Self-care is a hot topic these days and rightfully so. Women are waking up to the importance of taking time for themselves and not putting others needs in front of their own, so that they can serve from a full cup. There are many wonderful ways to incorporate self-care into your life including the usual Epsom salt baths, reading, yoga, getting a pedicure or massage. These things are all great but they won’t be enough if you’re still stuck in negative thought patterns that are leading to undesirable actions and habits. This is Why Self-Care Is Not Enough.
We develop belief systems in childhood that create our thought patterns. Belief systems like perfectionism, defectiveness, self-sacrificing, approval seeking and more can keep us stuck in our adult life. These belief systems create thought patterns that are like record players and keep us in the same cycle over and over again. We find ourselves thinking, “Really, I’m back here again?!”
For many women who struggle with the diet-binge cycle and body image they tend to have the self-sacrificing and perfectionism belief systems. Yes, taking time for self-care is important but taking time to put in the work to nourish your mental and emotional health is just as important.
You can take all the hot baths, naps, and yoga classes but if your thoughts continue to tell you you’re not enough in every way, you will not benefit from that self-care.
When I first started to pull myself out of the dark whole of body shame and hatred, I had to become aware of my thoughts and overtime when I thought something negative about my body I would immediately think of something different. I literally had to stop my mind from going down that path and at first I couldn’t think of something nice, so instead I thought of a completely different topic. Over time though, I was able to start thinking something nice about my body.
Now I use cognitive restructuring exercises that allow me to change those thoughts much quicker and easier than what it took me from sheer will. These are the tools I use with my one-on-one client’s to help them see how distorted their thoughts are and shift them in the moment so they believe them less. Instead we create a positive thought that they can believe now.
Our thoughts alone can trigger our stress response and lead to chronically elevated cortisol, which we all know isn’t great for our health in many ways.
We can be trying to relax in a hot bath but if our mind is stuck on how much we hate our body and planning how much exercise we need to fit in next week to try to lose some weight, we won’t be tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system. Those negative, stressful thoughts will keep us in a chronic stress state. This affects our mood, energy, sex drive, cravings and sleep.
One thing I’m learning with my yoga teacher training is that we can also practice non-attachment with our thoughts. Non-attachment is not getting stirred up and is the willingness to let something arise without reacting to it. In Michele Theoret’s book, Empowered Body, she says that non-attachment or “letting go” refers to our attachment to our storylines, expectations, judgments, and theories. Michele also says, “When we let go of what we think we should be, we can make room for what could be.” Practicing non-attachment and becoming mindful, which keeps us in the moment, allows us to observe our thoughts and even emotions, without attaching a meaning to them. This can be a really powerful practice when you find your inner critic, or as Michele likes to call it your panel of assholes, speaking up.
Another point I think is really important is learning how to feel your emotions, how to fully express them and stop suppressing them.
When we suppress our emotions we tend to use coping mechanisms, like eating, to disconnect so we don’t have to feel them.
We can continue to be triggered as things come up and eventually we explode. I know I’m not the only one whose experienced this. And after the explosion, feelings of guilt, shame and “what the heck is wrong with me” overtake you. We need to feel the full spectrum of our emotions. It’s important to cry, to scream to punch a pillow. Whatever let’s you get that shit out of your body. If you don’t, you’ll continue to reach for food to push those feelings down.
We can call this mental/emotional self-care and it’s just as important, if not more, than physical self-care. Just going through the motions of physical self-care won’t get you far if your mental/emotional health is being neglected. This is Why Self-Care Is Not Enough.