Personalize Your Self-Care Routine: Are You Listening To What Your Body Needs?
Being in recovery doesn't mean that bad days don't happen. When I am feeling overwhelmed it is usually tied to feelings of perfectionism, being self-critical, and my inner struggle with flexibility. Mostly triggered when I am not taking an active role in my self-care routine and when I'm leaning into black and white thinking. Having struggled with this disorder for years I can usually predict a downward spiral and anticipate how long it will last.
I had to teach myself how to self-soothe. It took patience, compassion and an understanding of what personalized self-care was. It's a constant learning process that every now and then needs re-adjusting. Here are some of the things I have learned about active self-care.
1. Learn what your body actually needs.
Take some time to sit with yourself. Feel all the feelings that are rising to the top. Do you feel anxious? Guilt? Regret? If so, why? What is triggering these emotions? Learning these triggers will help you in the future to self-soothe. If you know that a certain co-worker stresses you out and makes you feel anxious, sending you into a downward spiral learning to sit with that anxiety and finding ways to combat those feelings will help you to alleviate them. It's important to not avoid emotions during this process if you feel like you are struggling with emotional avoidance here is a link to a piece I wrote that might help.
Maybe for you, your physical body needs more attention in the morning, taking some time to do light stretching or meditation to re-charge might be what you need. Remember this is about personalizing your own self-care routine and learning what fits your needs.
2. Be compassionate with yourself.
We are constantly asked to keep going. Keep being productive. Keep giving, even when we have nothing left. Often times we forget to take a moment and check-in. When we are feeling run down isn't the only time to practice active self-care or compassion. We can do little things every day in order to keep ourselves grounded. I like to do something small for myself every day just to remember that I am the most important person in my life. That I carry everything I need in order to live inside myself. Whether its a small phrase or a grand gesture-remind yourself that you are worthy of compassion.
3. Try something new and don't judge yourself if you don't like it.
If you are unsure about where to start, try making a list of things you want to try. Follow your heart. I find comfort in taking on a new challenge and building a new skill. It allows me to stay focused and present. It also takes my mind away from negative self-talk. Create a list of things you want to try; dance, yoga, swimming, tennis, painting, origami.
When I found aerials it gave me more than a hobby, it gave me community and belonging that I didn't know I was searching for.
However, there have been times I have tried new things and found I didn't like it as much as I had wanted too. I really wanted to develop a passion for guitar- but found it tedious and boring. I remember beating myself up, comparing myself to everyone who talked about what a release it was to "feel" the music.
I feel the same about yoga. I enjoy it-but deep down I just can't commit to more than 3 classes a month. The important thing is that I tried and remained patient with myself.
Self-care is about kindness and there is no good or bad way there is only your way.
4. Be flexible in your routine.
Spiraling happens. But, when I remain active in my self-care routine it is less likely to occur. Currently, we find ourselves living in a unique world where we can't access the same tools we are have used to self-soothe due to quartine and social distancing. Some of us may feel an increased sense of depression, isolation, and anxiety. If we suffer from eating disorders, relapse if something that we might be struggling with because we are out of a routine and faced with triggers, unable to access our normal coping mechanisms.
For example, I find myself feeling stressed but I can't take a trapeze class or relieve tension with a large group of friends. Being flexible is definitely one of the hardest things for me. It causes a deep-seeded sense of depression.
But if I allow myself to adjust my self-care routine and find other ways to take care of myself I can add these methods back into my routine. I started taking a handstand class each week, allowing myself to still learn a new skill. I've also dedicated myself to reading one quote a day which brings me back to doing one small act of compassion for myself daily. Though I am still doing the same types of self-care I am adding a bit of flexibility into my routine. It's not a perfect science, but I'm not judging it. Even focusing on minor daily tasks that seem tedious like washing my face helps to relieve some of my frustrations and ground me when I can feel myself spiraling downwards into a relapse. On the really hard days, I have to take it moment by moment instead of day by day, just to make it through.
Self-care is unique and doesn't look the same for everyone. It is important to remember that what may work for some people might now work for others. So if getting cozy with a glass of wine while binge-watching your favorite show or not leaving your bed for three days feels like recharging then by all means recharge! Let us not force ourselves to do the things we hate just because when we google self-care that is the image that pops up. Practice self-care kindness and I promise you will feel closer to yourself.