Self-Care and Joy: How You Can Use What You Love to love Yourself – By Michele Rosenthal

Self-Care and Joy: How You Can Use What You Love to love Yourself

Guest Post By Michele Rosenthal

Like any other commitment, self-care can become a chore. Whenever we force ourselves to do something the fun factor flies out the window. Yet, self-care should be one thing on our schedules that feels good! How can we turn a commitment into a pleasure? I think the key is committing to something that brings you joy. Let me explain…

Six years ago, at the age of thirty-seven, I was diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis. Putting it bluntly, my endocrinologist explained, “If you don’t immediately commit to a regimen of strength training, your bones will begin to crumble spontaneously.” You can imagine my following crash course in self-care.

Up until that point I had never thought about what I do to take care of myself. I had worked out, or not, when the spirit moved me. I meditated or not when I felt the desire for that kind of inner connection. My self-care was based on whim, not necessity.

So there I was facing the spontaneous crumbling of my bones and needing to commit to a regimen not only of strength training, but of a level of self-care I’d never previously entertained. Suddenly, self-care wasn’t some amorphous idea but an action that pertained to my very ability to walk upright. Suddenly, self-care had a purpose.

Making the commitment to self-care isn’t easy. Mood, other activities and time constraints can make it difficult to follow through. Fear, however, is a great motivator. Terrified that my bones would crumble I committed to self-care with the ferocity of a hurricane. I didn’t enjoy it but I did it. Within two years I completely reversed the osteoporosis. Since then I’ve stuck to my workout regime without a hitch.

When motivated by fear, sticking to a self-care schedule becomes incredibly easy. The problem comes when we don’t have that instant inspiration. When self-care offers purely emotional or spiritual benefits we’re much more likely to forgo the commitment altogether. Unless, I’ve discovered, the commitment centers around something fun.

Not long after the osteoporosis diagnosis I fell into a very deep depression. As a trauma survivor, years of trying to outrun the past finally caught up with me; I needed to do some intense emotional work. The arduous process left me feeling powerless and overwhelmed. I needed to commit to emotional self-care at a time I didn’t feel capable of committing to anything except the black hole in which I lived.

One day, as I was marveling at just how black the hole actually was, a thought occurred to me. What I really needed was to do something that would help me get in touch with the part of myself that could feel joy. What I really needed, I mused, was a way to feel something outside of the despair in which I lived. There was only one thing I thought might help me do that: dance. Throughout my life dance had always offered me a transcendent feeling of release. I decided to dance. A lot. I signed up for a dance class every single day of the week.

At first it was just sheer will that got me to class, but then a funny thing happened: After each class I felt so much better that I began looking forward to the classes. I began to look forward to the time I set aside for my self-care each day. Having fun elevated self-care from chore to respite.

The benefits were astounding. The more I danced the more I began to feel a sense of balance between the dark and light in my mind, the more I connected to the possibility of feeling better, the more I connected to myself during a time that it was much more comfortable to disconnect. Ultimately, that feeling of joy filled me with the courage I needed to do the post-trauma recovery work that had to be done.

That was all years ago. I finished the recovery work and brought myself to a place of freedom and peace. Al that dancing turned me into a really terrific dancer, too. Today, I still incorporate dance into my schedule 2-3 times a week as that connection to joy and fun fuels my creativity, bolsters my energy and connects me to a community I enjoy.

The biggest lesson I learned in all of this was how important the fun factor is in self-care. Now, any time I wish to develop some aspect of my self-care, I ask myself, “How can I make this fun?” By ensuring some form of enjoyment I strengthen my emotional buy-in to the commitment. You can do this, too. We don’t often think about how we can turn tasks into pleasurable experiences, but shifting our approach in this way can make all the difference between defaulting versus following through on a self-care regime.

Self-Care Tip – Use what you love to love yourself.

Question:  How do you get the fun factor into being your own friend?  When being friendly to yourself isn’t what feels like a good time, how do you use what you love to improve your experience?  Please tell us your story.

Michele Rosenthal is a certified professional coach and the host of Your Life After Trauma on Seaview Radio. Her post-trauma recovery memoir, Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, will be released in 2012. To connect with Michele, visit www.yourlifeaftertrauma.com.


Live And Live Despite The Ongoing Loss

Red slipper

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #141- Live and live despite the loss.  Be a friend to yourself.

The other day, my hair was barely pinned back in a knotty mass, when I arrived at clinic late with my house slippers still on.  I didn’t realize this of course until I heard this flapping sound echoing behind me as I hooned down the hall.  Distracted by myself, I seemed to suddenly come upon an old man.  He was lovely really, wrinkled, clearly handsome in his day, shuffling my same direction, and also in his house slippers.  It was less than a second when I took this all in and I suddenly felt very self-conscious.  Not awkward for the normal reasons that I should have been, like my nappy appearance, but I’ve never really thought I was “normal.”  No, I felt rude.  I’m much more sensitive to rude than ugly.

Do the younger seem rude to the older?  There with their supple joints, perky bodies and minds, hope, and shorter medication lists?  I felt rude.  Rude combined with awkward is not something most people are comfortable looking at, which is what I unfortunately offered up to this innocent man.  Walking fast felt wrong.  Not sure what to do, I sort of slowed, yet my tardiness to clinic didn’t let my gait relax.  Giving an uncertain smile, I managed not to make eye contact when I said “Hi there,” lest the eye contact lead to further tardiness.  Then off I galloped, luckily for both of us, only 3 doors down.

I didn’t spend more than a few seconds with that stranger, yet remember well what he symbolized for me.  I remember him when I get grumpy about not being able to eat as much as I did 10-years ago.  When I get resentful with my feet, (a size and a half HUGER since I had my first kid,) I see his lordosis (hunched back often from a collapsed spine.)  I wonder how he is doing with his losses.

There’s not much romance in growing old.  What is romantic is a beautiful person, who has been real with their losses and with the joys of life that are still available to them.  There’s no point in my denying that I can’t have cereal and pasta every day any more.  There’s no point in being angry about it.  I’ll just eat slower and force, er, I mean find more pleasure out of what I do eat.

I like to think that the old man in the hall made his and makes his peace with losses and is more glad than not for his life.  If so, maybe he was ok with my fast pace when he couldn’t.  Maybe it makes him more comfortable in a world in which he is becoming more and more of a stranger.  That is something to admire.  That is something that is worthy of life’s privilege.

After yesterday’s blog-post, a reader said it quite fine,

I did not know depression was progressive.  That’s depressing.  As is the realization that aging is progressive.  …On the other hand I can say I’ve had 61 more Christmas times than a new-born and perhaps that makes it worth it!

Question:  What losses are you struggling with?  How do you come to terms with your losses?  Please tell me your story.

Calcium as a Supplement – Corrections and Retractions!

Thoracic aorta

Image via Wikipedia

Hello Readers,

My good friend, cardiologist Helme Silvet MD, alerted me to research published 7/29/10 in the British Journal of Medicine stating that Calcium may increase risk of myocardial infarction – i.e. heart attack.

What is already known on this topic

Calcium supplements are commonly taken by older people for skeletal health
A randomised placebo controlled trial suggested calcium supplements might increase the risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascularevents

What this study adds

A meta-analysis of trials totalling 12 000 participants found that calcium supplements increase the risk of myocardial infarction by about 30%
Given the modest benefits of calcium supplements on bone density and fracture prevention, a reassessment of the role of calcium supplementsin the management of osteoporosis is warranted

BMJ 2010;341:c3691

Pretty big deal so please take that off of our recipe to being a friend to yourself.

Onward and upward my friends!  Be a friend to yourself!