Brain Science – Episode #31

It's OK to self-care

why it matters and what you can do

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Most of us have heard how important “self-care” is and how important it can be for healthy living. But what exactly IS self-care? In this episode, not only do we define what self-care is, but we talk through the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of what’s involved in self-care and why this can so often be misunderstood and challenging. While we might be familiar with this term, many may not consider how they can be deliberate around managing themselves by both reflecting on and engaging in activities that help support their brains and bodies. It isn’t enough to simply know that self-care is important, rather discovering practical actions you can take to improve both how you feel and how you engage with the world.

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Good morning, Adam. How are you?

I am trying to do well.

I love that, “trying” to do well… Aren’t we all, these days? [laughter]

Just trying really hard to do well…

Hey, I showed up. Isn’t that what matters?

That is what matters, yeah. I think showing up is – it’s like G.I. Joe, it’s half the battle.

It is, and yet I think it’s really harder - harder, dare I say - nowadays than what it was once upon a time, prior to pandemic life.

Yeah… Pandemic life is kind of weird; it really is. Because it’s like “Am I crazy? We’ve kind of been doing this for a while… Is it normal? Is it not normal?” And it’s not normal, but it’s normal… And then it depends. We talk internationally to people, so people in New Zealand and still dealing with things, but people in other countries are not dealing with it as much… So it’s like, maybe we’re crazy, maybe we’re not. But we’re not crazy, because the data says so.

Right. Well, and definitely here in the U.S. things are highly varied amidst states and cities and counties… But I think the thing that is common as a thread throughout all is just things are still different. And when things are different, it means we have to adjust; either accommodate, or we resist the accommodation and then that too has other effects.

Well, I can tell you one thing - it’s certainly given me a new perspective on our exact topic, self-care, and a better appreciation of it… Because never have I needed to rally steep myself in self-care and understand it more so for me than now, because of all the moving objects and moving targets of life just naturally, and then now you throw in pandemic life, as you said, to use your words back to you… More so now - to understand what self-care is, what it means to me, and how I fail or succeed at it… But kind of getting back to habits, and creating loops, and expectations for myself, and even understanding my own desires. This kind of life now makes me appreciate it, and wanna understand it, and do it more often, and have a system for deploying it in my life.

[00:04:34.06] Yeah, I would say that there’s a different sort of way in which we all can benefit from being more deliberate… And that’s challenging, because that requires forethought. Not just what’s on my list today, because you know, just many less things are automated in the way in which they were earlier this year, and so figuring out how to be purposeful about our days in ways which incorporate our idiosyncratic preferences.

Yeah, I like your idea of forethought; it does take a lot of forethought to not just check off what’s on my list today, but what’s tomorrow, or next week like. Because I feel like if you’re behind the ball, and maybe even phoning it in some case, because you’re just overwhelmed, or you’re just lonely, or just tired of dealing with all the things we’ve had to deal with, that maybe you’re not really thinking about tomorrow or next week as much; maybe you’re just like “I’ve gotta get through today.” And to have that intention mindset - it takes looking at tomorrow, next week, and the month after… And we’ve kind of just been dealing with the balls as they roll to us, essentially.

Right. And that sense of uncertainty or lack of predictability is exactly what contributes to the challenges, both psychologically and emotionally… Because like we’ve talked about before, how we see things has to do with what we focus on… So I can be looking at or trying to navigate all of the sort of pop-ups that come up each day or each week, and just trying to hit them all… As opposed to utilizing a strategy that’s like “Hey, I’m only gonna hit the third pop-up” or “I’m gonna have a strategy around the fielding the unexpected things that come my way, as well as myself…” Because look, we all don’t want the same things, or the same things don’t feel good or nourishing to each and every one of us… And that’s why I think this conversation is so valuable.

Well, I like the aspect of nourishment, too. What’s the point of eating food?

