Self-Care and a Giveaway Thanks to XShadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh

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One of the biggest learnings I’ve taken from therapy and probably the thing I share the most with others is the idea of nurturing vs indulgence when it comes to self-care.

Often when we see self-care talked about on the internet or talk about it amongst friends we’re talking about indulgence. These are the things that feel fabulous in the moment (wine and Netflix, cake, leaving the sink full of dishes for tomorrow) but don’t necessarily set us up for success and sustainability long term.

Nurturing self-care, on the other hand, is a lot less fun. It’s going to therapy, setting healthy boundaries, prepping your lunch the night before, going to bed early, washing the pile of laundry in the corner so you have something to wear this week. These are things that aren’t generally much fun but set you up for the long term.

Ideally we’ve got a good balance of mostly nurturing self-care with some indulgence thrown in–there is certainly space for Netflix (ask me how I’ve spent my Sunday morning!) and ice cream, but we need a base of healthy, sustainable habits to keep us going in our jobs, our activism,  the onslaught of horrible news coming rapid-fire out of the US, and just our lives more generally.

What that looks like will be different for everyone, and sometimes the same activity might fit nurturance and indulgence at different times depending on what else is going on in your life.

I try to make active decisions around indulgent self-care but sometimes I find myself three episodes into something with a bowl of popcorn before I stop to ask myself “Is this indulgence or nurturance? What do I need right now?”

Indulgence is wonderful and fun and can help recharge, but if I’m staying up too late on a work night to do something indulgent I’m going to feel it the next day and probably not be pleased with Past Me’s choices. When I find myself doing something indulgent past the point of self-care–that is, it feels good in the moment but I’ll regret it tomorrow–I try to call on my Gentle Parent Voice to help steer me toward better choices.

My feeling is that a lot of people are struggling with self-care in general these days, and are likely leaning more on the indulgent side than the nurturant side when they can manage self-care at all. That is kind of to be expected. Indulgent self-care is a lot easier and a lot more fun. So I just wanted to give a gentle reminder that it’s the not so fun, not so easy self-care that sets us up for sustainable mental and physical health, and that provides us the habits that keep us going.

In an effort to support nurturant self-care and thanks to  Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh I’m hosting a giveaway for a $25 (USD) gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Whether you need a new sports bra or yoga block or running shorts or cute AF running tights, all you gotta do to be entered in the giveaway is comment below with EITHER what you would buy if you won the gift card OR some kind of self-care you do regularly (indulgent or nurturant).

Here’s the fine print: Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh are providing the gift certificate and, in lieu of payment to me for hosting the giveaway, have generously made a donation to an organization of my choice. The giveaway is open to everyone and will be open until February 26th when a winner will be chosen at random.

**UPDATE: The giveaway is being extended to Saturday, March 4th. Comment below to be entered!**

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In the wake of catastrophe, a few thoughts

courage

If you have found your way to this blog you are likely, like me, devastated. And afraid. You made it through a never-ending campaign of bigotry and hatred and boasts of sexual predation only to be faced with four more years of it, with an emboldened contingent of racists and misogynists and rapists who will see themselves reflected in the White House come January.

I’ve shared a few thoughts about what this means and, if you’re a fellow white person, you may not like them. But please, please don’t turn away. Please read it and if you find yourself angry or defensive sit with it. Continue reading “In the wake of catastrophe, a few thoughts”

Seven Self-Care Strategies for Those Struggling

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My phone’s lock-screen and my touchstone for the last several months.

Just about everyone I know is struggling right now–between brutal acts of police violence against Black people in the US, the Orlando shooting, climate catestrophe, the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency, Brexit, and everything else we’re inundated with constantly, people are struggling with self-care, mental health, and just being okay.

Because I talk a lot about self-care people seem to assume I’m a champ at it. Rather, I talk a lot about it because it’s something I struggle with, and something I see as a fundamental part of doing justice work. So in that spirit, I’m offering a few of the things I’ve been using in the hopes they may be helpful for others. They may not ring true for you and that’s totally cool, we all have different needs and histories and self-care will look different for all of us, but they’re here if you want to give them a go. Continue reading “Seven Self-Care Strategies for Those Struggling”

You Don’t Need an Excuse to Take Care of Yourself

empty vesselPut your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. And so on and so forth. These are familiar refrains for anyone who talks about self-care, who encourages others to take care of themselves (as I do, with one-on-one clients, in workshops, and with the people in my life. Oh, and this here blog too).

I also think they’re pretty toxic and I want to encourage us all to move away from them. Continue reading “You Don’t Need an Excuse to Take Care of Yourself”

PSA

You are wonderful and worthy of someone who will show up for you, who thinks you hung the fucking stars, and wants to celebrate how lucky of a person they are for getting to share their life with you.

Food Rules: The good, the bad, and the ugly

To Thine Own Self Be TrueFood rules are a pretty contentious topic–some people live and die by them. Some feel that healthy eating habits (especially for those in recovery from disordered eating) can’t include them. Some like to reframe rules as “guidelines” and some seem try to delude both themselves and their audiences that their food rules are different and, no matter how restrictive they seem, they aren’t like that other person’s restrictive food rules.

If you’re on Facebook (or the internet) you’ve encountered a plethora of food rules: Whole30, Paleo, plant-based, vegan, raw vegan, “clean” eating, Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, etc. etc.

I’ve tried more than my fair share of rules: raw vegan (cold all the time but felt great–possibly because the body’s response to starvation is a push of energy); Eat to Live (that way madness and–with 3 pounds of produce and a cup of beans a day–pooping lie); extreme calorie restriction; Geneen Roth’s (generally sane) guidelines; obsessive calorie tracking; and the one freeing but problematic rule: fuck it all. I’ve tried intuitive eating (and had a fair bit of success). I’ve done low(ish) carb (as an ethical vegan there is only so low one’s carbs can go). I’ve done low GI. I’ve paired both extreme calorie restriction and a more moderate intake with obsessive exercise. I’ve toyed with orthorexia.

