When Self-care isn’t really Self-care

Does anyone allow themselves to completely overindulge, skip doing exercise, sleep in late every day, drink that extra glass of wine all in the name of self-care? Yup, me too. I know for me the excuse of “living through a pandemic” is definitely one I’ve used for weeks now. The result? I’ve put on weight, I’m lethargic, have absolutely no motivation, and am in general feeling anxious and depressed. And because I’m feeling anxious and depressed, I “allow” myself that extra piece of cake, stay up way too late, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle, and unfortunately, I’ve been doing it long enough now that it’s become a habit, and habits are effing hard to break… sigh.

Before ‘Rona hit, we were crazy busy. We went out a lot, were in the process of selling our house and buying a new one, I was knee-deep in work, volunteer counseling, and a never-ending list of things that needed to get done and organized. And then Covid and lockdown happened and just like that, the busyness of our lives came to a grinding halt. I, like many others I’m sure, lost all momentum. All the things I had been passionately working on took a major backseat, and 24/7 parenting was now the priority. And while I couldn’t change the fact that my toddler was now constantly drawing my attention, I feel like my attitude to the work that’s important to me was “well, screw it, it’s not like I can focus”, and then I stopped even trying.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself during this time, it’s that I don’t do well when I feel like I have no purpose. When parenting starts to feel like a never-ending chore, and there’s nothing else stimulating my mind and soul, the monotony of the day-to-day becomes a pressing heavyweight with no end or relief. How then do I get out of this destructive cycle? I’ve asked myself this every day.

I’ve thought about it a lot and decided my first step, is to say it out loud – talk about it, acknowledge it, define it for what it is. I’m going to try my best not to beat myself up about it – what would I say to a friend or client in this position? It’s done, I can’t change the past – but I can change the future. Am I going to change it all at once? Nope – that’s a recipe for failure. Instead, I’m going to make a promise to myself to make one small good choice every day and build on that until it becomes a habit.

The second step I’m going to take is to write a list because let’s face it, I love making a good list! This list will have each behaviour on it that has been destructive – too much sugar, no exercise, staying up too late, etc. The purpose of this is more to become aware of the behaviours than anything else and to get it out of my head and onto paper. Now I’m going to choose one to work on.

For me right now, I think my biggest downfall is going to bed too late. When I’m tired in the morning, it makes it really hard to have the willpower to make a healthy breakfast, exercise, or focus on getting work done. Instead, I grab an easy muffin and flop on the couch browsing Instagram. This is the only thing I’m going to worry about for now until I’m in a good routine of going to bed earlier. This could take a couple of months to get right, and it’s really important to be realistic with my goals. When I have it down, I will choose the next thing and work on it slowly too.

What I’ve found with doing this is that when I start making small healthy choices, I naturally start making more and more healthy choices and they each support each other. For example, by going to bed early, I can’t go raid the snack cupboard late in the night because I’m, well, sleeping.

So here’s hoping I break the cycle. I’ll be sure to update you on how it’s going!

Have anything to share? How have you been coping during lockdown? Have you kept up good habits, or overindulged in the name of self-care like me? Any ideas or tips? Share them in the comments below!

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