In Pilates we talk a lot about the benefits of training our bodies to meet force with adequate resistance - be it an outside force or our own body weight: too little resistance and we cannot overcome the force; too much resistance and we lose our equilibrium and fall, often spectacularly. Just the right amount of resistance against force creates stability, coordination and grace.
It’s all about balance.
Much the same can be said about other demands in our lives. When we understand the amount of energy required to manage or overcome various forces at play in our lives, we can sustain the force and if we choose to, overcome it and move forward. When we lose sight of how to calibrate those energy requirements, we lose balance. We are no longer able to maintain equanimity and things begin to fall down around us. Again, often spectacularly.
In order to adequately harness and distribute our physical and mental resources, we need to pay attention. We need to increase our awareness of how we are actually spending our resources and get out of auto-pilot thinking that implores us to work harder, go faster, get stronger. We need time and space to rest, heal, think, dream, and create. This is self-care.
Self -care is trending. But it is neither self-indulgent nor selfish. It is empowering and productive. Whether it’s a weekly workout or a weekly massage, it’s time devoted to caring for ourselves. We need brain space that is devoted solely to ourselves. Without supportive input and intellectual and emotional nourishment, we do not thrive. We wither. We’ve all seen the repercussions in our friends or experienced them ourselves: burnout; exhaustion; depression; illness.
I recently learned one of the risk factors for developing post-concussion syndrome is being a woman! Ha! That’s hilarious. Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion.
It is much more difficult and time-consuming for women to recover from brain injury because they can never shut their brains off! This is partly because the emotional and mental energy women expend on planning, managing and securing the well -being of their familial and social structures is relentless.
Self-care can easily become another task on our overly-long to-do list that we feel bad about not completing. It’s already been a long winter and it’s still weeks and weeks before we will see signs of spring. The resolutions of the new year have been hard to sustain. Plans for eating well, exercising, meditating, keeping up with a hobby or special project have been modified beyond their original, highly optimistic timelines or abandoned completely.
Let’s start with self-compassion. Let’s begin with the belief that we deserve to be healthy, happy, secure and at peace in our lives. Everybody does. That is why we work so hard at making that happen for the people in our lives. We are doing the best with what we have. But perhaps with a slight recalibration we can harness a few more resources for our own self-care.
It’s just like the airlines’ pre-boarding safety demo: Ensure your own oxygen mask is securely fastened before you help others.
Happy Heart Month!