What I’m saying is, I’ve tried a lot of rules. They’ve all, with the exception of intuitive eating, been a substitute for the control I was lacking in life, and a tool with which to punish myself.

I, like many of us, was never taught or modelled healthy eating/food patterns. So, when I’ve thrown off the shackles of culturally supported food bullshit, whether out of burgeoning self-love or politics (and, let me be clear, my self-love is intimately tied to–and a result of–my feminist politics) I have found myself floundering. What does a healthy relationship with food actually look like? What is normal eating?

This is a remarkably stressful question. Because, really, in this culture at least, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. If I were to try to answer that question it would look something like this: a pattern of eating that keeps you nourished without angst or worry.

But what does that look like in practice?

I’ve been working through Making Peace with Food by Susan Kano. It has been revealing and hope-inducing. From it, I have incorporated three rules into my life. Rules that feel sustainable. Rules that give me a framework within which I can eat with freedom and care for myself, by nourishing both my body and my soul. The rules I’ve incorporated are:

1. When you are craving something, eat it. Indulge that craving. Enjoy it whole-heartedly.
2. When you’re not craving something particular, eat health-promoting food (fruits and veg, whole grains, protein, etc.).
3. When you start feeling stressed or compulsive about food flip the script from “Can I resist to this?” to “Do I want this?” If the answer is yes go to number 1. If not, go do something else.

In order to embrace these rules I have had to (start to) accept that weight-loss might not be in the cards. That my choice might be sanity at this size or angst at, well, this size. And that I can focus on a healthy and nourishing relationship with food and I can focus on getting really strong, fit, and capable, and that the mental/emotional work is to accept that my body will do what it does within those habits.

And that sounds like a pretty damn good place to be.

Self-Care Minimums and Dealing With Depression

self-careThis topic has come up multiples over the past week or so, both with clients and friends, so I thought I’d write about it.

One of the trickiest parts of dealing with depression is that it not only saps your motivation, but it makes you believe things that are untrue–things about yourself and your worth, things about your place in your community, and things about how to take care of yourself.

I like to broach this topic by sharing that I’ve noticed in myself and others that there are depression-promoting behaviours and depression-challenging behaviours. And that the really hard part is that depression makes us think depression-promoting behaviours are in our best interest.

When you’re depressed (or anxious, or triggered), staying in all weekend, not answering the phone, binge-watching TV, and not getting dressed sounds great. It might even sound like “self-care.” And aspects of it can be self-care. But self-care is not just about soothing yourself in the moment, it’s about setting up the supports and structures that let you be okay enough in your day-to-day life. So while depression says “let’s watch Buffy instead of doing the laundry” the reality is that tomorrow you’re going to wake up to clothes everywhere, nothing clean, and one more thing you haven’t done–which will add to the guilt and shame that seem to come hand-in-hand with depression.

On the other hand, depression-challenging behaviours are hard and not fun in the moment, but set you up to a) have small victories (SO important when dealing with mental health issues), b) have some structure and routine in your life, and c) set up the support and structure to let you deal with the root of your issues or cope with issues that aren’t going away anytime soon.

Going grocery shopping and eating enough nourishing food can feel insurmountable, but are going to be a lot better for your mental and physical health than subsisting on what you can get at the gas station at 2 am. Tidying your house and making sure you have clean dishes and clean clothes might feel like climbing Everest but the pay-off is immense (for me, at least, just being around clutter and dirty dishes is stressful). Reaching out to a friend or setting up a therapy appointment can feel like the hardest thing you will ever do, but they provide you the support not only to deal with what’s going on, but to have positive social interactions and, with your friends, to have some time when you aren’t “person dealing with depression/trauma/anxiety” you’re just “person who is hilarious and loves ice cream and action movies.”

I am, thankfully, in a really good place with my mental health, but I have a really emotionally demanding job that requires a lot of self-care, and I need to be mindful that my self-care is actually helping me to be sustainable in this job rather than applying a bandaid to deal with the stress of yesterday. To that end, I have “Self-Care Minimums” that I strive to hit every day, and I encourage my clients to consider if they would be useful for them. For me, my self-care minimums are:

AM
-Sunlight or SAD lamp in the morning
-Morning medications/supplements
-Emptying the dishrack
-Morning stretch/flow
Anytime
-Intentional movement/exercise
PM
-Cleaning the kitchen
-Tidying the living room
-Start bedtime routine at 9:30
-Turn off all screens at 10

These are the minimums I’ve established I need to feel good in my house (waking up to a clean kitchen is so important to my day) and good in my body (getting enough good-quality sleep, moving my body), to be able to show up every day for my clients, and to be able to show up every day for myself.

For some people these minimums may feel like maximums. For someone who’s really struggling their daily minimums might be:

-Brush teeth
-Talk to another person in person
-10 minute walk
-Eat breakfast

Your minimums will change with your mental and physical health, resilience, and individual life circumstances, but I think they can be a good way to make sure that you are including some depression-challenging behaviours (and/or sustainable mental health-promoting behaviours) in your life when things are hard, not just when things are good.

———-

This piece was inspired, in part, by this great piece called Everything is Awful and I’m Not Okay: Questions to ask before giving up which I have been recommending all over the place.

I am a big fan of lists and especially of lists that give me the satisfaction of checking things off of them. To that end, I used this template to make my Daily Minimums List, laminated it, and stuck it on my fridge.