Here we go. Again. Talking about self-care.
I use the word again deliberately, and for a good reason because this topic for massage therapists is so worth talking about again, and again, and again.
We’re not talking about your clients’ self-care, your family’s, your friends’, your neighbors’, or your partner’s self-care—but your self-care.
You know, the care that can so easily get pushed aside. Or, if you are not use to listening to your true needs, it can elude your awareness as you find yourself engaging in what you might think of as self-care, that in fact may actually not be suited for your current needs.
Your needs are unique and always evolving, as is the way you run your practice. How your self-care looks, and what works, changes as your physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs evolve. A self-care practice that worked (or may have seemed to have worked) when you were 20 will not be the same as what works when you are in your 30s or 40s.
What worked when you were single, or without children, will not necessarily work if you now have a partner or children. What worked before your aging parents needed your attention may be quite impossible to continue as you are devoting more time and energy to their care.
What may have worked while you were recovering from an illness or injury might not suit your now recovered energy level.
Meet Your Self-Care Needs
Meeting your true needs is a fundamental ingredient in what you probably realize by now as one of the key factors in maintaining a thriving and fulfilling practice— being able to share generously of your energy and your presence while not depleting yourself.
Being able to share generously means you are able to connect with an ongoing source of replenishment. You simply cannot share generously if you are pulling from your limited reserves.
While it is possible to give from limited reserves for a while, the results are guaranteed burnout, resentment and frustration.
Thankfully those results are messages, that when heeded, offer you an opportunity to align with a more deeply satisfying way of living. This deeply satisfying way of living is based on kind, generous and attentive care that you allow yourself to experience.
That is my working definition of self-care. Participating in this care requires a fullness of presence and ability to take in what contributes to your vibrancy and vitality.
With this definition, self-care is not limited to what you put on your “to do list” to do for yourself, it necessarily expands into how you relate to your life and how able you are to know an answer to the question attributed to none other than Albert Einstein. “The most important question you can ever ask is if the world is a friendly place.”
And, I add to that, “Do you know yourself to be welcomed and belonging to this friendly place?”
Those questions are worth re-reading.
Dive Deeper into a Self-Care Plan
So, instead of providing a how-to list for prioritizing your self-care, I’m offering you an invitation to a deeper experience of worthiness and belonging. This deeper experience is the foundation for caring about, and for, yourself so that you are better able to allow a flow of generous energy to and through you.
Your clients pick up on this. What’s good for you, for your life, for your enthusiasm is also good for your professional practice, even when these don’t seem to have a direct connection.
I invite you to consider how many times you give your clients suggestions for self-care. My best guess is it is probably hard to even begin to count.
And, that’s because as a wise practitioner you absolutely know the importance of ongoing attention and care. With that in mind, when it comes to letting yourself give yourself ongoing attention and care we can probably safely assume that when and where this may not be happening in your life it isn’t due to your lack of knowing its importance.
Because a lack of knowledge probably isn’t the glitch, let’s turn your focus to a more likely glitch; that arena of worthiness. Notice if you are inclined to hurry past this.
I encourage you take this moment, and a breath, to allow the word worthiness to settle into your chest and then to let it settle even deeper into your belly. This takes us back to the gist of our earlier questions; do you know yourself as belonging to a friendly world?
Do you know yourself to be worthy of a place on your list of priorities? Please notice the question isn’t “are you worthy?” Rather, the question is “do you know yourself to be worthy?”
Worthy without having to be a better person, worthy without working a little harder, or worthy without doing more for others; the kind of worthy that is innate and non negotiable.
The truthful answer to this question may take some sitting with and some paying attention to how you live your life. Your actions or how you treat yourself or others. And your language or how you talk to and about yourself or others are spot on revealers of your inner relationship with worthiness.
The actions and language that evoke centeredness, enthusiasm, peace, courage, belonging, ease, curiosity and gratitude are the ones that show you where your connection to worthiness is strong and resilient.
The actions and language that evoke separation, anxiety, exhaustion, resentment, suspicion, and greed show you where your connection to worthiness is revealing a need for support.
So, how do you treat yourself? How do you talk to yourself and about yourself? Equally important, what kind of treatment do you accept from others? These are not quick and easy questions to ponder. Nor are they intended to be.
Rather these questions of worthiness are meant to help you get curious about yourself in new ways and to get to the depths of self-awareness that support full presence that feeds your vibrancy and vitality.
Focus on Awareness
As you sit with these questions, I invite you to let the past couple of weeks or months move into your awareness, noticing the times you were actively attending to the care of another. Let this awareness include both your professional and personal life.
What can you recall about the feeling state in your body and emotions?
Do you notice a sense of hurry or were you settled into a full presence?
Was there a factor of worry or control mixed in with your actions, or was there ease?
Were you paying attention to someone else’s needs because it is easier than attending to your own?
Was there an element of approval seeking?
Do you notice experiencing joy?
Was there blame or resentment?
Now I invite you to ask these, or similar questions, to when you were attending to your own care. I invite you to risk really getting to the heart of it.
For instance, are there elements of approval seeking mixed into your physical exercise practice or your spiritual practice? Do blame and resentment crop up as your more common themes?
The only useful answers to any of these questions are the truthful ones. The more invitational space you can open for what may bubble up from under the surface of your experience and the more opportunities you have to know yourself.
Experiences of hurry, worry, control, resentment or approval seeking are signs your true needs are calling and that your connection to worthiness and belonging needs some help.
Sensing into, and carrying out, what supports your true needs is so much easier when there is a loving and patient spaciousness around you. One playful tool you have already on hand that can help with this is your imagination.
I offer this recommendation of imagining a loving, kind and steady being, whether this is a person you know, know of, or a spiritual being giving you acceptance along with assurances that you can slow down, take your time, breathe easy, take a risk, grieve, laugh or play.
As you imagine this loving being or person reminding you of your worthiness of care, and of love and of encouragement you’ll notice a relaxation settling into your body and that your breathing slows and deepens. If this quality seems slight at first, it will grow with practice.
You may find that expanding this imaging to a group, whether it is a group of childhood friends, or even kind strangers you’ve not met, all gathered in a state of camaraderie as they offer loving encouragement also evokes courage to relate to worthiness in healthier ways.
As you play with this imagining, you will notice how this spaciousness of worthiness allows room for you to consider yourself and your needs, to pay attention to yourself, and to wonder what best suits you at this time of your life.
You will notice how worthiness allows for imperfection, stumbling, and learning what works. As your connection to worthiness grows, your capacity for vibrancy and vitality also grow as they feed your creativity and your generous expression of care.
The more the truth of worthiness lives in you, the more you radiate worthiness and its fruits. Your clients will notice.
About the Author
Ann Dionne is a dean at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, a certified Martha Beck Life Coach, energy practitioner and hospice volunteer. She helps clients and students find peace from the inside out. Ann makes her home south of Chicago with her lifelong love, Rex, and his two cats.
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