Self-Care Sunday: How To Love Yourself Through A Bad Day

A few days ago, I had one of those "Murphy's Law" kinds of days. Deadlines were building up, a blog post I'd planned to write (and written half of in preparation) fell through, a thing didn't work out, I messed up and fed Eden too much red food dye and she went a little psycho for two days, I was overwhelmed and underhelped, depressed and sensitive and sad ... and tired. And ... well, as the saying goes, "If it could go wrong, it would." And it did. All day long.

I was so frustrated I was in tears by noon, and again by three, and again by six. And all I wanted in those moments was for someone to come along beside me and sit there in it with me for a minute, to hold my hand and remind me that these days come, to give me a place to fall, to reassure me that while these days do come, they go as well.

I leaned on my friends, the people who are - through the connective magic of the internet - willing and able to sit there in the dark with me, even if they aren't able to wrap me in a sorely needed bear hug.

But in the end, no one else could fix what went wrong, and no one else could put me back together. There was no hero riding in on a white horse, no swift rescuer to arrive at the last moment, hit me with a sexy smolder, and award me unresentfully with the solitude I was so desperate for.

So I had to become my own hero, take a break from the pressure I put on myself, and create the moment of solitude that I needed. Now, I'd like to share some of my favorite ways to create that moment - so that when you need one and there is none to be found, you'll have an easy list of ways to DIY it. 

Step one in creating that magical moment of relaxing bliss is easier said than done, but no less necessary: exercise a little self-compassion, and recognize that if you're feeling pressured it's probably because of your own expectations, and give yourself permission to turn that pressure down a notch. 

I talk a lot here about the importance of self-love and how much treating yourself well (mentally, too!) can really make a difference in your life, but the truth is, sometimes life gets in the way and I forget all of that. I start hearing the echoes of past hurts, and I start falling into old habits. Kicking myself mentally for all the things I'm not doing - all the things I can't do. All the things I haven't done. Every mistake I've ever made - and how those mistakes all brought me to whatever "here" is in that moment. How wherever "here" is ... it's of my own making. My own fault.

"I brought it on myself. I should have known better. I should have done better."

But that's how the pressure turns up, right?

"Better late than never. I can do it now, if I push hard enough. I can make it happen, if I work hard enough. I can fix this."

And the pressure goes up a little more.

And that's when I know I need to break down and give myself a break, because I'm no good to anyone when I'm cracking apart at the seams.

The thing is, I don't tend to give myself a lot of rest.

It's not because I'm super productive or because I'm totally driven or because I'm one of those people that's just destined to be a star. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not, I don't know. But I don't rest because I can't. I don't stop because the second I'm not striving, I become LAZY. WORTHLESS. UNMOTIVATED. When I'm not striving desperately for the next goal, the next achievement, the next milestone, the next ... something ... then that's when I am every negative thing I've ever been called. That's when I deserve every negative thing that's ever happened to me.

I spend every moment of my life in service as a mother - between my two girls, I keep track of the names, numbers, and appointment times for one pediatrician, one endocrinologist, one cardiologist, one otorhinolaryngologist, one dentist, one optometrist, one ophthalmologist, one podiatrist, one neurologist, and a few others. I make every meal, I clean every wound, I break up every fight. I soothe every hurt, I answer every cry, and I coach or counsel every situation. There is no partner, no village, and no back-up plan. When I'm not doing that, I'm letting the dog in and out, making sure he's fed, and babysitting his dietary needs because he's got food allergies, skin sensitivities, and a luxating patella that has to be coddled in order to hopefully prevent a need for a surgery I can't afford.

Writing is the only thing I have in my life that's mine, and because I have such an inherent dream to succeed at doing this thing that I love so dearly, I live my life by a schedule of writing deadlines, thinking that when I reach the next one, that's when it'll all work out, that's when it'll all shift, it's when the universe will open the door I've been beating on all my life. It's when I'll finally switch from praying, "God, either give me the reality, or take away the dream," and I'll move to, "Thank you for this life and all that fills it."

That's not to say that I'm not thankful, or that I don't take the time to count my blessings. Believe me, I do - right on down to the simplest, smallest sources of joy in my life. I make it a point to tell the people I love that I love them, that I'm thankful for them, that they matter to me - because I know what it is to be unappreciated. I know exactly how amazing it is to have two fairly healthy and generally well-adjusted children - because I have suffered the loss of a child, and because I have held weeping women in my arms as they sobbed over their inability to have children. I know the roof over my head is a blessing, that the food I give to my children is a blessing, that the clothing that shields our nakedness is a blessing.