Well, one, it emotionally satisfies me, of course… But it’s gotta be nourishing, and I think that’s what we’ve gotta think about as we talk about thoughts in our brain; what kind of thoughts do we wanna grow in our brain?

I saw something on Instagram recently from Dr. Hyman, or somebody else that talks about brain stuff essentially, because I pay attention to that… And they said “What kind of thoughts do you wanna plant in your brain, and are they the kind of thoughts that you would wanna put in a vase?” Similar to the way you display flowers… I think about this with self-care even - how do you put things into your life that are nourishing, that are valuable, that are fruitful etc.?

Yes, that is so well-said… Because again, I have to be protective around the soil that I’m working within. So if I’m gonna even share with other people or give them access to what’s going on in my own New York City ticker of thoughts…

Exactly, yeah…

[00:08:01.05] …would I want that to be broadcast? Or how might I want to change that? So before we get too much further in, I want to make sure that people are like “Well, okay, Mireille and Adam, what is self-care?”

Yes, define it, please.

I love it, I’m so grateful for resources… So the World Health Organization actually defines self-care as “The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with (I thought this was fascinating) or without the support of a healthcare provider.”

Yeah. Especially that part with – even the with is nice too, because a healthcare provider is often a partner in health. Sometimes people go to a doctor or a healthcare provider as like “You’re the fixer. You fix me. You do all the work.” But it requires the co-mingling of desires, I suppose. This collaboration towards maintaining health, preventing disease, promoting health etc. But the without is awesome too, because that means that this is something we can do on our own, and maybe even defined by us because of what we know about us, or maybe even more so who we wanna be.

Yeah. And so I love this - the World Health Organization goes on to say “Inherent in the concept (of self-care) is the recognition that whatever factors and processes may determine behavior, and whether or not self-care is effective and interfaces appropriately with professional care, it is the individual person who acts or does not act to preserve health or respond to symptoms.”

Remember that choice thing, that choice episode we talked about as our superpower?

Yes, your choice is your superpower.

Yeah… And it’s so broad, and there’s a lot of people who misunderstand what is involved in self-care… Because I would offer one of the misconceptions as like “It’s self-indulgence.”

Right. Or “I’m selfish for doing it.”

“It costs a lot of money.”

Right… Money, time… All the costs. All the necessary resources that are consumed with it. Even your own mind, focusing on what you want, versus others.

Yeah. And it’s interesting, even that - selfish… Because you’re judging it, and going like “Man… Who buys a home and is like ’I should totally not take care of this.” [laughter]

Yes, how true…

“I’m gonna spend so much money, and then totally disregard it.”

Right. Just let it go downhill, dilapidated. It’s like… Ugh.

“I would be so selfish to clean my house and manage all that’s within it…” No one would say that, right?

And yet, our bodies and our brains - this is what we’ve got; this is our homes, so to speak. Mind, body and soul reside in this physical body. So it’s not crazy or absurd. However, a lot of people have feelings about tending to or caring for themself in a helpful way.

I might actually say it’s selfish to not care for it…

Because think about the responsibility you have to others. People depend upon you personally - you, the proverbial listener - and depend upon me… So if I’m just not taking care of me, then I’m not – I can’t be me for the people who rely upon me.

And that’s why I think we’re hitting on the point of it being misunderstood. Or that there’s this – it’s inappropriate to some degree to care about yourself.

[00:12:09.24] Yeah. I like to think about it sort of relationally, in the way of an addition equation, when so many people look at it as a subtraction, sort of zero-sum… Of like “If I exert influence on my environment or others around me, and say that “This works for me, or is preferable, or it’s within my limits”, that gets to count just in the same way that somebody else does.” So it’s adding, not a subtraction. Like, “Well, their needs or their desires and preferences minus mine equal zero.” So if they have some, mine can’t have any, because I’m already at more than zero.

