The dance of self-care, part II: Stillness

Once upon a time there was a young woman who took pride in her productivity. She took pride in accomplishing things and pushing herself. Her idea of relaxing was working on her laptop in front of a movie or taking an hour off to chat with a friend (and then working all the harder). In fact, her sense of self-worth was directly tied to the way she kept in constant motion (but that’s another story). And all too often she pushed herself so hard that she ended up sick.

Over and over again it happened. Around and around the cycle went. Work-work-work-push-push-push…collapse. Eventually she began to notice when her energy was running down…but each time she thought “I can make this time be different,” and she still pushed herself —with the same results.

One day, her husband ordered her to Take A Break Immediately. So she put on a movie and lay on the sofa, doing nothing else. …And it felt totally alien.

She realized that she had forgotten how to be still.

But even in the face of this realization, the urge to Do things was too strong. The woman made a list of self-care-y things to do, but she missed the point. For her, self-care had become just another thing to do.

…And so she got sick. Again.

But this time, the woman recognized the lesson behind the cycle:

Sometimes the ultimate act of self-care is not acting at all. Sometimes resting is the most “productive” thing you can do.

So the woman promised herself that she would start not-doing more often. She would explore her compulsion to push beyond her limits. She would breathe more. She would create space in her life for stillness. She would make it a priority. And she would start right away. She shut her laptop and went to lie down for the rest of the evening.

Do you push yourself beyond your limits? When was the last time you chose stillness? Remember (and yes, I know it’s hard): sometimes the best thing you can do…is not-do.

6 thoughts on “The dance of self-care, part II: Stillness”

  1. I actually post a blog on wednesdays specifically on self care, because we as women especially seem to not realise that we have needs that deserve and need to be addressed! I know exactly what you mean and it took a few cycles for me to listen too!

  2. I know what you mean! I thought I had “relaxing” down to a science. After all, I spend a lot of time (read: waste a lot of time) on the internet daily, sitting on my keester.

    However, when I went to that Nordic Day Spa in March, it hit me. In between dips in the hot and cold pools, I TRIED resting in the peaceful rooms filled with reclining deck chairs, sunshine and soft music… but I couldn’t. My mind raced, I twitched, I peeked at the clock every minute, and finally gave up. I just don’t plain know HOW to sit and do nothing. I’ve never been able to meditate and I find baths tediously boring. My mind seems to require constant stimulation of some sort. Even when I’m cleaning, I prefer to do so while talking on the phone. I can’t seem to let my mind rest.

    I wonder what that all means…?

    1. I don’t know either, but I’m exploring it. I’m very uncomfortable spending time by myself without distractions. I have a history of avoiding it at all costs (and not just with “productive” things, but with audiobooks and movies and netsurfing, etc). But there’s a very deep part of me that is CRYING OUT for quiet and stillness and solitude. I’m trying to listen to it…but it’s a challenge. It’s hard to work against habits like this. You’re absolutely right: spending hours online is not the same as truly and completely relaxing and being still.

  3. Ahh, this post makes me feel so much better about my own lack of posting! But seriously, ever since I came home from Disney World, I have not had the energy to develop any new blog posts. I had some spare time last night, but all I really wanted to do was sit back in my Poang chair from IKEA and watch TV with my husband…and that’s what I did. 🙂

    1. I always feel like applauding when I hear about people choosing to take it easy! I’m SO hard on myself about stuff like that, but it’s a fact that sometimes you NEED to rest (especially after a trip!). It’s something I’m working on myself. And I’m looking forward to new blog posts from you (*when you’re ready!*). xo

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