Sometime last year, I took a break from yoga and meditation.
I discovered yoga and meditation years ago when I was going through a rough time with anxiety and stuck in a difficult work environment. Yoga and meditation (along with a supportive, patient, and understanding husband and awesome therapist) gave me my life back. Seriously. Anxiety is a drag, and without a time to slow my mind both in stillness and in movement, I never would have had the courage to start my business or the self awareness to practice intuitive eating.
But sometime last year, I realized that both weren't serving their purpose. They were creating more stress in my life than they were relieving. Life had gotten pretty busy, and I was desperately trying to create a yoga/meditation routine. I would set a goal, like meditating for 10 minutes before work. Then inevitably I would hit snooze a few too many times, was rushing to get a blog post out before clients, or just not in the mood for it, and skip. Or I would tell myself I was going to do yoga 4 days a week. Most of the time I would throw on some quick 10-15 minute YouTube video and do a half assed attempt, just to say I did it. It never gave me what I was looking for from going to a full class.
Basically, self care had become a chore. I was checking off a list. I realized my mindset around yoga and meditation had become reminiscent of the diet mentality. Even though I knew I felt better doing yoga and meditation semi-regularly, I was setting goals based on what I thought I should do, not what I wanted to do. When I didn't follow through, I felt like crap about myself and gave up. Sound familiar, dieters?
So, I took a break. When self care starts to feel like work, it's not working.
Self care has become super trendy as of late. And I suppose there could be worse trends, like umm, anything advertised on Goop that involves jade. But self care as a trend is particularly problematic because it takes something that's supposed to be simple and good for you and throws on a layer of expectations. I just looked at my instagram feed for messages about self care, and one person returned from a weekend long restorative yoga retreat, another is drinking a macha tea latte on her perfectly decorated front porch surrounded by plants, another is journaling, and yet another is waking up in her sexy yet casual lace shorts and loose white cotton tank top in reclaimed wood bed topped with a fluffy pure white down comforter, sharing her new morning ritual of not checking instagram but stretching and deep breathing in bed followed by a cup of mindfully sipped hot tea before allowing herself to check her phone.
(For the record, I've never done a yoga retreat, all the plants on my porch are dead, the only journal I keep is a travel journal, and last night I wore pink PJ shorts with cartoon puppies printed all over it and a red sorority t-shirt from 2003 because my bed don't give AF that pink and red don't match)
Instagram self care and make real self care seem unattainable. But self care can be boring too. Making breakfast - literally any breakfast - is self care. Putting on your favorite pair of fuzzy socks is self care. Spending a day watching Netflix on the couch is self care. Self care can be going to your yearly doctors appointment. Self care can be cleaning your room. Of course, none of these things are particularly instagrammable (j/k they are! There's an entire instagram account celebrating boring self care!), but it still counts.
Self care is about nurturing your body and soul with what you need, in the moment. While routine and ritual can be helpful, it can also detract from being intuitive about what you need at any given time. I like to think about self care as a toolbox. You need different tools for different emotions and different times. For example, meditation helps me when I'm anxious, but not when I'm angry or exhausted. You also need tools that serve as a quick bandaid (like petting your dog or walking around the block) and other tools that are more time intensive, but have deeper benefits (like going to a yoga class or taking a weekend trip to reconnect with friends).
While I was writing that last paragraph, I started to notice my brain wasn't focused. So, I pulled out a meditation app (per recommendations of some of y'all on instagram, I've been really into Aware) and did a quick 10 minute meditation. Then I got back to work and busted this post out. I've found that by using meditation when I need it, during the day when I'm feeling unfocused or anxious, it works best for me. So without setting any goals, I'm meditating almost every day. I'm also back to doing yoga. I go to classes a couple times a week. I didn't take any last week because I had a few late nights at work, but that's okay. I did other movement, like running, cleaning my house, and walking the dogs. Because I'm craving it I just penciled in a yoga class tomorrow evening. Having it in my calendar reminds me to plan around it, but if something else pops up, that's ok.
Self care is not a check list. Self care is not a competition. Self care is not expensive. Self care does not require fashionable clothes. Self care is not rigid. Self care is not forced. Self care is not a job.
Have you ever experienced self care burnout? What are your favorite ways of practicing boring self care?
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I work with clients locally in Columbia, SC and virtually throughout the US, helping them discover their happiest and healthiest lives by nourishing a healthy relationship with food and their body. Learn more about my philosophy here.