It’s troubling. I don’t want our listeners to feel bad about self-care. Like, hey, you have permission. Use this episode as a wake-up call to investigate, to explore, to get curious about self-care, and maybe more so taking stock of how you have or have not done self-care for you… Because this is me and Mireille giving you permission. You have permission to self-care. It’s required, it’s necessary. Don’t not do it.

Right. Dr. Wayne Jonas, who’s an integrative health expert and family physician at Samueli Integrative Health Programs, noted that research shows that the core aspects of self-care contribute to 60%-70% of the chronic diseases we know in this world. Isn’t that crazy?

This was in an article [unintelligible 00:13:39.17] most people understand what the basics are that they need to do in order to be healthy, or in some case even reverse illness, and they also understand that it’s not easy to do… So they need help in that area. And that’s why this conversation is so important.

Yeah. So it seems like there’s this edge of self-care, where it’s almost required to push back on that metric, that 60%-70% of chronic diseases that can be prevented or fine-tuned based upon correctly doing - or actually even doing - self-care.

So it seems like there’s some self-care that’s needed, but some that just helps you be better… And I don’t know how to define that. It seems like maybe Dr. Jonas is saying that there’s some that are very core - in his case, to quote him - “core aspects” of self-care. So there’s some core self-care that’s sort of like “These are the ones – if you’re gonna do them, you do these, and you’re gonna push back on that metric.”

Yeah, well if we can sort of categorize these in three different sort of lanes, thinking about self-care from the perspective of emotional self-care, like self-talk, sustaining limits, parameters, saying no when you need to, because it’s too much for you at this point in time… Versus physical self-care, like prioritizing sleep, looking at exercise, healthy, nourishing foods - not just foods, but actually foods your body and your brain know how to process… And then spiritual self-care. And then we can talk about spiritual self-care like tending to your soul, like what things feed you, but also an extension of “Do you have spiritual or religious beliefs that act as additional support?” Because to some degree, they provide meaning and give back.

They speak to your identity. In many ways, that’s what spiritual really is. It’s like, “I am who I am, I know who I am because I have these beliefs”, whichever way you fall upon those beliefs.

Right. And so even thinking about spiritual from the perspective of acts of gratitude, or being kind to other people… Volunteering. These things are giving in a way in which you don’t expect a response.

[00:16:15.02] I know we don’t have a list of these, but what do you think Dr. Jonas is getting at when he says “the core aspects of self-care”? Is there a definitive list that’s out there that you’re aware of, that’s sort of like – while we may have categorized them, they’re not very specific into like “Okay, these are the things you do to push back on that metric in particular”, but then maybe just ones that help you be better, like sleeping, or taking a bath that’s meditative, or a long shower for thinking… We’ve talked about some of these things in aspects of just performance, but not so much self-care, which are kind of the same in a way, I suppose…

Well, I would say there’s similarities or overlap… And there’s tons of lists and ideas. We can walk through some of those for sure, but if you’re thinking about it from a broad perspective, looking at the foundations - the sleeping is pretty important, the eating is pretty important, and the exercise. And when I say exercise, I mean just not being sedentary; movement, walking. Get up, have some activity. Walk up a hill. Those kinds of things. And then anything above and beyond that is by all means bonus. So getting your heart rate up in different ways.

But if we look at our body as our house, we need a good foundation to start with. And if we’re not doing those fundamentals, it makes all the other things that much more challenging. If I don’t eat food, I’m gonna have a hard time doing my day, period. In the same way, if I didn’t put gas in my car, I’d have a hard time driving my car anywhere.

So given your analogy of “Why would I buy a home?” Expensive, mortgage payments, debt - typically, for most people… Some people buy their homes outright and own them, which is awesome… Why do you think people would do that (to go on that analogy) and not care for the thing? What is it that keeps people from caring for themselves, given how important this body is, this mind is, this soul is to me to be me?

Well, I think what you’re getting at is some of the barriers there are to doing it… In part, it’s access or knowledge. One of the things that Dr. Jonas said was that even physicians - 38% of physicians said they knew what to do to help patients make self-help changes. These are supposed to be the experts, right? And going “What do you do if you wanna be healthier and make changes?”, and only 38% said they knew what to do. I think that’s true for a lot of us; if I don’t know what to do, or I have a presumption or assumption that says “Hey, it’s gotta cost me a lot of money. I need to go have a massage every week in order to take care of myself” - well, I don’t have the money to do that. Or “I need to go on vacation. I need thousands of dollars to do that.”

So a misconception/misunderstanding is one of the most significant barriers, because if I think it costs a lot, I might not have the means to do it, or the desire with other competing means.

Also time too, as a resource.

Yeah, for sure.

Some people just skip it because like “You know what - I don’t have time to take care of me.” I say that, so I feel bad even saying it and joking about it, or laughing, because I say that, too. “I don’t have time to take care of me as well as I want to.”

[00:20:08.21] For example, in the last month or to I’ve only gotten out to mountain-bike a couple times. And that truly bums me out. But you would think that somehow, someway, I would make time if it was that important to me. So then you kind of get into this spiral of like – I don’t know how to describe it, but “I don’t prioritize me enough. This is that important to me” or “I realize how well I feel afterwards mentally, physically.” The aspect of nature, the reconnection of – all the things I love about mountain-biking, and yet, while I understand how important it is to me… One, it’s an enjoyment factor, and then two, the benefits of… I’m not getting out there as often.

Right. And so with that, I would say - going back to what we mentioned at the beginning about being deliberate or purposeful… It is so easy – just like if we’re not anchored, a boat will tend to float in a direction, and so will we. We will just move according to other pressures. And when we drift, it’s like “Oh, shoot. What?! I’m where?! I didn’t mean to–”

“Where’s the dock?!”

Yes… [laughs] So it’s the slow drift. And unless I’m purposeful and planning, to go “This is what my tomorrow is gonna look like” or “Here’s how I can incorporate these things…” I mean, what if I were to challenge you, Adam, in saying “Hey, before I see you again to do this podcast, I want you to get out on your bike one time.” Could you do that?

Yeah… So I think it’s a matter of making time. Some people say - going back to the time aspect - it’s like, “Well…” You do have the time, theoretically; I guess if you break down life experiences in that moment maybe you have less, because you have less margin to play with, and maybe that margin is utilized for a temporary timeframe, for whatever reason. I would say if I had to, I could probably carve out some time, and prioritize it.

Right. And so with that, then being accountable in some way, like I just did to you…

“Did you do it?”

Yeah. But I’m gonna ask you next week and be like “Did you do it?

Great… Great. Alright. The gauntlet has been thrown.

Because accountability helps us. If I had to attest to someone else, like “Yes, I did what I said I was going to do”, it just helps us support when we might be weak. So this gets into “How do I do it?” and “What does that look like?” And going “Hey, I didn’t tell him how many minutes or where he needed to bike. I just said he needed to get on his bike before I see him next week.”

That’s actually too easy. I could ride around the neighborhood. But that’s not what I consider a bike ride, so it wouldn’t be good enough for me. I would have to go out into the woods, on the trails, hit some jumps, hit some berms, and really enjoy a bike ride.

And welcome to what you’ve just identified as another barrier. And that is our own self-expectations.

Right. Getting it right. Doing it right. Doing it well-enough.

It has to look like Adam’s way, or it doesn’t count.

You know, and that’s actually true, because people who mountain-bike tend to have different flavors. They’ll BMX, they’ll road bike, even though they don’t wanna admit it, because roadies are not as cool… Just kidding.

But yeah, exactly. I’ve got one way I do it. The way I enjoy it most is mountain biking, getting out on the trails. So for me, if I can’t do it – and that’s part of me, it’s like an all-or-nothing, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right… This perfectionism - back to that episode; we’ll link to that.

