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.