Why We Don’t Practise Self Care

Mental Fitness, Self Care, Workouts

Every time I get sick – usually by becoming so exhausted I can’t function anymore – I say the same thing to myself: ‘I’m shutting down purely because I stopped looking after myself. My body is forcing me to take a break so I can stop, and take care of myself.’ I remind myself that I need to integrate self care into daily life, instead of waiting until I am forced to.

So why do I (and you, probably) keep doing the same thing? Plenty of reasons, but here are some suspects:

  • Not feeling like I should care about, or like I deserve to look after myself. It’s easy to get into a slightly nihilistic, ‘nothing matters so why should I matter’ attitude about self care. In the end though, that thought path doesn’t offer much value to me — but it is familiar and actionless.
  • Enjoying the self-destructive cycle. Like when someone tidies after it’s been a pigsty for ages – there’s a weird satisfaction in getting back to square one. I’m the same with my room, repeatedly letting it get bad and then cleaning it in within about a week.
  • Not observing my limits for energy, etc. I’ve been experimenting with those limits at the moment, by seeing how much I can take. However, I’m not being mindful of my current level as a cut off point, only focusing on where I think I ‘should’ be.
  • Not being consistent in how, or when to practise self care. When I’m doing a lot of new things I fall back on fulfilling basic needs like sleep, eating and hydrating. I often underestimate the importance of just those things.

I think for once I have caught myself and started to rest before I got too bad. But there’s still room to improve. I have been very good at pushing into discomfort (the ‘push’) skills detailed in my post on designing a mental health workout. Regardless, it’s clear I’ve been neglecting the ‘pull’ (or self care) skills quite a bit, which is a bit like exercising vigorously every day without rest.

Looking over my plan, I can see I’ve dedicated hardly any time or thought to it in my daily plan, despite doing some extremely tiring and difficult things!

(Like karaoke… Never thought that would happen)

Actions:

  • Clarify what counts as self care and not self care for me: what supports me? What makes it harder to do what I want to do and how can I address those things
  • Make focus on ‘basic’ self care such as sleep, eating right, etc, a priority in my plan.
  • Plan in time to do that self care, and check in more often with myself.

A Takeaway Free Month

Levelling Up and Productivity, Self Care, Values based living

During the month of November, I decided (alongside a friend, who did her own monthly challenge) to go without takeaway (or fastfood in general), for the whole month.

The ‘rules’ were fairly simple:

  1. Where possible, cook every meal. This meant that all lunches would have to be something I made or prepared the night before. I wouldn’t, for example, buy a sandwich from a shop as a meal.
  2. If I’d made plans in October to have lunch or dinner with someone, I kept the plans. But I didn’t make any new plans to eat out. So I went out for dinner twice: once with my parents and once with a group of friends. For all other plans  I had to work around it somehow (usually just getting a drink, if anything), rather than just turning up somewhere and hoping I could eat there. If someone invited me out spontaneously I’d usually just get a drink but not eat with them.
  3. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to forego convenience food like oven pizzas etc, for the most part. I only bought one throughout the month, although I did have quite a few portions of oven chips…

Honestly, I thought I’d bail within the first day or two, so I was pretty surprised that I lasted the whole month. Yay 😉

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Not sponsored by Papa John’s. Sadly 😦

Still, what surprised me most was how this challenge gave me something worthwhile that I hadn’t expected: an odd sense of clarity on what my brain was doing with regards to food. I’ve always just followed my anxieties about food wherever they led me, but here I practised being able to accept those thoughts, while I did something completely different.

Here’s some of the mental health skills I got to practise this month:

Going Warm Turkey on Phones (Weeks 4-5)

Phone Addiction, Rat Brain, Self Care

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As expected, the battle with my phone (and internet) addiction is proving to be challenging, but in ways I haven’t anticipated.

I’ve had reasonable success eliminating the smaller, less anxiety inducing times I use my phone, such as not using it while walking or on the loo or something (I know, I know).  I use my phone considerably less at work, now, and hardly check it at all before work. However, I’ve got some time off work at the moment and it’s been difficult keeping that momentum going without the usual routine.

This has highlighted something that seems obvious, but I’m finding myself tripping over again and again — when you’re tired, hungry, hormonal or generally emotional compromised, it’s going to be easy to fall into compulsions. It is phenomenally easy to avoid doing compulsions when you feel tiptop, but if your go-to approach for uncomfortable feelings is still avoidance… You’re always going to reach for the thing that helps you avoid it.

I am exhausted right now. This is the first sliver of time I’ve had off from work since I started here, and I was beginning to get burned out. However, I need to remember that self care doesn’t mean lying like a slug in my bed all day until my muscles ache, it means not avoiding my feelings. It’s easy to tell myself that I will feel more tired, more burned out if I allow myself to feel everything, but I actually feel worse when I reach for all my addictions.

So yes, I am exhausted, but I need to take care of my little rat brain right now.

P.S. I’m almost halfway through my No Takeaway/Fast Food challenge this month. This along with tracking my phone usage has  been illuminating to say the least, about the arguments my brain makes up to justify compulsions, and what is necessary to stay on track with my values. I was just going to post week to week like with the phone stuff but I’m going to do a monthly roundup of what I learned, instead 🙂

Surprisingly it’s gone far better than this phone challenge, and taught me numerous things about compulsions and sticking to values so… Maybe cold turkey isn’t so bad!

Going Warm Turkey on Phones: Week 1

Phone Addiction, Self Care, Values based living

I recently installed an app, Quality Time, to track how much time I was spending on there and what I was doing. I had a vague idea that it was a lot but wasn’t sure exactly how much, and for the last few months I’ve not really wanted to know. But after finally getting diagnosed with having tension headaches that have been plaguing me at work — and finally realising my phone usage was one big compulsion I’d just decided was “fine” for some reason — I figured it might be time to bite the bullet.

12 hours. On both Saturday and Sunday. My work days weren’t much better, and were characterised by multiple unlocks just to check … Something that wasn’t even there?