[00:23:58.14] And this is why with yourself and having some time for self-reflection is so important… Because knowing “Hey, I’m not going to sign off on that as counting as adequate, because it has to be done to my level of expectation. And so there might need to be a little bit of recalibration internally around these expectations, to go “Hey, Adam, something is better than no thing”, and the other reason with that is because by going out and doing, or whatever the action or activity is, and even if it isn’t to your standards, you now actually have the real-time data. And if you didn’t meet it, there should be a lingering desire to return, because you’re like “Man, I didn’t get enough. I wanna do more of that.” So it cultivates that sense of craving for repetition.

Yes. Like “I need it, I want it, so that is my motivation that drives me to prioritize it, schedule it, do it, plan for it…” Essentially, make time. There usually is always time.

There usually is always time. There is, and this is why what you value in recognizing these things is so important, because I can tell you after years of working out, I just don’t mess around. It’s on my calendar every day. I don’t even question if I’m going to, it’s just what workout am I going to do… Because I know that I’m going to show up differently in the world if I haven’t done that.

And that could be anything, from like a yoga, and it could be 15 minutes to an hour or more, or just walking by myself or with my family. All of those things are nourishing for different reasons, and I have preferences as based on other stressors going on in my life, that I’ll be like “I need to do X, Y or Z.”

Well, as we said before, I made the G.I. Joe reference in regards to what you had said, but just showing up is literally half the battle.

Just show up. And I heard Jason Fried, who is one of the co-founders of Basecamp say a long time ago - in a different context, but he was talking about momentum, and just sort of like finishing or doing something… It sort of steamrolls or snowballs, or whichever one metaphor makes sense to you. Essentially, momentum - once you get a little bit of inertia, more things happen to sort of get it.

Yeah, yeah. And this is why having the self-awareness and opportunity for reflection – you know, that’s something you could schedule in your day, of going “At what point in the day do I actually step back and examine myself and look at things, so that I can incorporate feedback to make things different or put me back on the trajectory that I wanna go?”

Yeah. It sounds a lot like these borderlines on habit formation… We wanna understand self-care and the importance of it and the health benefits of it, and the permission to do so, but to sustain it, to sort of get it into your life is like understanding habits, the habit loop, motivation, productivity, to some degree, if that’s the case… Because to put these things into your life consistently, you’ve gotta want it… And you’re only gonna do it if you understand how to hack habits.

This is so true, Adam, because it brings up the point of how can you qualify self-care? How do you know - “Is this self-care for me?”

“Does it make me feel good?”, that’s my qualification. “Do I feel good when I do it, when I’m done? Did I need it to have a healthy brain?”

[00:27:57.16] Joy. Does it bring you joy? I work out because it does make me feel good. My best ideas and thinking and productivity is after I exercise… Because it’s like “Let’s do this. I’m excited, I feel like I can tackle the day because of having done that.” In the same way other things, like spending time with my family, or spending time by myself, either/or…

For me, one of the big things is being by water, so - huge plus that I’m in the North-West, where there’s lots of water.

So if we say we do it for the joy, or because it brings us joy, the definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

So what you’re saying - without saying it - is we want to optimize for happiness. That maybe even a happy brain, or happy body, or happy – I don’t know where you would plant this at in terms of my physical being… But a happiness in me brings health, enjoyment etc.

Yeah, and so I would even get real nuanced around happiness and joy, because I would differentiate happiness as more of a positive emotional experience that can be more susceptible to change quicker… As opposed to joy, which is a more deep, abiding, enduring emotional state. I can be joyful and have joy without a sense of happiness, and part of that comes from like “I know the long-term payouts.”

Part of even going to graduate school for psychology was around joy. It wasn’t always happy or fun, but it had so much meaning that that was significant for me to endure all the other things, and that’s what kept me going.

