Despite not feeling well, though, I found that I kept trying to hold myself to my obligatory “should’s”.
I should… work harder on my upper body strengthening poses in my Yoga practice
I should… socialize at a higher energy level than I am.
I should… clean and organize the house
I should… stay on top of all my ongoing projects
And the more I held myself to the “should” things, the worse I felt physically and emotionally. I was drained and exhausted but I kept trying to fight my way through it.
And then I remembered that I COULD do something different.
I could… practice Yoga restoratively in a way that would replenish my depleted energy
I could… say no to social obligations and instead take some time to be by myself
I could… relax a little bit about the house and trust I could catch up more efficiently after a break
I could… work on my projects when I want to and have the energy but not when I don’t
I could… accept my energy level and flow with it instead of fighting against it.
And so I made a conscious decision to follow my could's instead of my should's. I chose self-care.
I practiced gently. I took the quiet time for myself that I needed and said no to extra social activities. I let go of some of my stringent expectations of what needed to happen at home. I worked on projects only as much as I felt I had the energy for and therefore the work I did do was quality work, and I trusted that my body knew what it needed and that the world wouldn’t come to a screeching halt if I gave it what it wanted.
In other words, I gave myself permission.
One of the biggest barriers to taking care of ourselves is fear: Fear that if we choose self-care, or self-nurturing that we will somehow end up letting other people – or ourselves – down. Often we think things will fall apart or that if we let go of control everything will be a huge mess.
But. When you stay mindful of yourself and what you need, what often happens is that you function BETTER overall than if you ignore your needs.
That is the magic of self-care. Had I continued to follow my shoulds, I would have followed them right into feeling extraordinarily depleted and possibly putting myself in a position to be unable to be really present for my students when it came time to teach. Instead, I took a step back, gave myself the gift of allowing some space and breathing room into my day for rest and reflection, and ended up feeling like I was able to be fully present and effective when it was time to teach.
Sometimes, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself, to NOT check off every item on your to-do list, is the most powerful thing you can do.
Try it! And let me know how it worked out for you in the comments.