Why "Practicing" Self-Care Leads to Failure, and 6 Ways to Truly Care for Yourself
Brooke Bains is a Leadership Coach & CEO of Bombshell, where she is on a mission to reimagine business travel and help women realize their bold calling. She can also be found as an Expert on SocialMama!
Hello Gorgeous Mamas! In early May, I joined SocialMama's CEO, Amanda Ducach, for an event where we took a deep dive into self-care and how to practice it. Even though the event centered around self-care in times of chaos, I do believe that self-care can be practiced all the time if you choose. Reading this statement might stir flutters in your stomach or produce doubt in your mind. I understand and it’s totally normal.
One reason that I believe practicing self-care feels daunting is that the word ‘practice’ is applied. In the hustling society in which we live, we are trained that practice=discipline and this results in rigidity. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. I felt this way for most of my adult life because I allowed the outside world (the periphery) to affect my inner world (the center). It might sound odd to distinguish those but they are different.
The outside world is constantly tugging on us to attend to its needs and from a young age, we are taught that those needs supersede our own. This is how our distortion of selfishness arises. But caring for yourself is not selfish, it’s essential.
Here’s a hidden secret: When we understand our needs and express them honestly and openly, we welcome the people and situations into our existence that support our needs. This is the elegance of being open to receiving. Once we are able to receive by having our needs supported, we are fully-filled (fulfilled) to give in abundance to those around us.
Getting to this place is a choice and it takes practice, but not practice in the rigid do-every-morning-at-5 am-for-30-minutes type of practice. This is how many view their practices and it’s why so many “quit” before they realize the joy in most practices.
I now define Practice as Practicing (a verb) because it’s fluid and ever-changing based on my needs of the day or for the moment.
Therefore, Practicing is the wildly imperfect process I use every day to support my growth.
I ask three questions about practices that I learn to help guide my decision-making:
1. What do I need right now?
2. How useful is it?
3. Why am I doing it?
Asking these questions allows me to create many tools for my toolkit, and improvise when necessary. Having many ways to care for myself gives me options when the “tried and true” method doesn’t work right now.
Another secret: you can let down the weight of trying to find the silver bullet, and let yourself collect practices from sources you trust and try them on to see what fits your needs in the moment.
Gathering numerous methods is important because the tools that we use to dig out of one tough spot inevitably are NOT the same tools that we can use to dig us out of the next rough patch. This is the mystery of life at work.
Here are six practices that you can use to care for YOU! The key ingredients are curiosity, awareness, and choice.
This is meditation. Take one deep breath where you can feel the air dance around your nostrils, linger in your throat and move past your lungs deep into your belly. Feel the life force fill you up. Hold for a moment for stillness. Release from your belly slowly if you feel calm or with a lions roar if you need to let some stuff out. Better out than in! (Resources: Vipassana Meditation or Breath Meditation can be googled, here is one article)
Any time you feel off your game, check-in with your mind (what are you thinking?), your emotions (how are you feeling?), your essence (what are you saying?), and your body (how are you acting?). If the four parts don’t align, it’s a simple way to find out what’s out of balance. Once you become aware of the imbalance, then you’re in the best position to determine what you need to get back into your flow. (Resources: Viktor E. Frankl and Brene Brown)
3. Empower Up
Pay close attention to the stuff that lights you up and the stuff that drains you. What lights you up, find ways to do more of it. What drains your energy, find ways to do less of it. You might not be able to unload the draining stuff right away, however, by bringing awareness what’s drawing and enlivening, your mind, body, emotions, and essence will figure out how to bring more light into your life and help you move the drainage elsewhere. (Resource: