I broke my toe this week.
Big deal, right? But this is the third toe I’ve broken in addition to a bone in my foot. These other breaks were years ago, but those other breaks came right back to me in that bathroom that night.
Here’s the thing: this is my body’s way of telling me to pay attention.
Each break occurred because I was rushing. This time, I was zipping into the bathroom where I have my washer and dryer. As I rushed in, I slammed my toe, engaged in some very loud profanity, but what I did then, was just bizarre. I stayed focused on the laundry. I was in so much pain, but the fear of not getting allllll the things squeezed into my day, (it was bedtime and I still had things on my list!), kept me from taking care of my toe.
My husband asked if he could help, and all I could say was, “I just want to get the laundry done!”
This is an important reflection for me. I share it in the event that it is for you, too.
When we don’t take care of our physical and emotional well-being, it might be a sign of a broader neglect of your self-preservation instinct.
Self-preservation is a biological drive that we all have. How we express it, can be as individual as we are. When present, this instinct is expressed intelligently. When not present, you will distort it or ignore it.
What is self-preservation? At its core, self-preservation is the instinct to continue life. Every living thing has this. What do you need to survive? Then, what do you need to have a sense of well-being?
My relationship to self-preservation is not pretty. I often ignore the things that are important for me to feel ok. Things like nutrition, exercise, consistent sleep patterns, the way I keep myself organized, the attention I give to my finances, and most significantly, my energy management.
When I am under more stress, self-preservation is the first thing to go.
Remember when we only had phones on the wall? The first two breaks were because I was running to get the phone. This last break was because I was rushing to squeeze one more thing in to my day. And then, I didn’t even take care of it. I didn’t ice it, I didn’t tape it, I didn’t even stop. I held it off the ground, with tears welling in my eyes, and moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
Start paying attention. You don’t even have to put effort into changing anything right now, just build your awareness of it.
If you have distorted this instinct at the expense of other needs, work with those other needs, and your self-preservation instinct will actually come to be a little bit more right-sized. If you need to strengthen your self-preservation instinct, focus on that.
In either case, as you notice, if your awareness brings forward potential action steps, find accountability partners, schedule time on your calendar to be intentional about the action step(s), and ask for help.