I’m gonna quote you from a recent episode, episode 27… We were talking about something like this, but it was the joy - sometimes there’s pain, and there’s endurance involved in it… And I’ll try to give as much context as I can, but you basically said “So it just makes me curious then to think about what is our goal/what is your goal? And is it worth it to endure whatever pain comes alongside, or with that goal, to endure it to get there?” So maybe it’s this joy aspect, and understanding where you’re trying to get to… We had said before “What are you optimizing for and what is your goal”, essentially, is saying that. And there’s this pain that comes with it, this endurance that comes with it, but if you can sort of focus on that joy aspect of it, then that’s self-care, and that’s what you should be focusing on. But is it worth it? That’s the hard thing. Habits, and getting them into your life - is it worth it to endure the pain to get there?

Sure. I think about that like eating habits… It can feel painful, possibly, to not have what I want to eat, at the time I want to eat it. I want the cake, or I want the chocolate… I want the non-nourishing, immediate hit sort of feel-good; the temporary fix, as opposed to the enduring and abiding sense of nourishment. Because there’s this internal sense of satisfaction that comes with caring for ourself.

Going back to our analogy of the house - it kind of feels good when the lawn is well-manicured, cared for, you’ve decorated it or put up things that are reflective of you… And so it conjures up this feeling of “Yeah, I like coming home, and I want to come home and abide within this that I created and cultivated.”

[00:31:54.02] You made me think about wastefulness then. So to not self-care is being wasteful. Or in this case, to use the house analogy, if you bought a house that you didn’t care for, that’s wasteful. That’s the part that doesn’t bring you joy. You’re like “Man, I’ve let this house go. It’s in a terrible state now.” Maybe there’s some sorrow or sadness, and maybe even self-masochism, where you’re hurting yourself in some way - not so much physically, but emotionally - because of this. You’ve let this thing go, and it’s wasteful.

Yeah, and I think about it in terms of being wise, and going “It’s not gonna be the same for all people, and so if I have the resources…” For example, “I could finish the project by that time” or “I could do this other commitment.” But it’s going to have other negative consequences. It’s still gonna cost me something, in the same way not caring for my body, my home, my life is wasteful and inconsiderate, really.

It really is, yeah. It’s not smart, let’s just say, to buy a home - to use this analogy further - it’s not smart to all the things that go into it; it isn’t just simply the financial aspect of it… It’s the thought process, it’s the hunting process of it, all the people involved in helping you buy that home. Like, how much waste would have been involved - not just simply the house itself and the dollars involved, and maybe your happiness because you’ve let it go, but everybody else involved in the process. The people that spent all that time building it, making it the home it should be…

…to be secure, to be the roof over your head. And so all this work went into making you you, regardless of your religious background or how you feel you came into being - if it’s just a happy accident, or you believe in God, or whatever. For some reason, you were made and you are here, so don’t waste you.

Yeah, I love that. In research they always identify the number of participants in the research as a variable of n… And I always tell people - because my background, and looking at research studies, like “You’re an n of one.” One. There isn’t another copy of you, there is no other you, and so I want you to do you, so that you show up in the world in the only way in which you can, and then linking that over with community, of like, nobody gets where they wanna go, and really fulfills, I would say, what they were designed to without community. So having respect for it… And maybe this is how people get to buy in to start practicing this, is going “It doesn’t just affect me.”

For example, when I take on too many responsibilities, which is why I’m also grateful for my board of advisors, like my husband, who is like “Mireille, no. You cannot do more.” I’m like, “But I want to, and it would be really helpful”, like for my kids, or school, or the community, and he’s like “Okay, then tell me what you’re gonna give up so that you can do that other thing.” Because the negative effect is gonna trickle down to my family in ways in which we have decided that is not valuable to us in the same sort of way.

Yeah… I like that. To do something, you have to give something up. It shows that you understand your resources, what you’re capable of dealing with and handling individually, and how that affects your family… And maybe even this idea of margin. We’ve talked about that before, individually… There’s a book called Margin; I’ve only read one chapter. It was on finances, and I had to put it down because it was too truthful… It beat me up really bad. [laughter] I do plan to go back to it. But I understand the concept of margin. So too often are we just operating at full utilization.

