I need my own advice today.
When the sh*t gets crazy, I usually start throwing good things overboard and running around in straight up fight or flight.
Right now, I’m editing a large book manuscript, building my yoga and craniosacral therapy business, planning for the holidays, and preparing for the Paris climate conference, which could be one of the largest career moments of my life. Not to mention, dealing with the regular bumps and surprises of life. No big deal.
And I’m trying not to be a total hypocrite, as I instruct people on the importance of self-care in the midst of crazy. We all know that the times we need self-care most are the times we are most likely to throw it out the window. And even as a healer and an instructor, I find myself (maddeningly) doing the same damn fight-or-flight thing when I really need self-care. The truth is most of us are not Zen masters, even if we are teachers and healers, and we all need to be reminded. I created this list to remind myself and others of how to come back to center, even in the crazy.
If you’re human, chances are that you’re doing most of these things on a regular basis. Check in on these five things to stop doing right now, and revisit them when you feel the craziest:
1) Living in crisis mode.
That’s right. Freak out mode. We all do it. Many of us have started to equate it with being a responsible human being (see below). When we operate in fight or flight mode, our bodies remain tense and can’t heal. Instead we take on emotion and stress that our body tables for later to deal with, and store it in our bodies. Breathe. Slow down. Take walk, even for five minutes. You’ll sleep better, deal better, and feel better.
2) Equating self-care with being irresponsible.
Or the reverse, equating “real life” with stress. This is a no. This is where boundaries and self-value come in handy. When you value yourself, your time, and your well-being, it’s easier to tell the world it can wait a second while you tend to your own garden. It also helps with the side-eye you might get from others who do equate self-care with irresponsibility. Remember, their lack of self-care is not your problem or responsibility. You do you. Being well is a decision we make, not a privilege we have to earn.
3) Waiting for permission.
You don’t need permission to take care of yourself. In fact, nothing you do is up to anyone else. Sometimes taking care of yourself and doing you means doing your work—following your calling. I love this letter, in response to a plea for advice, acceptance, and permission from a young writer…
“But the best possible thing you can do is get your ass down onto the floor. Write so blazingly good that you can’t be framed. Nobody is going to give you permission to write about your vagina, hon. Nobody is going to give you a thing. You have to give it yourself. You have to tell us what you have to say.” ~ Sugar, the rumpus
This relates to will—the fire in your belly. Nobody is going to give you permission. To write your novel, to go traveling, to ask that girl out, to quit your job, to start your business, to become a painter. And it doesn’t matter. Because, again, what you do is not up to anyone but you.
“How many women wrote beautiful novels and stories and poems and essays and plays and scripts and songs in spite of all the crap they endured. How many of them didn’t collapse in a heap of “I could have been better than this” and instead went right ahead and became better than anyone would have predicted or allowed them to be. The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve, deny you –,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.” ~ Sugar, the rumpus
Permission to strengthen, permission to soften. To go after it or sit down and take a rest. You have your own go ahead. Now do your thing.
4) Mistaking cynicism for practicality.
Bleh. I have a particular level of disdain for this one. I’m all for practicality. I could often use more of it in my life. But to me, cynicism has that pessimistic, if not bitter edge that strikes me as practicality laced with fear. And fear is useful for alerting us—which is good for paying attention. But living in it is not so bueno—and sends us back up to #1—fight or flight crisis mode, which can be paralyzing for body, spirit, and hope. It also undermines groundedness and self-value. However hippy dippy it sounds, I believe we need idealism, optimism, and hope to be well. We can be both practical and be well at the same time. No need for cynicism.
5) Ignoring your inner voice.
This is a big one. Intuition…the third eye. Sounds a little nutty, perhaps, but is actually pretty simple. Intuition is real, and it gets stronger the more you listen to it. Try running a test for a week, or even a day. Trust your intuition in the decisions you make, and consciously watch the outcomes. Watch the outcomes for the times you go against your intuition. It’s powerful in business, relationships, and life in general. And if you practice with the small decisions, it’ll be easier to figure out what your intuition is saying about bigger decisions.
This doesn’t mean abandon rationality—it just means pay attention. It’ll also clue you into your real needs and desires. Check in with your inner truth. If you’re listening, it’s likely numbers one to four will get a lot easier.
The truth is, most of us are in fight-or-flight most of the time in society. So to take a stand for yourself means to push back on the larger ethos. It’s hard and it takes practice. And we fall out and we get back in.
Take a moment to be kind to yourself and get back into the practice of being you. I’ll do the same.
Author: Erin McMorrow
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Hartwig HKD/Flickr
How we can make yoga more accessible to marginalized groups without turning into a “generous thief.”