This post was originally published on July 13, 2016.
A while back, we talked about the times when life puts you on the bench, and tries its best to give you no choice but to take a break. Whether it’s illness, injury, or that particular kind of fatigue that makes you feel like you’re moving through molasses, those are the moments when it’s your job to take care of you. With the pace of our lives these days, we often fight that directive and push through, trying to stay or get back “on track” as soon as possible. Of course, that usually means that getting better takes way longer than it should or needs to, or we end up crashing completely with nothing left in the tank.
If we can’t take care of ourselves when we’re physically injured or depleted, what does that mean about the times when our bodies aren’t giving out? How do we respond when it’s our mind, our heart – or just our being – that is asking us for some TLC? In some ways, those messages can be much easier to dismiss or ignore, but that doesn’t mean they go away or that they aren’t important.
When something’s on your mind, you often feel it in your body. Maybe you feel tension in certain spots, or you’re prone to headaches, or you’re just plain tired. Your appetite or sleeping patterns might change, or you might just feel less like yourself. This is all different than having a broken limb or a stomach flu, though, so you just keep going and tell yourself it’s nothing. You don’t need to meditate to know it isn’t nothing, though. You need to take care of yourself just the same.
The way you do so might be different than it would be if you had the flu, though. Maybe you need extra rest, but maybe you also need to recharge yourself with activities you enjoy and people you love. Your body may be strong and healthy, but if your inner self is running on empty, you may find that you’re not really feeling it. Refueling may mean getting some exercise, doing something creative, connecting with a good friend, or – you knew this was coming! – taking a few minutes to catch your breath with some mindfulness. Give yourself what you need to fill yourself back up, and both your mind and body will thank you.
Better yet, why not try to make these activities part of your regular life? I know, it’s not like you don’t try or want to, right? But when it comes to “priorities,” everything (and everyone) on Earth comes first. We wait until we’re wiped out to make time for us, and often, that’s just about crashing. You gotta get that work done, meet those responsibilities, take care of those people, pay those bills. I get it. You might even dedicate time to relationships and activities that you think are “good for you” in some way. But do they fill you up? Do they make you feel like you are taking care of yourself? If not, then you need to make space in your life for people and things that do. It’s good medicine, and as such, it will make you stronger and able to give more to the things you choose.
We live in a world that is challenging even on days when everything seems to go our way. We all face underlying anxieties and tensions that gradually chip away at the foundation of our well being. Ignoring that will only serve to break us down, as individuals and as communities. Take care of yourself so you can be more open to taking care of others. Self-compassion isn’t any different from compassion for others, and it can also be contagious – in a good way.
Photo credit: Leonie Fahjen