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winter sunset over the Wallowa mountains

What Gets in the Way of Practicing Good Self-Care Goes Deeper Than You Think

Two years ago today, I was not in a good place. I felt fatigued a lot of the time and lethargic, which made it really hard to do the things that always make me feel better–daily walks and yoga, for example.

Yes, I’m talking about good, consistent self-care— in all of its complexity.

The trouble was that I was recovering from total adrenal fatigue from being in a very stressful business relationship. This was coupled with the cold and dark of December that annually brings on a moderate case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

At the time I was going regularly to acupuncture and trying to be consistent with my supplements. But I struggled.

Every morning, I’d pull on my yoga pants with the intention to get outside for a walk, at least. Evening found me drinking red wine in those same yoga pants with all my best intentions on the floor. Of course, the wine did not help my sleep cycle or my energy level for the next day.

Winter trail at sunrise

It made me wonder, Why is it so hard to do the very things I know will make me feel better?

I called upon my friends to provide insights into the ways we nurture ourselves, and you can find their wisdom collected here in my first self-care post on Forage.

But this question of why we do not do the very thing that we know will make a qualitative difference in our bodies, our lives and our relationships has nagged at me.

Why do we get in our own way? Or, to think in actionable terms, how do we get out of our own way?

Since winter is a time I find it most challenging to take good care of myself, this seemed like a good time to learn more.

Ski tracks with canyon views

{These images are my favorite wintertime activity: skiing!}

5 Reasons Why We Don’t Practice What We Know

I went straight to an expert. My friend, Chantay Jett, is a trained marriage and family therapist who is the executive director of our county’s mental health program {a ginormous job}. She’s also a badass mom, trail runner, skier, confidante and truth teller.

During the year I was struggling with my business partnership, Chantay was my counselor who always provided me with insightful takeaways, food for thought and other actionable items to address my own needs.

That’s how we became friends. So, it should not have surprised me that when I posed the question to her on January 1, 2018 and then called her at 8 a.m. on January 2, she already had a list of 5 “benign” reasons that we do not practice self-care. {I’ll get to the “benign” part in a bit.}

Here are Chantay’s top 5 reasons we do not do the very thing–fill in the blank for what works best for you here–we know will nourish our whole selves.

  1. You feel unworthy of your own time and attention. (There is a big self worth piece.)
  2. Self-care is something that comes after all the to dos are finished, which means that you don’t ever get to it.
  3. The needs of others are more important than your own. (Moms especially.)
  4. Self-care seems indulgent or even a point of weakness. (For example, you’re weak for wanting to take a nap or having an hour to yourself.)
  5. There’s a secret belief that you can do more with less.

I’m guessing these resonate for you the same way that they did for me. This is why Chantay calls them benign; they are the truths that we already know. It’s like putting your own oxygen mask on first, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Sure. Obvious.

Still, not a bad thing to read them or hear these 5 basic truths over and over again. Am I right, or am I right?

But, the deeper question persists: given all the we know about ways to take care of ourselves, what’s the one big thing that prevents us from doing just that?

It’s Boundaries, Friends!

The larger issue, the way Chantay sees it, is that we are failing at setting our own boundaries.

Listen to Chantay and you’ll get a sense of her sharp, analytical clinician’s brain, which I love to hear:

“We as a society have become afraid of setting boundaries for ourselves. It’s time consuming and it’s hard,” she said. “This pushes us over the top into vegging out in front of the boob tube or eating bad food. It’s that quick sugar high and we’re left feeling worse than before.”

Yup.

Frost-covered tree

There it is, seemingly simple but so very difficult in our noisy, busy and demanding world. This real-talk post about how self-care can be the most “unbeautiful thing” is also about boundaries without using the word.

By creating clear boundaries for ourselves that involve putting ourselves first–whether that’s a dedicated workout time, or afternoon walk or morning meditation–many other elements of our lives fall into place.

Here’s the promise {again in Chantay’s words}:

“If we take care of ourselves first, then we become more independent and less needy of getting attention or affection and ultimately more capable of building true connections with other people.”

So, the big pay off is not losing weight or getting more done at work or achieving our financial goals. It’s that we become more available to ourselves and to others.

“And really that’s what we’re after as human beings,” said Chantay. “We want love, but love is often confused with dependency. This dependency is confused for love and then if you’re dependent on others, you’re not dependent on yourself.”

Hello!!!

Yes, this is big, and I needed to read that over a few times myself to ingest it all. Feel free to take another moment to take that all in and breathe.

The way I understand it now, setting clear boundaries for your needs and your time is the pathway to love. {My heart is singing just putting that all together!}

Self-Care Success Rates

Self-care is such a huge topic right now in our culture. Everybody is talking about it, so it’s curious that Chantay mentioned that she is not seeing any significant changes in people she knows.

In fact, there is only one person she could name who has genuinely and steadfastly dedicated herself to self-care.

How?

Winter morning with Lynne Curry

It sounds pretty simple, but goes back to setting boundaries: for this person, Thursday evening yoga class is set in stone. Nothing gets in the way of that event in her life, and, as a result she has experienced tremendous benefits.

Can it be as simple as that? Yes and no. It’s not the activity, per se, but the commitment. In the words of this mental health professional, “It’s a no-holds-barred boundary. She’s found a lot of relief in that boundary.”

So, the real challenge is not only creating the boundary but then protecting it with everything you have. Because for any and all of the 5 benign reasons above, it’s way too easy to cave.

February Follow-Up

Did you know that despite all of our resolve this first week of January, 80% of our best intentions will fail by the second week in February? In less than six weeks, our best ideas of how to care for ourselves will slip and become subsumed by all of the other demands in our lives.

I, for one, am making a note on my calendar today to remind myself on February 10th to stay the course. That includes plenty of escapes to get out on my skis alone and with friends.

Escaping into a hot bath in our claw foot tub is another one of my favorite indulgences. So, I’m including a wonderful balancing and detoxifying homemade bath salt and scrub with lemongrass recipe.{See this post for more about natural skin care and a Q&A with expert Jody Berry of Wild Carrot Herbals.}

What are you doing to make sure you put yourself first this season and every day of the year? Please leave a comment about your challenges and small successes and stay in touch!

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Lemongrass Bath Salt and Scrub

This epsom salt soak and scrub is based on similar salt scrubs from my skin care expert, Jody Berry, owner of Wild Carrot Herbals. She recommends using cold-pressed and organic essential oils. Lemongrass is revitalizing and calming and can help relieve depression and anxiety, and it's divine!

Course Personal care
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 baths
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquid state avocado oil or mild olive oil
  • 20 drops lemongrass essential oil cold-pressed and organic

Instructions

  1. Put the epsom salt into a 1 quart wide-mouth glass jar. Blend the oil with the lemongrass essential oil in a small bowl. Add it to the epsom salt and stir with a spoon to blend them completely.

  2. Add 1/2 cup or more of the bath salts to a hot bath or use it as a scrub on your skin in the bath. Then soak as long as you like (20-40 minutes is recommended).

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