One of the first things we always do with our groups and coaching clients is ask them to describe their current self-care and what they envision their self-care looking like moving forward.
We do this to get a sense of what is working and not working for our TMSCers now and what their perceptions of their self-care future are, before we go into any values or self-care assessment or make any recommendations.
Most of the time, people just don’t feel like their self-care is working for them in the present moment. (Makes sense, that’s what we’re here to help with!).
But almost everyone is able to list a lot of things they should be doing for self-care:
“I’ve gotten out of the habit of exercise, I should be doing that regularly”
“Way too much take out and frozen meals happening here, I should be cooking more again.”
“I love baking, but what I should be doing is exercising.”
“I used to love reading books – I would devour them – but now I feel like I should spend any spare time reading for work, and I just don’t want to.”
“I should be meditating, I know it’s really supposed to be good for me.”
“My chronic pain has been a struggle, I should be doing my physical therapy.”
And this list comes fast! It only takes most people a few seconds to list a lot of shoulds.
We have good news for you. News that might be hard to wrap your head around: You can let go of your self-care shoulds. Please, just open a metaphorical window and toss them out. Write them down on a piece of paper and shred them. Stomp on them. Do what you need to do to get rid of them.
We promise you, in all of our experience, that you don’t need those shoulds to do self-care.
There are two main reasons to toss your shoulds. First, pursuing a goal because you “have to” (not because you want to) is difficult, demoralizing, unsustainable, and really no fun at all. Think about all the self-care shoulds rolling around in your mind. How often do you actually do them?
Second, when you’re restarting your self-care journey, we want you to focus on doing stuff that feels good. There will be time, down the road, to learn to do self-care that doesn’t feel so great (like…. Going to the dentist. Paying your taxes. Going to the gynecologist for a regular exam!).
We give you permission:
- Not to exercise, if you don’t want to.
- Not to cook, if you don’t want to.
- Not to read books for work in your leisure time, if you don’t want to.
- Not to meditate, if you don’t want to.
- Not do to physical therapy right now, if you don’t want to.
Remember, self-care is anything you do to replenish your personal and professional selves.
Right now, you should focus on: JOY!
How do you find your joy? You start with values (we know, we’re becoming a broken record here!). You can check out our posts about finding your own values here and here.
We promise you, in all of our experience, that you don’t need those “shoulds” to do self-care.
We recently coached a one-on-one client who works two jobs, one as a busy health care provider in a hospital and one as staff at a group clinic. Like many of our other clients and group members, she described a lot of “should” self-care activities, but also a few that really gave her a sense of purpose and joy. When we told her that we wanted all of her self-care, at this early stage in our work together, to feel that way…. Well, she said we literally blew her mind!
During our time spent assessing her values, we were able to identify her unique core values and create a Venn diagram of where those values intersected, which gave her direction for pursuing her self-care. When we checked in with her about a month later, she was enjoying her self-care activities and said that one of the most important things we had helped with was “normalizing and giving permission to not do things that aren’t enjoyable.”
What was extra surprising for all of us, is that this health professional’s previous self-care activities were now impossible during the pandemic – but we were able to choose alternative activities that she could do while still physically distancing. Wow! (Even we are intimidated by self-care and the pandemic).
This month, what enjoyable activity can you do for your self-care?
If you’re not on our mailing list, this is a great time to join! For the next 3 weeks we will be running a joy challenge with our mailing list, including some tricks and tips that are only available to our TMSCers who are on the list.
You can always check us out on Instagram too!
In self-care solidarity,