Self-care when you’re not in the mood

How to take great care of yourself when you don’t really want to

I’m a work in progress. Even though I know, teach, and preach the fundamental essentialness of self-care, I’m far from perfect at it. I know that it’s what primes me to live my best life and show up to the toughest situations as the version of myself I want to be.

Most of the time, I do pretty well with self-care. I get good sleep. I eat well. I choose things that revitalize me. I show up for myself and feed my spirit and my soul. I top off my tank, and it pays off.

Except when I don’t.

And you know what?

The times that are the hardest to show up with abundant self-care are often the times when I need it the most.

Why is it that when I’m at my lowest, it can be so hard to do the thing that feels good?

Why is it that when my spirit most needs something to nourish and revitalize it, I’m more likely to lean toward what self-care expert Jennifer Louden calls “shadow comforts” – the easy things that distract and numb me, but don’t really provide comfort or solace or renewal? Things like comfort eating or zoning out with mindless internet or TV, when what might really soothe me would be a conversation with a good friend, or some great music, or even a long, hot bath and a lovely glass of wine.

And there’s a price for this. Because when I choose the numbing, mindless, non-nourishing sources of comfort, I may temporarily stop the pain or the stress or the feelings of worry or exhaustion, but when I emerge from my avoidance cocoon, I’m no better off. It’s like I stopped time, or was treading water, but I didn’t really do anything that will enhance my energy or my feelings or feed my needs so that I can move beyond the bad place.

As a runner, I know that the hardest part of running is getting my butt out the door. Once I’m in motion I’m fine. It’s taking that first step across the threshold – into the rain or cold or simply a run I don’t want to do – that requires the difficult choice.

This month I’m practicing making those difficult choices with self-care so that I can get at least one inch better at showing up for myself when I need it the most. One inch better doesn’t intimidate me. It’s something I know I can do.

I’m focusing on paying more attention to how I feel and what I think I need. I’m trying to tune in to the choices that I make and how they work (or don’t) for me.

I’m trying to notice when I make the choices that don’t really serve me and consider what might have worked better. I’m using curiosity about the choices (great and not-so-great) that I make instead of judging them and feeling frustrated with myself.

Most of all, I’m challenging myself to make that difficult first step. To break a pattern, I have to make a different choice, and when I don’t feel like taking great care of myself, I probably need to the most. So my challenge this month is to do my best to be aware, and when I don’t want to do it, do it anyway.

Put on the music instead of vegging. Peel the fresh mango instead of mindlessly eating tasteless crackers. Change into something that makes me feel terrific instead of choosing my version of yoga pants. Take the time to meditate –and yes – go for that run. Show up for me. I’m not aiming for perfect, just one inch better.

Want to join me?

Take good care,