Radical self-care: when your “normal” has changed


As I’ve been working with clients in my Stellar Self-Care program, I notice how the tendency for many of us is to keep going on “as usual” — even though our lives have changed.

Maybe a health issue (for us or a loved one) has come up, and we’re still expecting ourselves to function as though it hasn’t.

Maybe we’ve started a new job, or we’re in the process of moving, or we have a project or business that is gaining momentum.

Maybe we’ve been through a break-up, or someone close to us has passed away recently.

Or, maybe a mix of ALL of the above is happening at once.

Whether our circumstances inspire hope, excitement, or sadness, the fact is that when things are changing profoundly in our lives, or when they’ve changed suddenly and without warning, we are affected.

So it’s really interesting to notice this human tendency to stay the course, to keep showing up, to expect “the usual” of ourselves, even though things are anything but “usual.”

None of this is “bad” or “wrong.” It’s just not necessarily effective — or kind to ourselves.

I notice for myself that my tendency is to toss self-care out the window — exactly when I need it the most.

When I’m really stressed, I also get really self-indulgent. (Read my take on the difference between self-care and self-indulgence, here.)

I start to obsess. I tell myself it’s more productive to worry than to sleep. I grab the quick food rather than the nutritious food (or don’t eat at all because I’m “too nervous”). I forgo my daily walk on the grounds that “there’s too much to do”. I feel much less creative because I’m tied up in knots and I’m “pushing the river”. (I like to think of creativity as a river that is always flowing — we can move with it, against it, or jump to shore and return later.)

And: I am getting a lot better at letting go of these behaviors and replacing them with acts of care for myself.

Sometimes this looks like:

* Declaring my sleep time as a “worry-free zone”.

Letting myself know that — if I want to — I can worry all I want at 9 a.m., but between between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. I’m going to step into the worry-free zone.

Better yet, if I’m going to insist on worrying at all (which a part of me will), I can declare one hour a day as my “worry hour” and make the rest of the day the worry-free zone. (I’m not quite there yet, but I like this idea very much. A friend tells me that when she started doing this, eventually an hour became too long to worry — she got bored with it and found she couldn’t spend longer than about five minutes worrying when she was forcing herself to do it!)

* Taking my walk even though I’m having a thought that says “There’s no time for this, there’s too much to do.”

This might mean reminding myself that, often, if I walk long enough and focus on my body moving and my breath flowing in and out, problems have a tendency to solve themselves. (That’s because I’m back in the river of creativity, and I’m moving with it, rather than pushing upstream. Walking is great for reconnecting to the river of creativity.)

* Putting off the non-essentials for later, or for “never.”

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had taken on a freelance project even though I’ve been going through a hectic time because I just couldn’t say no to the opportunity. When I really looked at everything on my plate, I realized that the project was a non-essential, and I would be fine with taking on such a project later, or even never. Other opportunities would surely arise, but I was, at the moment, at bandwidth.

* Getting (or hiring) help where I can.

A couple of weeks ago, the lawnmower broke, and I got angry. After thirty minutes of going on about my terrible luck (The lawnmower breaks just when I have so much to do!), I realized this was a chance to give myself the gift of time and one less thing on my to-do list: I discovered a local lawn care service that would mow the lawn regularly for a very reasonable rate. The owner came over and gave me an estimate the very next day.

(This is a recurring theme in my life over the past couple of years: when something breaks, there is a gift in it for me.)

The bottom line, though: it starts with acceptance of where I am, and who I am.

If you feel like you’re slamming into the same wall again and again, ask yourself this: What needs to be accepted? And then: How can I accept myself, here?

Somewhere in there lies what is true, for you. And from that truth you will discover not only what caring for yourself looks like, now, but also that giving yourself that care is essential to navigating the reality of your life not as it was, but as it is.

Do you notice yourself resisting change in your life? What acts of care can you give yourself when change feels overwhelming?

Image © Phillip Wheat | Dreamstime Stock Photos

9 thoughts on “Radical self-care: when your “normal” has changed

  1. The perfect post for me to read today, Jill, as I give myself the gift of an almost entire Saturday in bed. Even though I have so very much to do (I say) and even though I’m wasting a perfectly good sunny day (I also say), the truth is I’m exhausted and fighting a little bug of some sort and this is what I need. The opportunity to catch up on reading and emails and rest. Thank you for your very wise validation!


    • I’m so glad to hear this met you where you are today, Mary! Good for you for giving yourself that gift. Believe me, I know how hard that can be (especially on a sunny day when there’s “a lot to do”!). Thanks so much for reading. Hope you feel better very soon. 🙂


  2. Wow. I needed this. I’m dealing with a lot of change right now and there is more coming up, though I’m not in a place to know when or exactly what it is. I noticed your tags, and I know I tend to be a perfectionist and highly sensitive. So I definitely can benefit from this advice. Thanks!

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    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Victoria! I have a lot of change going on myself right now, and I think that’s partly why I’m drawn to this topic lately. It’s challenging when we don’t know when or what the change will be — that uncertainty factor! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  3. I love this essay, Jill – thank you for posting it! I forwarded it to a close friend, as we were just discussing how resistant we have both been, historically, to making changes to reflect a new normal. But we’re learning, and your work is helping!

    To answer your question: lately, I’ve been paying more attention to food – eating slowly instead of feeling like I need to rush, and stopping mindless snacking. I’ve also been practicing reminding myself that sometimes it’s okay to ask for and accept help too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Caroline, so glad to hear this was helpful (and for your friend, too!). I love that you’re paying more attention to food and how you’re eating. That is so fundamental but I think so many of us are in such a hurry when it comes to nourishing ourselves that way. And yes, asking for help and accepting it — so huge and something I’m definitely working on, too! Thanks so much for reading. 🙂


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