August 14, 2021

How to Create Self-Care Habits that Last a Lifetime.


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I notice when I’ve been overdoing it. 

We all do. 

Whether it shows up in our attitude, the way we perform at work, or it manifests as sickness, we all know the cause.

Overdoing it. My mom used to call it “burning the candle at both ends.”

We had this white bottle of vitamins that routinely sat on our rectangular dining room table. They were called stress tabs. On the label was a picture of a candle with two wicks burning simultaneously. The image is vividly etched in my memory.

I think that image may have been the birth of understanding the cause and effects of our lifestyle choices.

For most of us, there is barely a catch breath from that continual burning of the candle. It’s a lifestyle we’ve adjusted to quite well—or so we think.

Honestly, we may not even know what our normal feels like if we are running continually on caffeine, adrenaline, sugar, and fear.

It does not have to be like this, I assure you. I’d advise you not to do this to yourself because, inevitably, you will burn yourself out. 

I did. I became a big, sick mess and I had to stop my indulgent life for two years to heal (the right way). 

I am not saying we need two years to heal, but if we don’t stop and pay attention, our choices will catch up with us. After experiencing severe illness and healing, I have a whole new outlook than I did before. I don’t buy into the rate race theory any longer.

I was given a second chance to be in this body. 

I place myself first and check in daily with how I’m feeling. I’ve created two methods that I use regularly that protect me from sickness and insanity.

The Layering of Healthy Habits

Let’s view the body as a whole system. Everything is connected. If we dump junk into our bodies, we must balance that with healthy food. If we push ourselves and work too much or stay up too late, we must rest to recover back to a balanced state. 

When our bodies become sick, it’s time to pay attention. It doesn’t happen overnight.

When it comes to healing the body, picture an onion. If you choose to heal and approach methods like fasting or cleansing, remember that as you peel each layer, the body may reveal other connected ecosystems that need healing. 

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as taking out the garbage. 

We have to peel and heal and then continue to peel more layers. Deep healing can take years. It is not a quick-fix solution, regardless of what Western medicine tries to sell us.

Pills will only cover symptoms. Symptoms are like little messengers carrying valuable information to let us know that something within us is out of balance. So when we omit the warning, we lose sight of how we would know when we have healed. 

I know it sounds hard and like no fun at all, but I can speak from experience that being chronically ill is far worse than taking a break from alcohol and junk food and/or purging the toxic people, media, or politics from our lives. 

This works emotionally too. 

If we dig into our past, we may realize that it’s not a cut-and-dry kind of solution. So, if we want to heal, we should carve out a proper space to do it in.

We need to protect our vulnerable and healing selves. We need to pre-heal before doing the actual work because we need a reserve of energy for personal growth, whether it’s physical or mental.

Healing is f*cking hard.

For example, if I plan time off, a few days beforehand, I may start drinking some green juice or go on a couple of long hikes to put myself in the space to do the upcoming work.

When I say upcoming work, I mean resting and bringing balance into my body. Examples could be catching up on rest, building energy, working up a sweat to detox the body, or doing some self-study, writing, or even facing some form of conflict that I’ve been hiding from. 

Then, when the actual day of rest approaches, I am not spending that time in a daze, staring out the window, or laying in bed watching YouTube—you know, the stuff we do as a result of “burning that candle.”

Let there be a disclaimer here that does not shame anyone of needing to lay in bed all day and watch movies. I have been there, and I will always have those moments.

The difference now is that I will do it without any guilt. I will fully embody surrendering to what is needed. I will make a mental note (for the next time) that I will nurture myself more so I won’t have to recover like this. I will offer myself grace and understanding for trying to do too much. 

We all do it. We are conditioned to push past our boundaries.

After a few days of intentional self-care, continue to be curious about the choices we make:

Have I been drinking enough water?

What foods would make me feel more energetic?

What do I need more of lately and how has life been getting in the way of this?

Should I take a break from social media for a day?

Maybe some quiet alone time can help dissolve those spiraling thoughts. I try to keep choosing wisely as long as possible to build more and more strength and vitality.

And if it doesn’t happen, I let it go. 

Perhaps, next time. 

It’s almost like meditation. If it doesn’t happen, I keep coming back to the possibility of more and more growth, when the time feels right.

Keep the ideas close to your heart so they are always there waiting for you.

The layering of healthy habits can bring noticeable results. It takes practice, but it works.

Visualization of Simple Events to Come

The other thing that I practice to help shift from a grumpy, overwhelmed, stressful state is to remind myself that my life is a result of my manifestations. 

I wanted all that is on my plate. I accept this fate. 

To help shift my perspective, I think about one thing that I can do each day and do it with mindful practice. It could be a morning shower or walking the dog. It could be grocery shopping. I visualize myself doing that one thing and enjoying it. I picture it being filled with a sense of ease and flow state. I picture it being “my” thing. 

The best (and most humorous) part is that it hardly ever happens as it does in my visualization, but I still find a way to semi-enjoy the outcome.

I recently had dinner at an outdoor café with my children. I was so excited to enjoy my prepared-by-someone-else salad. Right after the food was placed under our hungry faces, my son spilled his pink fizzy drink all over the surface of our tabletop. The beverage tsunami rolled to the corner of our eating surface and flowed off the edge of the table. We placed our napkins on top of the mess, took a deep breath, and enjoyed our beautiful food.

The man next to us began to laugh and smiled at me. I asked him what was so funny and began to laugh along with him. 

He had said that he was impressed with our ability to roll with eating our dinner despite the mess. He said the chaos made him feel better because he too had children and knew the situation quite well.

I felt so zen sitting in enjoyment (among a pile of wet napkins, beverage dripping down my knee) without worry, frustration, or damn care in the world. 

This is life, right?

Visualizing ourselves living out our wildest dreams or layering good behaviors in order to feel good in our bodies may not always work, but it has potential.

Remember, the journey is part of the healing process.

Becoming who we are meant to be, vibrant and happy, will always be a work in progress, but we always have the tools to dig in and start somewhere. 


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