Like almost every principle of recovery, this concept was something that I just didn’t get before hitting my rock bottom.
I am ashamed to say that in my former life I would sometimes feel critical or even superior to other women when I would see them taking time out for themselves.
Instead of seeing self-care, I judged jealously. I interpreted selfishness.
This was a gross misunderstanding on my part of what my roles and responsibilities really are, and what emotional health looks like.
Before recovery, I believed that my job was to “lose myself in the service of others.” Especially as a wife and mother, but even in other areas of my life, I had internalized that my role was to sacrifice myself to meet others’ needs. Deep down, I felt responsible for others’ happiness.
Trauma was the gift that made this co-dependent and faulty way of thinking truly unmanageable.
Now, I understand that an empty cup has nothing to offer. I understand that the best thing I can do to be of service to others is to ensure that I am connected to my Higher Power so His love and compassion can flow through me. This connection does not happen without time, effort, and deliberate attention.
Self-care facilitates my ability to feel serenity; God at my center.
In her book, What Can I Do About Me?, Rhyll offers the following suggestions for Self-Care:
- Take a Walk
- Listen to Soothing Music
- Take a 20-minute Power Nap
- Eat Well
- Make Time for Meditation
- Slow Down Your Life
- Don’t Compare Yourself
- Do Something Just For You
- Be Present
- Write in Your Journal
- Study Your Scriptures and Pray
To this excellent list, I might add from my own recovery:
- Practice Yoga
- Meditate on/Visualize being in a “Safe Place” with my Higher Power
- Stop Whatever I am Doing and Practice Deep Breathing
- Choose to do something that is just enjoyable, NOT productive
- Make a phone call or go on a walk with a friend
- Cuddle my kids and allow myself to give and receive physical affection from them, especially when I feel physically unsafe with my husband
- Take time to develop talents that feel freeing and allow me to express myself
For me, it is also important to make the distinction between self-care and self-indulgence.
Coping mechanisms like watching Netflix for hours, eating an entire pan of brownies, downing 44 oz Diet Cokes daily, or exercising compulsively leave me feeling more numb, isolated, defeated, or fearful. Although I may have seen these indulgences as Self-Care in the past, I am learning that true Self-Care always helps me feel more connected to myself, others, or my Higher Power in positive ways.
I have also learned as I practice Step 10 with nightly check-ins, that the days I feel burdened with feelings of overwhelm and eventually resentment are usually the days that I failed to take the time for Self-Care.
I have become a true believer that to be most useful to God and others, to be able to feel serenity and love others freely, to be freed from feelings of resentment and victim, Self-Care is a crucial element of my daily routines.