But writing? It's my dream, and because it matters so much, sometimes it just gets too heavy to carry for a while. Sometimes I just need to take a step back, turn down the pressure, and let myself live in - and celebrate - the moment that I'm in. Sometimes I need to offer myself the compassion I'm longing for, to tell myself that it's okay if I'm not where I want to be just yet.

That it's okay for me to be a project half-finished, ever-growing, always changing.

That it's okay to take time out from serving and loving my family and friends. That it's okay to give something special to me. And that I don't always have to EARN it or DESERVE it or kill myself in the fight for it.

Sometimes I have a lot of time to devote to myself. Sometimes I can carve out a whole hour - a blissful sixty minutes of soaking in a bathtub filled with bubbles, flickering in candlelight, filled with the wafting scent of something sensual and spicy and glamorous. Sixty minutes of piping hot water softened with salts, slick with oils. Sixty minutes of soft music, a good book, and time to breathe.

Other times, I don't have sixty minutes and my "me time" comes in snatches - desperately stolen moments in between the needs and demands of the responsibilities I love. Sometimes all I have is that first sip of coffee in the morning, or the satisfaction of my own fresh breath, just after I've brushed my teeth. Sometimes it's the blissful smoothness of good chocolate melting on my tongue, the smell of a good perfume, or the shape of my mouth with a good lipstick on. Sometimes it's the softness of the couch and the weight of my dog's big head in my lap. Stolen moments, all of them, but each one is breath of air, peaceful and serene, moments that keep me strong and steady. Moments that make me the person my loved ones know they can lean on.

Sometimes it isn't even as long as a moment, and all I have time to give myself is a quick prayer, just a desperate skyward utterance, an eager and pleading "Help me!" sent into the abyss, seeking God's busy ear. Sometimes it's the sound of waves crashing - or the sight of them.

But in the space in between, when I don't have a lot of time but there's definitely enough to give myself something more than those stolen moments? Well, here are some of my favorite totally affordable, easily doable, stress-less gifts to give myself:
  • A good cry. Sometimes I just need to break away, to find a quiet place to clear my mind and drown my sorrows in teardrops.
  • Watch a good show. I like to choose funny shows with short episodes to cheer myself up and get my mind straight. Sometimes it's F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on Netflix - other times it's Joe Santagato on YouTube.
  • Take a breath. Or forty. Now and then, all you need to turn your stress levels down is time to breathe. Find a place away from all the things that are messing you up, and just breathe. But don't do it just to do it - feel it. Be right there with it, and listen to it. Pay attention like it's your favorite song and you're trying to memorize the lyrics. And then you'll have this one breath that unlocks everything, and then you'll realize that you're still alive, that it's all gonna be alright, and that you got this.
  • Write a letter. Write to the person that's hurting you or stressing you out. Write to the thing that's too much for you to carry. Write to the illness that haunts you or the emotion that won't let you go. Give yourself permission to be brutal, to be vulgar, to be totally and unalterably honest. Write til your head hurts or your fingers ache or you run out of paper or your battery dies. Release the poison and the resentment and the sadness and the ... whatever. And then shred it. Burn it, flush it, delete it. Let the poison out - but restrain yourself from showing your letter to anyone. Just because you've let it out doesn't mean you have to pour it on someone else.
  • Count your blessings - literally. Make a list of what makes you "good enough" or "lovable." Make a list of accomplishments, even if they feel small. Make a list of the things you feel blessed to have, or the people you feel blessed to know.
  • Get outside. Soak up a little sunshine, let the breeze kiss your skin, stand in the rain and let it wash over you. Look around you - look through the ugliness to appreciate the beauty of the world we live in.
And lastly, think about what you're going through. Take yourself out of the situation, and pretend that what you're dealing with is something someone you love is dealing with. Ask yourself what you would tell your best friend, your brother, your daughter, if they were dealing with what you're dealing with? Would you tell them to slow down? To take a break? To show themselves mercy? Would you tell them they are worthy, that they are beautiful? That there is hope, that they have potential?

You know you would.

So take your own advice. Give yourself a break.

It worked for me.
Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is truly a self-love staple. I found this great book on Amazon - it's called the Little Book of Mindfulness and it's full of short meditations that remind you to step out of the past, let go of the future, and live in the moment.

Because sometimes, all you need to be able to catch your breath is to allow yourself to stop and breathe - and even though we don't all have the time or the inclination to sit down and meditate for an hour, there is still so much more life to be enjoyed when we make the effort to live presently in each moment as they come.

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If you're reading this because you're searching desperately for a break - or permission to take one - then please feel free to rest here a while. Read through, click around, and see what else you can find. Take a breath and give yourself some space. And then share this post with your friends - remind them that they deserve a break now and then, too.

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