October 27, 2016

Soul-care Over Self-care

Soul-care Over Self-care

“You know how on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, and then help the people around you? Self-care is kind of like that. You gotta put your own mask on first.”

I sit across the kitchen table from another mama friend, one who has been through the ringer with four kids six and under. We talk about finding balance, making time for ourselves, and focusing on what’s in front of us. This message is important for everyone, but I think most people take self-care for granted until after they become a parent, so now the idea of self-care feels almost exclusive to mothers.

For a year and a half after having a child, I believed that I was engaging in self-care. I would wander around Target solo or read a book while slowly sipping a Starbucks mocha and even spring for the occasional massage.

I was taking care of myself—at least, on the surface. When I had a moment away, I opted to catch a fleeting moment of superficial peace than to dive down and fight for something deeper. I chose to distract myself because facing the reality of my soul felt overwhelming.

I was logging in enough hours of self-care, yet I constantly faced stress, feelings of overwhelm, resentment toward my family, and general disappointment in life. Any time you’re trying to numb your pain, it can only work for so long. If you’re drowning with no oxygen, you’re going to pull everyone around you down with you. This is why you’ll hear me talk often about soul-care, but not as much about self-care. You can engage in all the self-care in the world, but you’ll still be run ragged if you can’t drop down deep into your soul and ask yourself what you need.

What do you need?
Don’t trust your first answer. What do you need?
Drop down a level. What do you need?

You don’t need to waste an hour and $50 on another Target run.

What do you need?

You might need therapy and some antidepressants (gulp!). You might need to meditate. You might need to sit down with your journal and let yourself write out all the things that have been living in your head but that you’ve been afraid to see in ink on paper. You definitely need to give yourself permission to feel the way that you feel. This is the last thing I want to do when I already feel overwhelmed by my life, and I fought it for over a year. It feels counterintuitive, but here’s the truth:

The very things that you’re avoiding are causing you the most pain.

What do you need?

Yes, I’m sure you need a shower and a glass of wine, too. It’s good to take care of your self. But it means nothing if you don’t take care of your soul.