Many of us are in giving professions - teachers, therapists, counselors, doctors, nurses, midwives, emergency service workers, doulas, social workers, customer service reps, and even some “nontraditional” roles that still take care of people. And, stay at home moms and dads or those who are now taking care of their moms and dads, I’m looking at you, too.
This work is necessary. This work is rewarding. This work is love. This work is also HARD. And, it’s okay to feel it all. I’m raising my hand to say it. I read recently that many religious teachers (priests, fathers, reverends) feel the most depressed on Mondays. Depressed. Holy cow [see what I did there?]. Note: This letter is not about organized religion, but rather what happens when we give so much of ourselves, which I know many of you do, too. Let’s continue.
This struck me because sometimes after a weekend of leading retreats or trainings for 25+ intense hours, or even after a few days of back to back yoga sessions, I feel spent. And, that is so not my nature. I’m naturally pretty high energy, zinging back the covers in the morning to start the day (ask Eugene). It’s a red flag to pay attention when I feel this way.
I’ve been referring to this state as an emotional hangover. I bet you’ve had it, too. Where you feel like you can barely heat up leftovers from last night’s dinner when you get home. All you want to do is lay down and rest, sometimes for days at a time. You may feel foggy, anxious, lethargic, uninspired. And, too much of this can really lead to burnout in your career, overwhelm, discontent, and a general feeling of unease in the body and mind. We don’t necessarily want to stay there, and I know there’s a way to honor that time, but also come out the other side with a fresher perspective.
I’ve been really trying to understand how to work with these moments, as teaching yoga the way I do is something I hope to continue for the rest of my life. What I’ve realized is that I need to protect my moments of self-care as if they were sacred, because they ARE. Perhaps you do, too. I was inspired recently by Katie Vigos who said, “You need to protect your self-care with the same level of care that you give others.” As a current RN and the founder of the Empowered Birth Project, Katie Vigos was speaking to those who want to become doulas, nurses, etc. But, they apply to so many of us.
Her words knocked me over the head, and it was something I could get behind. Take care of yourself the way you take care of others. Ask for what you need. Do your best to carve out time for what you need in order to serve others. Can you get behind that, too?
Here’s what I know. I know that I need to do better at taking quiet time, especially around long weekends of training, retreats, and yoga therapy sessions (and, let me repeat, I LOVE the work I do there). No more cramming in meetings on the same days, and make sure to build in time for QUIET. During the week, it’s imperative to eat mindfully. No more podcasts with my soup. No more scrolling through Insta while eating a buddha bowl. Definitely no working over a laptop with my smoothie. Meditate in the morning, and most days do a solo yoga asana (physical) practice. Plan for nutritional meals as best I can. Read actual books. Invest in an acupuncturist and a therapist. Get outside as often as possible, especially on my days off.
I need the reminder that it’s not selfish to practice self-care. Maybe you do, too?
What can you do for your own self-care practice? Let’s visit some ideas that can help guide you towards better emotional and physical stability:
A yoga practice (um…this is a yoga letter so of course it’s #1)
Hiking (without your cell phone)
Long walks outside
Reading actual books (Note the content, too. You may need lighter material depending on your day-to-day work)
Sipping tea and eating a piece of dark chocolate
Asking for help (a babysitter, investing in a meal prep kit, a housekeeper)
Planning time for travel, holidays, vacations (but, also not saving your self-care for one or two weeks a year)
Making art - painting, music, pottery, jewelry, writing
Spending time with friends and family
Did anything on this list resonate? Jot them down. Highlight them. Then, the big step, put it on your calendar - like ink on paper if you’re old school (like me). Share with your partner or close friends to help keep you accountable and to also help protect that self-care space.
I’m not saying you need five hours everyday to practice self-care (although I do the day after major programs). I’m not saying you need to invest $$$ in taking care of yourself. But, I am saying that the work you do is beautiful and valuable, whether you’re a mom raising her kids or a teacher guiding 15 students or a doula tending to multiple births a month or a social worker balancing a full caseload. And, to keep doing that work, you’ll need to take care of yourself, even better care of yourself than you think.
I’m committing to protecting my moments of self-care (and writing it to you helps my accountability). Will you share with me how you’re protecting yours? What self-care practices are sacred to you? I’d love to hear from you. And, maybe share your thoughts in a bigger way if that’s okay. Write to me or make a comment below. <3