[00:36:06.13] And honestly, I think this is what has driven our conversation today, is recognizing that our time right now - people just have far less margin than they ever have, because of multiple stressors and limitations. And so given that context, how can you make prudent choices, that help you still show up in the best way that you possibly can, and cope? Because that’s the other part of this, is going “If I don’t have my healthcare provider, I don’t have support. How do I cope with aversive things, or things that exert additional pressure, that I don’t like?”

It’s tough.

It is. But coping doesn’t necessarily mean white-knuckling. It also doesn’t mean I’m crushing it every day… Coping is like “I do have a little margin, I have a little buffer… I might like more, but I’m not diminishing what I do have.” One of the things that I think that’s interesting, in that this was published - this is a research study that was published in JAMA Network Open back in May of 2019. It said “Having a strong life purpose is actually associated with decreased mortality rates.” So ask yourself this question - “How do I cope is related to what is my purpose. What makes me get out of bed each day? What gives me a sense of fulfillment, and meaning, so that I can endure the abrasiveness of life these days?”

You’d almost have to ask yourself “What do I wanna be doing at 90?” Because that’s reverse-engineering, right? I’m not saying 90 is the age I wanna live to, but somewhere beyond the norm, wherever that might be. If I’m there, if I’m there now, if I can see that future, or even have some sort of forethought about what I might wanna do… Do I wanna be walking with a cane, or with assistive devices, or whatever, or walking [unintelligible 00:38:18.20] in a wheelchair, or whatever it might be… How do I wanna be? Who do I wanna be around? How do I wanna be with them? I think about for me is my wife and kids.

Not like what do I wanna do professionally, or money in the bank. It’s not about those things at all, it’s about “Who do I wanna be for the people that I know and love, and love me the most?” Because that’s my purpose - how can I be that person for them, at that time?

Yeah, and I’m really glad you brought that up, because I think about even from my life, significant life events which have influenced me to make decisions to get me to that… So this is why going “Everyone is an individual”, and so looking back and saying “What have I been through that would affect or influence where I wanna get to?” So a huge contributing factor for me with managing my physical body actually has to do with being injured as an adolescent with a pretty severe back injury, which constricted my life for quite some time… And then going “Okay, I really need to care for and manage my weight, and have a strong core”, which was reiterated to me post-children, to go “Alright Mireille, you need to start to navigate this”, because I don’t want to have back pain for the rest of my life, because I know back pain, and that is not a way that is fun to live routinely.

[00:39:54.07] So maybe the homework might be for our audience like “What is that for you?” It sounds we described something as simple, seemingly, as self-care - one, giving you permission to be curious about it and to find ways to put it into your life and understand its relevance and need, I suppose, requirement, based upon Dr. Jonas’ study and that data that he pulled back… But kind of project to your life - where do you wanna be? How do you wanna be then, for whomever?

Yeah. And this is why going “What’s your buy-in?” Because that’s what that is.

That’s what it is for me, yeah.

Yeah. That’s my happiness, that’s going “Okay, I’m gonna endure this abrasiveness or suck of this because it takes me on the trajectory or the location that I wanna be at.” Here’s interesting research again out of the JAMA Network Open. This was published in March of 2019, and it said “People who exercise between 2 and 8 hours per week throughout their lives reduce their risk of dying by 29% to 36%.”

Or dying early, not dying generally. Because you’re gonna die.

Yes, correct. But earlier. Because it’s about moving and maneuvering, and keeping cardiovascular systems… In the same way, move into a house, I never have the HVAC system looked at. It just works, and I never, ever imagine that that’s going to go awry.

