As a yoga practitioner I take joy in helping other people embrace the self-care message. In my classes I teach students calming breathing techniques and restorative poses; but even with all of this knowledge I found myself resisting deep rest and self-care in my own life.
My catalyst for deep self-care understanding
Like most people, it was a debilitating bout of illness that brought self-care to my immediate attention. I was diagnosed with glandular fever and confined to my bed for over 3 weeks. I had nausea, vertigo, aching limbs, a headache and zero energy.
Despite my body’s call to stop, I still tried to drag myself to the movies for my son’s birthday, to his soccer game, and do all the things I normally do as a mother, partner, friend, daughter, sister and business owner. That was, until the diagnosis came in and the doctor gave me a reality check.
My beloved (and insightful) partner, Pete, explained to the doctor that I was caught up in the do-ing, not resting and my health was deteriorating.
With blunt kindness the doctor asked me, “If your best friend or twin sister was sitting next to you, and I gave this diagnosis, what would you say to her?” In that moment softness washed over me and I knew the answer was to offer her assistance and encourage her to take a month off to rest and recuperate.
Talk about the penny dropping. Why was I so hard on myself? Why was I not listening to my body? Why was I not listening to my doctor, my partner, the Universe? Everyone and everything were telling me to stop do-ing and start be-ing.
Caught up in the do-ing
I was deep in the ing of life. Work-ing, meditate-ing, cook-ing, wash-ing, exercise-ing, creat-ing, achiev-ing. I was trapped in a cycle of think-ing and do-ing instead of simply BE-ing and so busy that the fundamental part of my self-care practice was thrown out the window. I had stopped listening to my body and giving it what it really needed.
My body, mind and soul really needed to stop and rest in the BE-ing of life. THIS is what self-care is really about. It’s not about ticking things off a to-do list.
Suddenly I had a deeper appreciation of what it meant to really rest. And this can apply to us for a number of reasons —recovery from illness, living with a chronic condition, mental health challenges, or simply trying to juggle the many competing demands of modern living — I was devastated. In fact, for the first 10 days I really struggled to stop. I was restless, irritable and try-ing hard to not be with myself.
Anyone who knows me knows how full of life I normally am. I’ve always been dynamic and vital. Suddenly stopping was hard, but I was curious. Why did the Universe want me to stop? What was the point of all this stillness?
With an open mind I looked and knew it was about the Universe wanting me to look deeper at the trauma I was processing and the migraines and anxiety I was living with. I realised I was so afraid of meeting my trauma, my anxiety and my health; that I had been do-ing all the ‘right’ things like, meditation, yoga and exercising, but they were merely been ticked off the list rather than actually feeling into the depth of what I needed in each moment.
I was afraid, instead of being brave. I was partly open, but not fully surrendering.
Finally learning about rest
During this challenging time, I began to realise I didn’t really know how to rest. If I saw something that needed to get done I’d do that over my body’s need for rest. Even though I was at home I’d constantly be clear-ing the coffee table, clean-ing the floor, pick-ing up things off the floor. I was do-ing all the things that didn’t really matter. (And ironically, all the things that get done anyway.)
My partner would keep reminding me to stop and rest, but I wouldn’t. Suddenly I had an aha moment. I didn’t want to be seen as lazy, even though my body was screaming for me to stop. I felt that not doing things, which clearly needed to be done, was me being lazy. I didn’t want the label of lazy, so much so that I didn’t want to give my body the rest and space it was desperately craving.
Moving forward with deeper understating, kindness and self-compassion
With this new insight, and with the support of a loving partner by my side, I began to embrace what self-care really is – listening to your body!
Self-care is a key component to your healing. It’s a process and not linear. And self-care is different for different people, and different on different days. Some days good self-care is going to that yoga class. Some days it’ll be going for a gentle walk in nature. Some days it’s taking the time to go for a run. Some days it’s a massage. Other days the self-care prescription will be a Netflix binge, or time out with your friends, a bubble bath, a bunch of flowers — whatever. Some days, it’ll be stopping and BE-ing in deep rest, where you do nothing at all and embrace space and stillness with an open and enquiring mind.
My final thoughts on self-care
This time of stillness has brought me a greater understanding of self-care and a deeper appreciation of what it truly means to rest deeply — and I will forever be grateful for that gift. My wish for you, as you move forward in your day, is to fall in love with taking loving care of yourself. To fall in love with listening to your body and giving it what it needs.
Do you need help with self-care and deep rest?
If you’re struggling to check in with your body and listen to what it’s saying then yoga can be a great way to learn to connect with your own deep-seated wisdom. I offer one-on-one sessions, group classes and immersive retreat experiences – all designed to help you peel away the layers and connect with your inner world. You can learn more here.