Self-Care Ain’t Necessarily Fun!
Breaking my foot two weeks ago has made me think long and hard about self-care, including what I understand it to mean (past and present), the difference between theory and practice, and what self-caring looks like, practically speaking.
I’m not one to slow down, and I have a long-term habit of trying to cram as much in my day as possible: counselling, family duties, time to talk with my spouse and children, running my practice, housework and some leisure. Sometimes self-care can fall by the wayside.
After I broke my foot, I spoke with a dear person in my life who had been through a similar injury twice. She was replete with helpful self-caring suggestions, things like:
- Getting adequate sleep
- Staying completely off the foot, as my doctor had advised
- Getting adequate nutrition and hydration
- Paring down my schedule
- Asking for help from others with multiple activities
- Watching an engrossing series
- Other strategies particular to healing my injury
While I was listening to what she had to say, another part of my brain was rebelling, and in retrospect, I noticed that I was going through a kind of process:
- Brain scramble – What had just happened? Am I really that injured?
- Resistance – Seriously? I have to make all these changes? I don’t want to!!!
- Suckiness – just as it sounds, with a dose of low mood thrown in.
- Numbed-out acceptance – I can’t lie to myself anymore. I have to make these changes and it feels awful.
- Evaluation – What changes do I make and how do I do it?
- Practice – I’m modifying now and getting (slowly) better as I go along.
- Curveballs – Challenges come at me – sometimes frequently, sometimes not. I make adjustments.
- Vacillation – sometimes things feel ok, sometimes they don’t, which is what I”m working on now— particularly the part about “good days” and “bad days” and both being fundamentally ok.
- Keep repeating numbers 6 and 7. Number 8 recurs.
Going back to the conversation I had, the message I kept getting was “self care, self care, self care,” said in a very serious tone. It was probably repeated at least a dozen times. Eventually the message breaks through!
This conversation made me question what self-care really means and I’ve been reevaluating my understanding ever since my injury. I realized that something had changed in the way I have historically viewed self care because I kept going back to the thought: self care ain’t necessarily fun! I would say that former ideas of self-care were more heavily weighted towards leisure and relaxation. Things like: knitting, walks, watching films and interesting programs, bread making, reading, seeing friends etc.
When I looked at my new self-care tasks, I came up with the following, and most did not hit the fun quotient:
- Going to bed early – No fun. Interferes with leisure time.
- Staying off my foot – Definitely no fun. Severely restricts my mobility and all sorts of daily life activities that I take for granted.
- Getting adequate nutrition and hydration – Inconvenient. Much harder when walking around in a knee crutch. All food and water decisions are strictly only when necessary. Nourishment becomes strictly utilitarian.
- Paring down my schedule – Hassle and bother; affects others’ schedules. Hours spent rearranging things; fears arising of disappointing others. Managing children’s expectations due to my limited capabilities.
- Asking for help – Not my favourite thing to do; interferes with desire for control and identity as an independent person.
- Watching an engrossing series – Not currently engrossing. Hard to concentrate.
But then I put these largely no-fun tasks to the test, and here is what I came up with, after several days in, and up until the present:
- Going to bed early – Way more rested; feel more mentally sharp; increase in patience
- Staying off my foot – Still no fun but am getting by slowly but surely on my knee crutch Given that I fell 3 times on standard crutches after my injury, this is a minor miracle and a great opportunity for gratitude. I can still do a number of things, the pace is just more slow and I have to plan!
- Getting adequate nutrition and hydration – Challenging but allows me to be mindful and deliberate about food choices. Promotes intuitive, mindful eating.
- Paring down my schedule – Less hectic pace allows brain to adjust to new reality. Allows more time to attend to appointments and tasks associated with recovery.
- Asking others for help – Increases gratitude, people seem very glad to help, children become more independent
- Watching an engrossing series – Working on it. I am finding that there is fun to be had when seated. Starting to knit again and may complete a fingerless glove in a shorter timeline.
What do I think about self-care now? It’s an opportunity to let go (which helps me be more flexible), it still isn’t necessarily fun, and interesting things can come out of it! For example, I apologetically offered clients phone appointments on days that I couldn’t come into the office and several reported that they liked phone counselling even better than in-person sessions! Go figure!
And I am left with a feeling of gratitude for all the kindness I have received. Thank you! It goes a long way when it comes to recovery!
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