. So I think we can all agree that movement and exercise are important parts of self-care. Well, a couple of years ago, I was convinced that I needed to exercise at the gym in order to be taking proper care of myself. Here is the problem. I LOATHE the gym. I am super embarrassed to admit this, but I would tell my now-husband (before we were married) that I would go to the gym with him after work. I would think about it all day. I would get this feeling of dread in my stomach. By the time he got home and it was time to go, there were days I was crying and begging to not go to the gym. I had asked him to help me stick to the commitment since I thought it was important. So he would push me to go and we would end up going. Sometimes I would get a workout in and it would be somewhat okay. Other times I would have a panic attack in the bathroom and hide out in there until we could leave. The gym is not my happy place.
Fast forward to now. I’ve learned that I can incorporate movement and exercise into my life without the dread-filled, panic-inducing trips to the gym.
Now I practice yoga, go on long walks outside, play at the park with my son, ride my bike and sometimes do exercise videos in my living room. Sometimes I still have to push myself a little to exercise. I’m not one of those people that just LOVES it. But, it doesn’t hurt me anymore. I exercise and I feel good after. I don’t send myself into panicked moments and feel like I HAVE to do it at the expense of my emotional health.
We also have to remember that we cannot always rely on our emotions to tell us when something is or isn’t self-care. In the example above, my emotions and feelings clearly let me know that what I was doing was not aligning with my needs.
However, there are instances where we do things that feel good that are actually bad for us. I’ll explain with another story. I used to have this habit of eating ice cream and sweets after a long day at work or an upsetting interaction with someone. I would go to the store, buy a pint of ice cream and eat it all while sitting on the couch and watching TV and feeling sorry for myself. Eating all that sugar felt good. Indulging in self-pity felt good. But when it was over it left me feeling just as low and down as I felt before it happened. I also ended up with horrible congestion because I happen to be allergic to dairy products. I wasn’t nourishing my body with healthy nutrients to help me get more energy and get out of the slump. I was engaging in an activity that was actually causing me harm, and calling it self care.
So, before you classify something as self-care, sit down and really think about it. Is it helping your mental health? Is it helping your physical health? Is it harming you in any way?
It’s okay for self-care to push you, to stretch you, to help you grow. Sometimes after a new exercise, I find myself a bit sore but physically strengthened. Please don’t confuse personal growth and development for harm. But when it’s causing true harm, consider stopping and trying to do something else for self-care instead.
Remember, you deserve love and the time it takes to love yourself well 🙂
The Self Care Lady