Why do we only self-care when sick or exhausted?

Why do we only self-care when sick or exhausted?

Why is that for so many of us we only turn to self-care once we are sick or exhausted? Why is it that we think we can run our body into the ground and then when we are in a heap we can apply some nurturing, rest and better habits to get us back on our feet and up and running again, only to then forsake the very things that supported us to get back into the game of life, recover from the illness and feel more vital again?

Do we have it back to front? Would it not make more sense to make self-care part of our everyday routines and rituals and hence use it to support and help us to live a life that is vital, well, and healthy most if not all of the time, instead of waiting for the inevitable crash and burn and then resorting to taking better care of ourselves to get out of the mess we find ourselves in.

It strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater to only use self-care when we absolutely must, rather than to make it an integral part of our lifestyle. But if you are like me and you never heard the words self-care until recently, or it was and is only something you took note of when your body screamed loudly enough that the way you are looking after it isn’t up to scratch, then it’s no wonder we live in this repeating cycle of functionality and pushing the body to the point of illness and depletion, only to try and rectify it with a few days rest and recouperation before going right back to the way of life that put us in the situation where we needed to stop and change our ways in the first place. After all this has been our pattern and it has served us well – or so it would seem up to a point.

We live in a fast-paced modern world where the pressure to succeed, do more, be more and have more puts all kinds of stress on our body and psyche. The drive to achieve or cram more into every day keeps us on the go, up late, sleeping less and grabbing food on the run. We are constantly plugged in, working more hours, juggling more things and then weekends are supposed to be for having fun because after all a quiet weekend at home, resting and caring for yourself is such a waste and boring! We seek constant stimulation and entertainment, all the while trying to squeeze more out of the day at the expense of rest, relaxation, downtime, and sleep. At the expense of our health, wellbeing, and the very vehicle we live in 24/7 – our body.

Imagine if we ran our cars that way – drive them fast and hard over long periods, throw in any kind of fuel, forget to top up the oil, let the radiator run dry, drive with flat or worn-out tyres, ignore the warning light that comes on to tell you something is wrong and before you know it you’re either going to crash or break down. Fortunately for our cars we have roadside assistance and can get towed to the garage for much needed repairs and attention. However, running a car this way becomes expensive and dangerous and will ultimately cause the car to fail way before its time.

Yet we think nothing of doing this to ourselves: we drive ourselves too fast and too hard, we don’t take proper breaks or time to rest, we throw in anything we fancy to tantalise our tastebuds and keep the fuel tank topped up, be that sugar, caffeine, fast food, alcohol and so forth, we forget to drink enough water, and push on when we feel flat or worn-out and ignore the warning lights from our body like aches and pains, upset tummies, heart palpitations, headaches and so much more – and then we wonder why we crash or break down. Sadly, we then have to rely on the medical system to try and fix us up and hope that we can get back out on the road to do it all again.

It seems that we care very little for our body beyond the perfunctory shower, shave and shampoo, face wash, teeth brush routine. Perhaps for some, we will take more time to apply some moisturiser, deodorant, perfume, style our hair and make it look like we care for ourselves in the same way as turning up with nicely ironed clothes and shiny shoes makes it appear that we are neat and tidy when perhaps at home we are slovenly and dirty. Our outer appearance can appear to be kempt and cared for, but what level of care do we really have if we are treating our bodies with the level of disregard that has so far been exposed as you have been reading to this point?

Self-care should not be reserved for when we feel sick or unwell: yes, during this time it is important to rest and really look after what the body needs be that more fluids, a lighter meal, earlier to bed, a hot bath etc – interesting how instinctively we know what our body needs, like we suddenly become experts and super tuned in to its messages and signals – but should be something we employ to ensure the body does not break down or crash and burn.

Yet we say ‘I don’t know what self-care is’ or ask ‘how is a long soak in a hot bath or a massage followed by a glass of wine going to help’, when the truth is, as made so obvious by the fact that we naturally know how to care for ourself when sick or tired, that we know exactly how to care for ourself, but we are actually choosing not to.

The issue here is three-fold.

  1. We have been sold a lie that to self-care is selfish or self-indulgent,

  2. we have been hoodwinked into believing self-care is about pampering ourselves with hot baths, massages and alcohol – the latter, alcohol, would definitely not be on the self-care list if we were to truly listen to our body, and

  3. we have been raised to suppress our natural sensitivity and connection to our body, for the body is both our connection to our Universality and the marker of truth that communicates very strongly what is and is not of truth for it.

And herein lies the reasons why we don’t self-care until we really have to, and why self-care has been so long hidden in plain sight, made to look bad or overindulgent and twisted to be something it is not.

To self-care is not just about ensuring our body remains vital, healthy and strong, but it is a stepping stone to restoring that lost connection to our inner-quality and beingness, the Divinity with-in that the body is naturally attuned to and made up of. For when we care for the body, we become more sensitive to its needs and what is and isn’t true for us, which re-awakens us to the awareness that there is more to life than only the physical and that fact that we are more than flesh and bone.

Through listening to the signals of the body, we naturally know how to self-care, just like we do when we are sick or exhausted. It is through self-care that our awareness to the vibrational essence of life re-ignites and hence we re-open the door to experiencing life through the senses and energy first.

So, what if we were to make self-care and our relationship with it a part of our daily life, a part that would naturally adjust, refine, and evolve itself as we did exactly the same? Would it support us to be more in touch with the deeper part of us, our true essence; would it afford us greater sensitivity and awareness, would it remind us of who and what we truly are?

My answer would be yes and no as self-care alone cannot do these things, but it is a starting point on the path of re-discovery; an unfolding, evolving journey that is supported by the gentle, loving care of the body. It is this that then allows our body to ‘speak’ to us and for us to tune in to our inner voice, the all that we are, and allow that voice to be our guiding light.

And if this is the case, why would we only self-care when we are sick or exhausted, unless it is to avoid knowing who and what we truly are?

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  • By Dr Rachel Hall, Dentist

    Dentist, business owner, writer, author and presenter. Family woman, guitarist, photographer, passionate about health, wellbeing and community. Lover of Vietnamese food, fast cars, social media, café culture and people.

  • Photography: Iris Pohl, Photographer and Videographer

    Iris Pohl is an expert in capturing images with a natural light style. Little to no time is needed for photoshop editing and the 'original' moment captured to represent your brand and remain in its authenticity.