You know you're burnt out when "self care" feels like a chore!
It's a sad state of affairs that the average modern woman feels completely exhausted most of the time.
The great irony is being in that exhausted space, the LAST thing you have time to do (or truthfully want to do) is take care of yourself. And I’m not just talking about doing the chores of life like paying bills, doing laundry, getting to the gym, dentist or hair salon — those things I consider self-maintenance.
What I’m talking about is the self love kind of self-care. I'm talking about the kind of activities that actually nourish you. Things you do to show kindness to yourself, beyond just the basics.
AS women, we know what we should do — or, at least we think we do — but sometimes, we just don’t want to do those things for ourselves. We're too tired. Too burnt out. Too depleted.
At those times, self-care doesn’t feel like self-care — it feels like a burden.
And when we feel worn down like that, we just want to put our brain and body in neutral.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report, we're not alone in that instinct to check out mentally and physically. Most Americans turn to TV, the Internet, or a nap on the couch for stress relief.
But, the thing is — we aren’t actually nourishing ourselves or relaxing in those acts, we're just escaping and ... collapsing!
So, if you want to feel better, how can you summon energy to genuinely nurture yourself when all you want to do is fall down and do nothing? Here are a few ways to create more room and energy in your life for taking great care of yourself:
1. Understand that the reason you're run down is normal, and not your fault.
Have you noticed — we live in a world that shames us for not taking optimal care of ourselves but then, in the next breath, shames us if we do indulge in self care.
Modern expectations don’t leave a lot of room to focus on yourself and what you need. We don’t often talk about the realities our 24/7 culture demands, where it feels like Herculean effort to simply do a good job.
The reality is that you have a job to do (at work, taking care of your family, etc.) and you have to do it. And it’s not easy.
2. Figure out what your goals are for yourself, not anyone else.
We all know what we should do to take care of ourselves. But is that really the same as what you want to do? Do those things actually feel good to you?
For example, when it comes to exercise and physical health, do you really want and need a sculpted, hardcore body, or do you simply feel like you should?
Exercising, and perhaps over-exercising, simply to keep up with others’ expectations is not self-care, it is self-harm. Whereas exercising to keep your body healthy, strong, and vibrant is self-care, if that is your goal for your fitness and physical health.
Understanding these distinctions can help you let go of activities that don't really serve your personal goals. Replace them with the self-care behaviors and activities you really want and need.
Identify what nourishes your soul, what actually makes you feel happier and stronger, and what you want more of. Listen to your true wants and needs. Implementing them is the best way to care for yourself.
3. Be honest about what you can handle.
Part of caring for your whole self is understanding — with compassion — your body’s rhythms, and working with them, rather than fighting against them.
Be honest about your energy ups and downs and use them to your advantage, arranging highest effort self-care when you have the most energy, (for most, this is early in the week), and lowest effort self-care when you have the least (generally later in the week).
Need to squeeze in a yoga class or a trip to the grocery store, for example? Harness your best energy for exerting activities, leaving more relaxing choices (hot bath, reading, letter writing) for when you feel fatigued.
4. Give yourself a reward — you deserve it!
Align self-care with what you want, and when energy wanes, make sure to pair it with something you enjoy.
For example, you do not feel like cutting vegetables when you're hungry and tired on a Thursday night, so maybe do so earlier in the week, say, while you listen to a favorite podcast, or chat with a friend or family member?
Likewise you might struggle to keep up your exercise routine when energy flags, but have no trouble if you pair the exercise with something enjoyable, like catching up with a friend or watching a favorite show while on the treadmill.
While research shows adding a reward to low-interest discretionary activities can help motivate you, the soul nourishing part of this trick is layering on something that you want to do for you. That is self-care.
If your soul feels hungry, that’s OK!
This is your body telling you what it needs and your job is to nourish it courageously, one step at a time.
When you struggle with self-care, try to determine if your hesitance is born from habit, shame, or sheer fatigue — this will show you where you need the most self loving (and also support from others).
Take this process gently, but recognize that only you can do this special job. When push comes to shove, you must prioritize being kind to yourself. This is something that takes mindful practice.
If you find yourself needing a bit of extra support on your path to better self care and awareness, check out Dr. Alicia Clark's website or sign up for her newsletter to receive weekly helpful support on wellness, relationships, and parenting delivered directly to your inbox.