Subtle ways we reject self-care

Sundays are my “down day.” By that I mean they are the one day out of the week where my main focus is non-doing, replenishing, cultivating ease and rest.

I do thread these things throughout my week — after all, an overall foundation of self-care means we are going to infuse our daily life with the qualities that nourish and sustain us — but Sundays are my intentional “reminder to reconnect with myself” day.

Because of this Sunday intention, I do not sit at my regular workspace on that day of the week. I sit in other spaces — the loveseat in the living room, the table next to the window in the kitchen — places that help me connect with that more easeful energy.

But, oh! How I need to remind myself, some Sundays, that I am not going over to the workspace!

“But I’ll just do it for a second, just to straighten some things up, just to glance at email.” It doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? A quick dash over to my workspace to flip up the laptop is really a fairly subtle thing, right?

There have been times I’ve found myself sitting there without even knowing how I’d gotten there. It’s such automatic behavior, and my mind is quick to tell me “it’s not a big deal.”

But it is a big deal on Sundays, because Sundays are my down day.

Working with clients on the subject of self-care has clued me in bigtime to how quick and sneaky we can be about dismissing our needs — particularly if they are more of the subtle variety.

The need to go to bed half an hour earlier, for example — how quick we are to tell ourselves “it’s just half an hour, it won’t make a difference.”

Something I’ve noticed time and again is my lack of acknowledgment, after some intense time away on a trip or at a workshop or something like that, that I actually need “integration time.”

What usually happens is, a few days after I’ve returned from the trip, or had a heightened period of activity, my energy gets edgy and frenetic. No matter how much I’m “getting done,” it doesn’t feel rewarding to me, and I feel ridiculously “behind.”

That feeling of “falling behind” and vague dissatisfaction has become a red flag for me that there is an unmet self-care need raising its hand to get my attention.

What’s subtle here — and therefore can sometimes hover just outside of my awareness — is that it seems “normal” to finish up with a big event, a trip, a heightened period of activity, and immediately return to a regular routine.

It may indeed be “normal” for some people, but I’ve found it’s not workable for me. I need to build in rest and integration time when I’ve expended more energy than is usual — or comfortable — for me.

But because my need for this may initially be subtle — because I’m still functioning to some extent on the adrenaline that got pumped into my system when I stretched myself beyond my usual energetic limits — I may not notice until I become edgy and frazzled that, oh yeah, I never really gave myself that integration time after the trip! Duh!

Yep, that’s how it is sometimes. Self-care is an ongoing, unfolding, highly organic thing. We might forget what worked before, or maybe what worked before doesn’t quite do it in this particular circumstance.

Here are some other subtle ways we may neglect or reject our self-care that I’ve noticed in working with clients and myself:

• Picking up a phone or tablet repeatedly, simply because it’s nearby (and along with this, failing to turn off unnecessary visual and auditory notifications — and let’s face it, most of them are unnecessary).

• Pushing ourselves to exercise more, write more, clean more — whatever it may be — when we’ve already gotten cues from our bodies that we’ve done enough for now. (I wrote about a time I fell into this trap here.)

• On the flip side, cutting short something that matters to us — journaling. exercise, a conversation with a friend — before we’ve allowed it the momentum it deserves (and that feels satisfying to us).

• Neglecting to indulge our five senses — not taking time to really taste our food, smell the coffee in the cup in our hand, feel our pet’s fur beneath our fingers.

• Forgetting to focus on our breath. Obviously, we don’t want (or need) to be doing this all day, but checking in and noticing how we’re breathing, and allowing ourselves several deep belly breaths, can center us and point us to the fact that our breathing may be quite “shallow” — in other words, up around our shoulders. This is really, really common.

• Clutter or disorganization in our environment that drains us. (I’ve found that I feel so much better when I make the bed every day — not because I particularly care about making the bed but because it reduces visual disorganization when I walk into the bedroom.)

When we miss the more subtle ways we are forgetting to care for ourselves, over time the subtle can build to the dramatic, and we may find ourselves in “crisis mode”, as I have several times in my life. But the more we learn to pay attention — the more attuned we are to these subtleties — the more we can make self-care changes before anything builds to a crisis state.

What do you notice about the more subtle ways you might forget to care for yourself? Or, what are subtle ways you CAN care for yourself that you might not always think of? I’d love to hear from you!

By the way, enrollment for my Stellar Self-Care (In an Overwhelming World) One-on-One Coaching Program ends this Friday, June 22. This program is for sensitive, creative folks who’d love support in creating a solid foundation of self-care in their daily lives! Curious? You can find out more, here.

Above images: snail, © Marilyn Gould | Dreamstime Stock Photos, and cat, © Valerii Rublov | Dreamstime Stock Photos, respectively

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6 thoughts on “Subtle ways we reject self-care

  1. Oh my goodness yes to all of this! {I’m the same with the bed too.} It’s those subtle things that are easily missed that can end up building up quietly and then suddenly you feel awful and you can’t pinpoint why. When my parents visited recently it was a lovely but intense week of spending time with them, driving us all around, and eating out twice a day. I spend most of my time alone so it was quite a shock to my system! Almost a week after they left I totally crashed because I’d forgotten I’d need a week to recover before ‘going back to normal’. I ended up needing a lot of naps and rests on the bed {something I rarely do}, and crying a lot! Even if what you’ve been doing is lovely, it can still require recovery time. It took me a while to learn that. And clearly I still forget. 😉

    I also have that feeling of dissatisfaction and ‘behindness’, as well as a sense of urgency and things having a strong sense of importance which really aren’t that important or urgent – those are all signs for me that I’ve forgotten to ‘be here’ and attend to myself as well as what’s around me. Great post – I love that you shared examples and that you talk about the subtlety of these things.

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    • Hi Tara! I so hear you about the visit with parents and the subtle things that can build up within that — even if much of it is enjoyable. I recently had a similar experience of the “crash” that can happen after a family visit — it’s part of what prompted this post! It’s interesting, too, because it can feel like something is “really wrong” when often it’s just that we kind of need to catch up with ourselves, self-care-wise. (And, of course, family can be triggering, in subtle ways, even on the best of days!)

      And yes, that sense that “everything is urgent or important” — definitely a reminder that it’s time to “be here” — I like how you put that. So glad to hear the post resonated and thanks as always for your insights! 🙂

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  2. What a great reminder, Jill. I’m finally recovering and have integrated our move last November. I’m no longer resisting the self care I needed at the time. It feels good to just take a nap, go for a walk, or stare into space when I need to. But I need to be careful. I’m already beginning to over schedule my time which is not good.

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    • Hi Joan! It’s great to hear you’ve integrated your move — I know just what you mean, it took me about a year to “recover and integrate” after I last moved in 2015. Wonderful that you are giving yourself the gift of spaciousness that walking, napping, and just being create. It’s easy to over-schedule though, isn’t it? (Great you are noticing!) Sending lots of positive energy your way. 🙂

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  3. Thank you for this. It is timely! After several busy days, I am feeling too “stretched”. I know I need to rest tomorrow, so I cancelled an outing scheduled in the morning with my daughter. I was feeling a lot of guilt about this until she sighed in relief and said she’d been thinking the same thing. It’s so gratifying to ask for what you need and to discover someone else not only understands, but they feel the same way. Especially if that person is your daughter. 🙂

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    • I totally agree, and I have experienced that, too — recognizing I need to take care of myself, sharing it with the other person, and it turns out they’re not disappointed, we’re on the same page. 🙂 It’s good to build “evidence” like this that we can take care of ourselves, and all is well (sometimes especially with family relationships!).

      Thanks so much for sharing — I’m glad this post was timely for you!

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