I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women today and heard something that stopped me in my tracks. Lisa Damour, Ph.D., and author of the book, Under Pressure: Confronting Anxiety & Stress in Girls, gave a talk about anxiety and she referred to the need for “disciplined self-care.”
I need to say it again: “Disciplined Self Care.” It feels like it should be capitalized.
Self-care, as a term, has always given me a zing. A nudge. Ok, I’ll say it: I found it annoying. As a word it was trite and as a practice, it was indulgent. It was for those who just could not hack it. Like massages and mud baths. “Extra” as the kids would say. I know it isn’t, but that’s where my brain used to go. I’ve come a long way since then, but that’s for another blog.
Because of this bizarre brain trickery, I have had to reframe self care to fit my needs. Intuitively I knew that I couldn’t ignore the act of taking care of myself; of nurturing the part of me that screamed at the kids, demanded things get done my way, or curled up in a ball when I was over-extended. Hint: if you have experienced this from me, it was because I had a blind spot around my capacity to get things done. So, without a real intention to do so, I became willing to take care of myself. It involved saying no, saying yes, and discerning what I really want.
What self-care started to look like was boundaries, community, freedom, and choice.
I love a good mud bath, but I know I am taking care of myself when I thoughtfully weigh and measure what I say yes to, what words or behavior I’ll accept in my presence, and being able to operate from choice.
And “discipline?” I have a love/hate relationship with that word. I am drawn to it and also have all kinds of stories and judgment about how my form of discipline isn’t the right kind of discipline. And maybe I judged it in the same way I judged self-care. I’ve been shining a light on that shadow in my inner work.
But I digress (duh, don’t I always?).
Disciplined. Self. Care.
Dr. Damour talked about the Quar and her research that led her to shift her typical response to stress. The Quar is a form of chronic stress and she needed to establish positive, long term, coping skills.
Chronic stress comes when we can’t get a break from the stressor. Self-care isn’t enough. The stressor is the Quar, the stress is all that we feel about it.
Just think about that. The stress isn’t the actual thing; it is the way our emotions get stuck around it.
Chronic stress calls for Disciplined Self Care.
I love it. There is something so comforting about being seen. This Quar is no joke.
She described the need to build physical and emotional care into our lives as a matter of discipline. No matter what. Disciplined self care, she said, would be the practice that helps us cope for the long haul.
If you’ve worked with me, you know I talk about shining a light on our truth which requires us to shine a light in some shadowy places and name what we find there. Like me and my capacity. Total shadow. Often, we find an emotion that we have resisted. Those closest to us see what’s going on, but we can’t see it. We are blind to what we don’t want to see which, incidentally, creates the added problem of arguing with those closest to us about our behavior. If you are reading this saying, “not me,” well… it might be a shadow.
Dr. Damour took this a step further. When we experience chronic stress, Dr. Damour said that by adopting Disciplined Self Care, we are building resilience. The Quar is ongoing, so the stress will come and go, but the windows of relief can open wider.
Here are four disciplines you can build into your life that will support your ongoing resilience:
- A sleep routine;
- a habit of eating regularly and nutritiously;
- getting our bodies moving; and,
- “getting out of our own way on someone else’s behalf.”
If you are feeling the impact of the Quar in ways that feel burdensome, or someone in your family (Your mom? Your siblings? Your kids? Your friends?) is salty or withdrawn or into their negative coping in some other way, suggest they take a walk with you. Make a delicious, healthy, meal. Go to bed at the same time every night. Reach out to a neighbor or someone else in a way that shifts your focus to be of service to them.
Check in with yourself. Check in on your pals. No one is exempt from the impact of the Quar. It calls for Disciplined Self Care.
What does that look like for you?
If what you are doing doesn’t do the trick, and you’ve tried Dr. Damour’s suggestions without success, reach out to me. Or someone else. Ask for help. You might be the one who needs the benefit of service. Allow yourself that.
Allowing and accepting can be added to your list of disciplined self care.