What Do I Sacrifice For Self-care?

My response to a reader question (thank you!), a discussion of how we can’t do everything even if we want to, advice on how to choose what we do, and a little note on getting what we want. Phew, that’s a lot!

Succession character Logan Roy saying "Time for a blood sacrifice".
*Note: No blood sacrifices are required for self-care, I just like hyperbole

I ended last week’s post with a self-care Ask Me Anything survey – thank you for your questions! This week I’m answering a great question that emphasizes how we (somewhat unfortunately) must make choices with our time and energy to practice self-care. The question was: What are you not doing to have time for self-care?

I love this question because it addresses two important points about self-care and our time/energy. First, it acknowledges that we really can’t do everything. We can do many things, but we can’t do every single thing (by “thing” I mean all of our behaviours and choices, not just self-care). Second, it captures a critical self-care reality: We must choose how to spend our time and energy.

And while I refer to this as “sacrifice” in my title because this is what I used to call it – and what many people still call it – I now prefer the more neutral term “choices.” This neutrality is more consistent with the idea that there are no right or wrong choices, just ones that work or don’t work for us. Furthermore, no one can tell us what works or doesn’t work for us, we have to figure that out through trial and error.

What do I choose not to do, for self-care?

Below is a list of some things I choose not to do so that I can create time, energy, and space for self-care. It’s important to note that these things work for me, but they might not work for you – and that’s okay.

As I have mentioned before, self-care is often a series of small changes that eventually become unnoticeable in our lives because they are routine. For the most part, it’s not hard for me to choose not to do these things because 1) they fit into my life so easily now, given how much practice I’ve had and 2) the benefits make them worth any difficulty I have in choosing them.

How do you decide what to do or not do?

One word: Values! Values are the tool that we should use, as much as possible, to choose where to spend our time and energy. Being tapped into what is essential is the rubric we can use to decide what we say yes or no to.

For example, look at my “why” column in the graphic above. You’ll see some common themes: Promoting my health (via sleep), creating a setup for my work that is calm instead of anxious or angry, and being as efficient as possible with my work so that I have time for the rest of my life, instead of working all the time to keep up.

Choosing is work; self-care can help.

Now for a little bit of bad news: Actively choosing what to do with our time and energy is more work than saying yes to everything or going with the flow. It requires thought, self-reflection, and setting boundaries. All of these are more difficult to do when we are overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted, or anxious. When are we more likely to be in those states? When we aren’t engaging in self-care.

Self-care creates a positive feedback loop: More self-care creates more space for us to reflect before we say yes to something, which creates more time and energy for self-care. Which makes it easier to set boundaries and be thoughtful about what we say yes to. (Shout out to the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown)

What else is new around here?

In my work with my therapist and an RMT (both trained in Somatic Experiencing, which has been transformational for me), I am learning and practicing asking for what I want and need to be comfortable. I’m still practicing rest during my work days and it’s still hard!

I have new research projects that will teach me new schools – candy for my brain, and learning is one of my core personal values.

The days are getting longer, and Spring is on its way, but… this year, I have chosen not to plant seedlings. I might not even have a vegetable garden this year! I love gardening, but I think I need more yardwork freedom this summer.

In self-care solidarity,