Is Self-Care Avoidance?

I listened to Layla Hermosi’s interview on Ed Mylett’s podcast, (she’s incredible and I highly recommend listening to it!) and I can’t stop thinking about this concept.

And I think it can be true.

If we define self-care as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, and a movie marathon, we could be avoiding something. If we did that something, we’d actually feel a little bit better than a hangover and an extra 3 pounds (I know from experience). However, as with everything I hear, I analyze perhaps obsessively. Can self-care be avoidance? Absolutely.

And, if self-care can be avoidance, certainly that is not advocating never taking breaks. You should never go on vacations? You should never shut work down and spend two hours in the pool with your daughter? You shouldn’t go to lunch? Shall we do away with all things considered self-care? Perhaps instead, why don’t we just look at the label “self-care” as what it is. It’s just a label. And if someone’s self-care looks completely different than someone else’s, isn’t that fine?

I have a friend who barely survived leukemia and a full bone marrow transplant seven years ago. Staying alive is still her full-time job. She survived; however, nothing about her life now is anything remotely similar to the life she had before leukemia. She has new diseases. She has chronic migraines. She has a permanent eye problem. She has a man’s DNA in her body now. Her full-time job is still going to her doctors appointments and keeping her body alive. Her self-care is going to look a lot different than most.

On the other hand, you could be someone like Larry H. Miller, who never stopped working, amassed a huge fortune, became a billionaire and developed diabetes. He never changed anything about his lifestyle. He eventually had a heart attack, kidney failure, had to amputate both his legs and died a couple weeks after that surgery at the young age of 64. It’s so sad to me. As I read his biography I kept thinking that as incredible as his accomplishments were in business, if he had listened to what his body needed, he might still be with his family today.

You could take it to the other extreme and spend every day at the spa, but most of us fall into neither extreme. What if we became in tune with our bodies? If we could be aware of what is happening with our bodies and pay close attention to what happens when we do or don’t do certain things, we would know what self-care we need. We could choose our diets, movements, breaks, and self-care based on how we feel and what we need. What’s happening with your body is different than what’s happening with my body. We are the ones who get to define our own self-care.

The other day, my niece sent me a questionnaire for an entrepreneur class she’s taking. They have to come up with a new business and pitch it. But first, they have to gather enough data to determine if there is a need or a demand for the business.

The first question was– Do you drink energy drinks? I thought no, not technically, but I do put a scoop of pre-workout in my water every morning on my way to the gym. So I assumed that qualified and said yes.

The second question was– How much caffeine do you drink in a day? I looked at the multiple-choice answers:

A– less than 100 g per day

B– 100 to 200 g

C– 200 to 300 g

D– 400 to 500 g

E– 500+ g

I didn’t know the answer to that question. I had to google how much caffeine was in my Kaged pre-workout scoop. They had it listed as 300 mg of caffeine. Then I looked up the caffeine in a cup of regular coffee because I drink 2 cups of coffee every day.

Turns out that put me in the 500+ category, which was the highest category in the multiple choice question. That led me to think that perhaps 500 is too much. I thought maybe I would google it and ask the interwebs– “How much caffeine should one person drink daily?”

I could spend 15 hours researching that question, and I would find 4,000 sources that all argued with each other. In the past, that’s exactly what I would have done. I would see what everyone else thought about my caffeine intake. Now, I stop myself. I took an inventory. Do I seem to have any sensitivity to caffeine or any problems associated with too much caffeine?  No.

I love coffee. I would drink coffee all day long, but now I know that if I drink coffee too late, I won’t be able to fall asleep at night. If I drink too much coffee earlier in the day, I have noticed in my own body that I feel more thirsty and dehydrated. One extra cup of coffee keeps me from drinking water. So I have, in general, limited myself to two regular cups of coffee every day. Being aware of what’s happening within our bodies when we drink certain things and eat certain things is the most important data we need. Certainly we can gather data from anywhere we want. There’s no shortage of studies and experts. But you are the only one who can give you the data on YOU.

My sister and I were talking about food and nutrition years ago, and she asked me what the most important thing everybody needed to do to be healthier. I told her I couldn’t answer that because it depends on what the person is currently doing and how each person is feeling. If somebody is currently drinking a 2L of soda every day and feeling sluggish, then the most important thing they could do to help their bodies feel better is probably to reduce soda and drink more water. If somebody is currently eating all meals from fast food restaurants and would like to lose weight, then the number one most important thing for that person would probably be to replace one meal a day with a homemade meal. Everything is relative to question number one. How do you feel? Then you can assess what you need to do based on your body.

How do you feel with what you’re doing right now? What are some things you may want to experiment with? Gather data on yourself. Regard your data on YOU with the highest esteem. Once we become aware of what’s happening, we can make adjustments based on that. If your body is sending you signals of sluggishness, overwhelm, and burnout, maybe a bath and glass of wine is exactly what you need!

How good could we feel if we heeded those signals for breaks and took breaks? That’s my definition of self-care.

Thanks for being here!




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