You Deserve Self-Care

Does this sound familiar to you?  You worked really hard, and you began to exercise regularly, and it felt great.  Or, you put in a lot of time, and ate in ways that respected your body, and it felt great.  Or, you really invested in building some good relationships, and you had a solid circle of friends, and it felt great.

But then…

Life happened.  And the shit hit the fan.  And all of your time and energy went into coping with whatever crisis was unfolding around you.  And eating well, or moving your body, or reaching out to friends–all of that fell by the wayside. That was just part of surviving.

But now the crisis is over.  You’ve survived–more or less intact.  Things aren’t so hectic.  You have time to catch your breath.  You could make it back to the gym, or to the market for some green food, or out to coffee with a friend.  But, you just can’t make yourself walk out the door, or put on the tennis shoes, or pick up the phone.  When you think about re-engaging with those activities that felt so good, your stomach hurts.  You may feel anxious, or ashamed, or isolated.  If you’ve just come through a health crisis, you may feel angry–doing those healthy things didn’t protect you (or someone you love) from the crisis.

I’ve been exploring several varieties of this scenario with many of my patients recently.  And as I was sitting in session, it struck me.  On some level, if we have “fallen off the wagon” of self-care, we don’t believe that we deserve to get back on. We have so much shame about our perceived failure that we just won’t let ourselves re-connect with those life-giving activities.  So I started handing out these “prescriptions:”

This process has been incredible for me, and for my patients.  That moment when you can recognize that you have been avoiding self-care–not because you are lazy, or unmotivated, or any of the other unkind things we tell ourselves–but because you don’t feel that you deserve it, that’s a moment that is ripe for change.

Because once you can name this, you can challenge it.  You can be compassionate about the struggles that you have faced, and the disruptive influence of crisis.  You can remind yourself that you do deserve to nurture yourself.

If this sounded at all familiar, I’m inviting you this week to practice some kindness and acceptance instead of criticism.  Offer yourself something that feels good.  You don’t have to earn self-care.  You deserve it all the time, no matter what.

And if you want your very own “self-care prescription,” let me know and I’ll put one in the mail to you.

Please feel free to share your own self-care reconnection in the comments.

Image Credit: Ann Becker-Schutte

19 thoughts on “You Deserve Self-Care

  1. There goes that DESERVE word again… A word so close to my heart. But, the good news is, I recognized it and took glory in the fact that you underlined it in your prescription and I saw it as a positive, not negative. I am in the midst of crisis now, I feel like my life has been in crisis since a dx of RA and crohns in may 2010. I know I have been in a severe flare for almost a year. And I am literally on the last drug cocktail to try and put this disease in remission. A drug cocktail I am reacting to with shortness of breath, so badly, that I can not carry on conversation at this time.

    Thank you Ann… I am attempting the self care now, in the midst of crisis… I have to ..And fortunately I have a rheum doc who emails back with suggestions and monitors email all weekend.

    1. Kim,

      I’d love the name of your rheumatologist. That’s the kind of doc that I like to refer to. And I’m sending good thoughts your way–that sounds like an incredibly hard stretch.


  2. What a lovely post, Ann

    I like this compassionate “loving-kindness” approach to self-care. It so happens that I had been exercising regularly (for years) a few years ago until we had a crisis that took a long time to get through and recover from. As much as I loved exercising and it gave me such good benefits, I have been unable to get back on the horse since then… but maybe your Rx will make the difference 🙂

    1. Dorlee,

      I hadn’t framed this post as a “lovingkindness” approach, but that’s a fabulous frame for this. Thank you. And I’ll be sending some compassion your way as you re-engage with your exercise.


  3. Dear Ann,
    When you put it this way, the self care doesn’t sound like a chore! This is a great approach. It’s just doing what you deserve. This cuts through the resistance due to putting yourself last on the list–so common to parents.

    1. Carolyn,

      I know that parenting adds so many more layers of challenge to good self-care. I’m so happy that you think this article would be a good resource to parents.


  4. I love this post. I think it is so true that it is hard to get back into the routine of taking good care of yourself when things have not been going so well. I was just at a conference this weekend where the basic theme was that self care (in the form of meditation, nutrition, exercise, etc) is really the backbone of healing from depression, anxiety and chronic health problems. Thank you for this lovely and timely reminder.

    1. Allison,

      The conference sounds amazing. I’m a tiny bit jealous. I agree that our self-care is the backbone of good health. I think that giving ourselves the permission to re-connect with our self-care after a lapse is one of the most important resilience skills we can develop. Thanks for your thoughts.


  5. Hi Ann – good post! As you know, I had an accident last Feb, and I am just now recovering…and I gained 25 pounds! It is difficult to get back to exercising as my injury keeps flaring up, despite treatment…so I am just walking and that is hard to keep up with …there are so many appts for me to go to and my work life is so very busy! the free time goes to appts…so its not shame with me, its lack of time to fit in care! that being said, Im taking my dogs for a walk now!

    1. Kathy,

      I hope that you and the dogs had a wonderful walk. I think that your story illustrates the fact that sometimes life is just very full, and it is important to be compassionate with ourselves as we try to accommodate that fullness. Thanks for sharing.


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