Gentle Self-care For Tough Times

When to be gentle with ourselves.

Sometimes being gentle is more important than solving problems, a little discussion about wake-up calls, and this calming gif of Bob Ross being gentle with a baby deer.

I haven’t sent you a mail out in a few weeks, which was not initially planned but ended up being purposeful – I was being gentle with myself.

At the beginning of April, my family and I went on a 3-week trip to where I call home. I haven’t been home in nine years, so I was excited, although the purpose of the trip was a sad one (a celebration of life for a family member who passed away).

So although I had planned to send you Sunday mailouts as usual and even wrote them up beforehand, I decided to be gentle with myself on my trip and not hold myself responsible for any productivity whatsoever.

In addition to those breaks from the Winter weather, I was gentle in lots of other ways: I didn’t cram my schedule, I did a lot of early bedtimes and got a lot of sleep, we spent time visiting playgrounds and chilling, and after realizing our days were too long we split our drives up into shorter chunks.

Being gentle with yourself is restorative.

Being gentle means conserving energy – mental, emotional, or physical. Being gentle means being kind to ourselves when we need to slow down and allows us to tap into restorative energy. Being gentle means building up our reserves instead of expending them.

Being gentle with myself continued after we arrived home. Thanks to my ER visit, I know why I’ve had some vague symptoms in recent months, so I am gentle with my body while waiting for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. My energy has been low, so I was gentle with my work hours this week. I have a lot of May commitments, so I have already posted my auto-reply that emails will be delayed. I’ve had some health setbacks, I’ve had some work setbacks… I am in a reflective head space that needs time and care. This morning I wanted to write and communicate with my TMSC community, and I started gently. Made some tea and some of my favourite eggs and chose not to rush.

But being gentle can be hard.

When things are tough – when life calls for more energy than we might have – it can be tempting to jump into action via problem-solving mode. We can push, push, push to find solutions and move past the experience as quickly as possible.

Not only is this avoidance (trying to skim over the icky stuff that comes up when we are overwhelmed, ill, or going through setbacks), but it also requires a lot of energy. Energy that sometimes we don’t have!

But personally, slowing down and being gentle with myself to not expend energy I don’t have (which would lead to burnout or more illness) can be harder than digging in and running on fumes.

In other words, slowing down and being gentle is hard. It’s definitely NOT the weaker choice.

A little comment about wake-up calls.

Dr. Jess Campoli conducted a grounded theory of health professional trainees’ self-care development for part of her dissertation. She found that people’s self-care journeys begin (and re-begin) with realizing there is a disconnect between our values (what we want our life to look like) and our self-care choices (aka a wake-up call).

Wake-up calls don’t have to be huge. How “big” they need to be for us to say, “Hey, I want to make a change here!” depends on each person.

I’m going through a transition period – one of those natural ones that arise with age – and being gentle allows me to notice the wake-up calls and ponder what to do with them. There is an important message here: Slowing down and being gentle opens our awareness to what we want, our inner voice, and how our body feels as sources of information.

Noticing is an important skill to cultivate. That’s a post for another day.

What else is new?

  • We’ll be working on updating the TMSC website with all of the mailouts as blog posts, so our content is there for all to see (but you will still receive it first, as subscribers!)
  • I’ve recently had a chapter excepted to a forthcoming book on mental health in academia, which I will share when published
  • In May, I will be returning to (some) private practice clinical work
  • As always, I’m available for speaking, coaching, and workshops; reach out to me by hitting reply to this email
  • It seems to finally be Spring in Saskatchewan, which means a lot of upcoming outdoor time
  • In celebration of Independent Bookstore Day, I purchased a ton of self-care-related books from my local independent bookstore, and I can’t wait to share them with you

In self-care solidarity,