Today is Thanksgiving in the United States.
A day of fabulous food, fellowship and being grateful for the abundance in our lives.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love it more than Christmas. I’m all about the food, more so than the gifts! If you downloaded my Fertile Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, you know what I’m talking about!
Today, however, is more than just Thanksgiving. It’s the beginning of the holiday season. From now until the end of the year you’ll see countless blog posts with advice about how to make it through the holidays stress- and drama-free.
How to deal with your family. How to get a handle on all the things you have to get done so that you don’t go crazy. How to actually enjoy yourself instead of just getting through it and hanging on by a thread to New Years.
And if you’re on the fertility path, how to deal with seeing all the people with kids, how to deal with questions from your family about your plans for procreation, and how to not have a nervous breakdown.
I wrote such a post last year. I had a mini-meltdown last year over my holiday cards and it prompted me to give the valuable (if not entirely original) advice to avoid obligations during the holiday season.
To me, the holidays are all about self-care. Our entire lives are really, but the holidays, with all the drama and extra baggage, really show us how important good self-care is.
But what actually is self-care?
It seems like an obvious question – it’s how we care for ourselves, of course. (D’uh!)
Self-care has become a buzzword in today’s world, and especially in the health and wellness world where I hang out. And, like many buzzwords, it’s become a bit of a tired cliché, subject to misinterpretation, or losing its meaning altogether.
I came across a wonderful article this week about what self-care is really all about and what it’s not. It got me to thinking about my own life, and how, if you’re on the fertility path, you can practice good self-care.
The common misconception is that self-care is indulgent. That it’s about pampering yourself by eating unhealthy fattening foods when you need a pick-me-up, or soaking in a bubble bath, or going on a shopping spree, breaking out the credit cards if your bank account is empty (ever hear the term retail therapy?).
There are elements of indulgence in caring for ourselves – taking a time-out when things become overwhelming – but true self-care is about so much more than getting a manicure or shucking our responsibilities. I briefly alluded to this a few weeks ago in my post about massage therapy for fertility.
Self-care is not self-indulgence.
In fact, self-care is the most responsible thing we can do for ourselves.
It’s about having the courage to live an authentic life.
The article gives some fantastic examples. Having a budget so that we don’t live beyond our means. Extricating ourselves from relationships that are toxic or otherwise unfulfilling. These are all things we wouldn’t typically think of as self-care strategies.
But think about how stressed you are when you feel like you don’t have any money and the bills are due – or how unfulfilling it is to hang out with somebody even though we don’t enjoy their company, but we do it because we’ve known them for forever?
My holiday suggestion last year about letting go of a need to fulfill obligations is great self-care advice.
The work that I do with my clients about letting go of what no longer serves them – be it physical possessions or unfulfilling relationships – is also a form of effective self-care.
Self-care is also about not settling for less than we truly deserve. This is probably the biggest one for me. To virtually anybody I appear to have it together on the self-care: I eat well, drink a lot of water, practice yoga, journal regularly.
But my interpersonal relationships are sorely lacking. Practically my entire life has been built around so-called “friendships” with people who didn’t value me or what I have to offer as a friend. I remember as a kid begging people to be my friend (yes, literally) and this practice has continued as an adult.
I may not outwardly beg anymore, but in looking at the patterns of my relationships over the years, I see that they’ve been characterized by desperation on my part. I felt it just as recently as this week, when I invited my sister to come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner, and waited while she decided if she’d come or if she got a better offer. My sister usually ditches me for a better offer, but she is actually coming today.
If I have to beg my own family members to hang out with me and feel the sting of their rejection, it’s not surprising that pattern would extend to others throughout my life. It’s no surprise that none of my “friendships” have sustained themselves in a meaningful way. To this day I have very few close, real, genuine friends and it’s led to a lifetime of loneliness, isolation, and feeling like I don’t fit in. I’ve been on a constant search for “my people” but have never been able to penetrate the outer layers – I’m consistently on the outside looking in.
Self-care is self-respect – and by engaging in interpersonal relationships that leave me feeling so desperate, I’ve learned that even though I physically take pretty good care of myself, I’m actually pretty crappy at self-care.
It’s so difficult for me to write this, it’s a secret I’ve kept locked in for so long. And I’m a health coach. We’re supposed to have all our shit together with this stuff, and teach others how to do it.
But expressing this is part of self-care and living an authentic life – owning our baggage.
This can help us so much more than getting a pedicure or buying a new pair of shoes.
It’s okay to have those indulgences, and we need them every now and then, but it’s important to remember the difference between self-indulgence and true self-care.
My issues around my interpersonal relationships are my biggest struggle and the biggest thing I need to turn around in my life if I want to find true happiness and set a good example for my son. I may not be able to change the fact that I have to beg people to hang out with me, but I can change how I react to it, and make the decision that I’m worth more than that, and not keep hanging around. If I keep doing the same thing, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll always get the same result.
Working on this is one of my biggest intentions for 2018. It’s going to take a lot of perseverance and strength. Practicing real, valuable, self-care around my own worth a big part of the plan.
On the fertility path we can practice self-care in the traditional ways:
- Fueling our body with clean, whole fruits, vegetables and grains;
- Moving our body in gentle ways like walking and restorative yoga;
- Getting sufficient amount of quality, restful sleep; and
- Educating ourselves about our menstrual cycles by monitoring our fertility signs.
We can also embrace other forms of self-care:
- Meditation, creative visualization and the use of affirmations to work on our mindset;
- Seeking out support from people who life us up and limiting our interactions with those who bring us down;
- Researching and learning more about our fertility so that we can speak more intelligently with our doctors and be our own best advocate; and
- Doing the things that light our soul on fire so that we can reclaim our sense of self on a journey where so much feels out of our control.
We need all of these pieces to really make meaningful progress toward achieving not only our motherhood dreams, but our own wholeness so that we don’t feel broken on this journey that can completely tear apart our insides and rip us to shreds.
So this holiday season, I challenge you to take a good look at where you are in your fertility journey and in your life journey, and figure out what it is that you really need from both the people in your life and from yourself. It might be something different than you think.
I promise to keep you posted about my progress on this if you promise to keep me posted about yours.
This post is also available in: Arabic