How I became exhausted by “self-care”

Even in the struggle for well-being, less is more.

Courtesy of http://jaymantri.com/

Since venturing out on my own, I’ve made it a priority to self-care.

It is the bedrock of my philosophy.

When I left corporate, I re-discovered my love of reading.

I had more time to practice Yoga.

I had more time to cook.

Then I found meditation.

Then I found the power of being outside in nature.

Recently I’ve found the power of walks.

And yet, as humbled as I am to have a growing list of sacred spaces, the more I struggle with the self-imposed pressure of making time for ALL of them.

It is blindingly clear to me how flawed it is to overstuff my own self-care.

When I refer to my sacred spaces I mean engaging in/inhabiting/embodying the activities that bring me some combination of peace, learning, practice.

Cooking. Reading. Meditating. Yoga-ing. Nature-ing. Walking. These are possible sacred spaces for me.

I’ve crafted my self-worth around attempting to spend as much time as I can in my sacred spaces.

As the years went on the list got longer and longer until I couldn’t integrate them all into the rhythm of day to day being. Life happens making it difficult to pay equal attention to all spaces, at all times.

In trying to meditate every day, I sacrificed reading time.

In trying to spend more time outside, I sacrificed some Yoga.

In trying to do more Yoga, I cooked less.

In trying to cook more, I meditated less.

And so on and on.

On a recent afternoon walk with my partner I shared how much I enjoyed being out on a walk to which she kindly, and naturally suggested: “You should try to make room to go on more walks.”

She isn’t wrong. I have grown to love walks.

But my house of self-care cards was already wobbly and the next card would topple the whole structure over.

I had to re-think, re-jig my approach to self-care.

What had worked 3 years ago with 1 sacred space, no longer worked with several possible sacred spaces.

It’s gotten to the point where now I feel guilty when I don’t meditate in the morning.

I feel guilty when I don’t read that day.

I feel guilty when I don’t get outside enough.

I feel guilty when I don’t cook that day.

I feel guilty when I skip Yoga.

I’ve ended up hoarding spaces.

While I set out to re-work my strategy something deep (deep) inside me kept tugging my efforts down, stalling them before they got going.

As I crossed my inner river Styx to find answers, I inevitably had to be honest with myself about some ingrained beliefs that were keeping me from growing.

1. My self-worth had gotten so wrapped up in my capacity to attend to all these spaces that to cut any out made me feel like a failure.

2. I felt deeply that by not being able to have intentional practices for all the spaces I preached I would be deemed a fraud.

3. The value I place on intentional living was prohibiting me from the gift of improvisation.

4. In a weird way, my former workaholism was replaced by the busyness of self-care.

It’s been hard to be honest with myself about what has prevented my change.

This continues to be on going work for me and I haven’t cleared this hurdle. But I have found some nuggets of wisdom that are helping me manage the self-care exhaustion:

I know I’ve been making my own life harder. I can choose to simplify.
I’m humbled to have too many possible sacred spaces. Each provides a different experience and I need to pay closer attention to how they vary.
My body is wiser than my brain. When I let me body tell me what it needs, I’m relieved of the pressure of having to choose.
Routine can be helpful but also stifling.
It’s ok to admit I’ve felt exhausted by my self-care and that is self-care in and of itself.

I meditated this morning. I baked. I didn’t get outside and I chose to write instead of read.

Today’s been pretty good and tomorrow’s a new day.

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