This winter seemed to bring me one knock back after another. With each knock back my motivation for self-care took a nosedive. This is something that I’m used to, and usually I just accept it, trusting it to bounce back as my health improves again. This time though, it didn’t. I found myself in a rut for months, and I started to get worried. Along with the worrying came whole load of self-criticism which just dragged me down lower and took me even further away from the motivation I needed to take great care of myself and out-smart the illness.
I’m happy to say that I’m now back on track. I’ve now got all my foundation self-help back into my routine and I’m reaping the benefits. There’s still a few things I could add and tweak, it’s still a work in progress but I’m happy with where I am right now, it’s enough!
Here are some of the steps I took to get myself back on track:
The first thing I had to work on was my self-criticism, as it was really dragging me down. Self-acceptance is something that I learned was extremely important about 30 years ago (long before I experienced this illness) when I struggled with and overcame a heavy depression. It’s something I’ve become well practiced at over the years but all of a sudden, I found myself struggling with it again. Fortunately, I knew to ‘let somebody see me’. When you are really struggling to accept yourself, taking a risk to show yourself fully to another who can hold that acceptance for you, is a great first step to finding it for yourself again. For me it was all I needed to get mine back (although I did need it repeatedly for a week or two before my self-acceptance became more steady and easy to find).
- Paying attention to the tiny ways I was achieving (and letting go of the ways I wasn’t)
Once I was letting go of the majority of my self-criticism, my next step was paying attention to all the little things that I was achieving. I pointed out to myself how I was still preparing myself at least one healthy meal a day. I still made my bed every morning. I counted my 5-minute meander to the village supermarket as getting out of the house for a short walk. I praised myself for getting the washing up done every day, getting my laundry done once a week and every time I had a shower. When I started focusing on what I was achieving instead of what I wasn’t, I noticed that actually I was doing quite a lot. It was only when I was comparing it with what I do when I’m doing very well that it seemed to be nothing. So, every time I had a thought about what I wasn’t doing, I chose to be kind to myself, let it go and chose to recognise something small that I had already achieved that day, even if it was only that I’d made my bed.
- Letting go of meaning
One thing that I had to be careful of was making what was happening mean something. OK, this was the longest that I’d gone for years, without my motivation naturally resurfacing, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to or that I was going to have to force it. Just because it hadn’t already come back didn’t mean that I couldn’t trust that it would. I also had to let go of my thoughts that told me that if I carried on not doing my T’ai chi and meditation I was going to get worse. I knew that these thoughts weren’t helpful and that what I really needed to do was accept exactly where I was and be at peace with it. And as soon as I found that peace, I found myself spontaneously wanting to do things again.
- Allowing more flexibility
Knowing myself well, I know that the key to good self-care for me it getting straight out of bed in the morning and getting straight into my practices. Unfortunately though, I’d turning this into a limiting belief: that if I didn’t do my practices straight away, early in the morning then I wouldn’t do them at all. Throughout this time, I was having a real problem getting out of bed in the morning. I saw that as the key to changing things around but one I just couldn’t seem to unlock. Instead I decided to see if I could be more flexible with my practices; do my t’ai chi whatever time I got up, and find another time in the day to do a short meditation if a late get-up meant I was too impatient to get to breakfast to do it.
- Find compassion for ‘self-help fatigue’
One of the things that really helped me to turn things around was when I offered myself compassion for just how hard it is to keep on doing the 101 things I do to help myself be as well as possible, especially when something outside of your control gets in the way of results. I’ve been at it for 11 years now (this time) and although I have lots of good periods where my self-help really pays-off, it’s totally understandable to be totally fed-up of doing all that work after several months of rarely peeking out of a ditch. When I gave myself permission to really let go, and not have to do anything that I didn’t feel like doing; when I allowed myself to stay in bed until I felt like getting up every morning, without criticising myself or worrying about my lack of interest in life, I started to feel lighter and life started to get easier again.
- Focusing on just one step
Once I noticed that I was no longer feeling completely reluctant, I chose 1 thing that I wanted to get more consistent at. My tai chi has always been the thing that I’ve been most consistent with, so I figured that would be the easiest thing to get back on track. Within a week I was doing that daily again so I chose something else to focus on.
Once I’d found a little success with taking one step and a time and felt good that I had a few of my really important aspects of my self-help going again, even if a little haphazardly, I decided to tackle the key again. I chose a date for a fresh start. I had an ideal opportunity for that as I was moving house, so I decided that the first morning I woke up in my new home I would get straight out of bed…. And I’m happy to say it worked!
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