Mindful Self-Care: A Self-Love Turned Real Love Story?

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A mama friend who I haven’t talked to in a while messaged me the other day.

“Sheila. I’m losing it. Can you call me tomorrow?”

When we talked, she opened up about how she’s feeling unappreciated, exhausted, and concerned for her health. And then, she said, she argued with her husband about helping out more. She knows she struggling and she knows she need more self-care, she said, “but how do you actually make that happen?” she wanted to know.

Knowing that place well, both personally and professionally, I talked with her about conversations I’ve had with other women and myself about “doing it all.” As an aside, Brene Brown explains here and here about her research on “doing it all” as the focus of shame for many women, so it makes sense that working through my own shame and working with other women around theirs that “doing it all” would come up regularly. I have seen in my own relationship and my work with couples how this story affects every relationship we have, especially those that are closest to us, including relationship with ourselves.

The story goes that we have to do it all. We do so much, but we never are enough to do it all. We deplete and exhaust ourselves to get everyone and everything set up just so, driving ourselves with criticism and judgment around our “not enoughness.” We give and give and give, yet the reciprocal flow is lacking. In flows resentment, anger, helplessness, hopelessness and even despair…certainly a dearth of joy. We are not seen. We are not appreciated, not really. We can’t do self-care because no one helps us. We have to do it all so we don’t have the time. We question the value of money spent on us “just because.” Even when we do it, we can’t maintain it. We can’t do self-care.

That’s the story we find ourselves trapped within.

Exhaustion. Depletion. Resentment. And fear like my friend had that this is all we will ever have, that this is how it’s going to be. Doing doing doing. More more more. Give give give. No help no help no help.

Still, there’s a part of us doesn’t accept (allow?)…

She laughed as she recognized herself in the story I was weaving. And after talking a while about the truths and untruths behind all that story, about smallness, about opening to support, about claiming space and committing to care – not just for herself but about herself, I told her I would email her my Mindful Self-Care e-book so she could get started with some no-extra-time, no cost, yet powerfully effective self-care practices that would guide her through transition to a new way of being with herself and with others. 5 radically simple and effective Mindful Self-Care practices she could do to nurture herself throughout all the up and down moments of her day and her transition.

Because the problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do. The “what” isn’t the hardest part. The real challenge was making that transition through and beyond that heavy, dark, pervasive and barbed storyline to a belief that we truly do matter, that we can do this, that it’s ok to care for ourselves so deeply, so truly, in such a real and tangible way.

Such self-care is a radical act.

Audre Lorde would take it legitimately farther: “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgence. Caring for myself is a radical act of survival. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

My friend was feeling the pressure of her “Yes.” She knew the “what” – she needed to up her self-care – and was asking me for the “how.”

It was finding myself in a similar situation that drove me to write my book all about the HOW of self-care.

How can you actually make the transition from where you are to where you want to be, how you want to feel, what you want to experience?

I created simple, practical, doable steps that defied the self-care myths that had stopped me in the past, turning them right on their heads. I put everything in that book (and more!) that I used to shift out of the same old tailspin of story I cycled through over and over: “I have to do it all. I can’t do it all! But I have to do it all. Why can’t you do it all?! Look at all you’re not doing!!!” [crumble for a moment, then “suck it up” and “soldier on”]

These habits – of doing and away from being, of pushing and away from softening – were passed down to me as generational myths and messages, inherited from hardworking woman to hardworking woman. My deep desire to free my children and future generations from the hold of unworthiness might just might be the secret behind why my work of Nurturing You and Mindful Self-Care isn’t about doing or stuff but about being. Who knows.

But what I do know is that if I can’t slow down to open my eyes to the present moment, or take a few deep breaths to help ground myself in 60 seconds (check the p.s. for a guided meditation gift), or let my thoughts wander off dreamily while holding my steaming warm mug for 5 minutes or journaling in the gorgeous sacred space of my journal, then I’m likely not going to be able to take the time and energy to face and release what’s holding me back.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as being willing: Either you are willing to take ONE mindful breath…or you’re not.

Knowing that the “what” already exists, I wanted to help connect women, myself included, to all the self-care support that we couldn’t make our way to maintaining for ourselves. That was my inspiration when I wrote that 13-chapter Mindful Self-Care Guide and created my 13-week Nurturing You program. (Coming out of the vault this spring!)

And it was precisely when I wrote that book and began to work with other women doing the work of Nurturing You, the seed was planted that would dramatically end my marriage as it was, yet allow it to transform and transition to something more real, deep and true than ever.

And it was also my own Nurturing You work that saved me and allowed for the opportunity for my partner and I not only to save our marriage but to do so in an authentic and empowered rather than a desperate way.

A self-love story is my favorite love story!

Some folks who read A Woman Transformed emailed to ask me HOW I actually shifted my life, relationship, beliefs. I’ll be sharing the long answer over time to the folks who get my {presence not perfection} emails. (Sign up this week and I’ll this week, and I’ll get you this week’s email with all the juicy background details before the next email come out.) I will certainly bring the insights, wisdom, tools and strategies to the women and couples I work with. But the short answer is: Mindful Self-Care. Nurturing You. Mindful Communication.

The shift started within…with me.

Reply + Reflect:

What myths, stories, thoughts or beliefs get in the way of your self-care? What might happen if you didn’t believe those things were true?

You are precious, worthy and enough, exactly as you are. You matter.

May each of us care deeply and truly for and about ourselves and, through this radical act, the world.

Wishing you ease and grace, love,
~sheila

p.s. Sign up for my biweekly {presence not perfection} emails and get a guided meditation along with my Mindful Self-Care ebook and behind the blog post details that are private email love only for the folks on my email list. (Because I like to share personal stuff.)

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