Yeah… Well, going back to me quoting you from episode 27 - is it worth it? For me, when I think about that time, that’s worth it to me, to endure whatever is necessary today… But it’s hard to keep that goal post in mind every single time the pain comes around, or the resilience is necessary, or I have to endure whatever. So I have to keep reminding myself, like “What’s your life purpose?” My life purpose might be I’m gonna examine it more. I think in this moment like “That to me is my life purpose - to be whomever I need to be at that time for my people.” And whatever today is stopping me from doing that, I’ve gotta understand how it’s pulling me away from succeeding at that goal.

Yes. So I want you guys to be aware, when we’re looking at what are some of these barriers that make it harder for me, and what thing help trip me into doing the things that take me where I wanna go - recognizing that emotional self-care, caring for how we feel can be a little harder than physical care, because there’s a little possible stigma from society, or acceptance around it.

If you were to tell your boss “Hey, I’m just taking an emotional wellness day”, they might have a different response than “Hey, I need to go to the doctor.” Which is unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need it, because someone else doesn’t give you credence. It still has credibility, because you know, you live in your body; when you know you’re getting to that limited margin zone… And ask yourself, “What are my indicators?”

I love it when – I have realized this over the years, and I think I’ve shared this on other episodes… That when a seemingly simple task feels overwhelming, like I can’t do it, I can’t fill out a basic paperwork, it’s like “Mireille, back off. Let it go, set it aside, and come back to it, because you just can’t process it right now.” So then you just develop a strategy around buffering it, as opposed to avoiding it or not doing it… Or shaming or belittling yourself relative to your inability to complete it as you expect yourself to do so, right?

[00:43:58.28] The other thing I’m caring for, sort of our brain/body/soul is really caring for your community, and going “In what way are your family, friendships, extended community that you’re a part of - how can you still interface with them in a way that is meaningful to you, and giving back, maybe without expectation or receipt of other giving back to you?”

So self-care is caring for others, too.

It seems ironic.

But recognizing how you do it is valuable… It might be you volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or you go to a nursing home, or a hospital. There’s sometimes obstacles or routes that you need to adhere to or work within to do those… But you can also – you know, the Starbucks pay it forward, and just pay for the next person.

I love this question, and we talk about this a lot - if you want to change how you function in your life and in the world, it’s asking more questions… So what’s in your hand? What is in your hand that you have, that someone else could benefit from? If you’re really constricted around time, I probably wouldn’t try to give more time to other people or your community in that way. But do you have other financial means? I don’t know. Asking yourself what’s in your hand, what are your strengths, what are you drawn to sort of support, and how might you then go about supporting the organization or community in that way.

Be generous.

Yeah. When we give without expectation of receiving something back, it just has a different qualitative feel, and it further enhances that sense of meaning, and social connection. And this is another aspect of self-care that’s really challenging right now, because our connections are restricted differently than what they were six months ago.

Right. Self-care might be hanging out with a friend or two and actually laughing. In the same room. Not latent on Zoom, or FaceTime, or a phone call, or whatever it might be. In real-time, with no latency, and you can see and enjoy their laugh. Laughing is such a big deal. I laughed really hard about a week ago, and I was like “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve laughed really hard in a few weeks, at least… Or maybe more.” And I was like “That feels good. I like that. Why don’t I laugh more often?” We definitely laugh often, but that was like a I-can’t-help-it belly laugh kind of thing. Like wow, big laugh.

Yeah, it’s so true. And even just smiling. For me, that’s part of why I do this podcast - it makes me happy; I want to give back, and give people access to resources and information they might not have known.

She smiles a lot during the show. You can’t see her, but she does.

One of these days maybe we’ll include video in some way that you can see.

Yes, yes.

[00:47:37.14] But so, getting practical and going “What do we do?” I want you to imagine that you could – there’s so many resources online with self-care ideas, and we’ll post some in the show notes for you guys. But I want you to literally create your own self-care plan. What things speak to you. Think about your past, look online, what ignites you in a way that you have more energy at the end of that time spent than where you started before that? And then write it down, put it on an index card, put it on your screen, put it as a screen saver… Get it in your visual field, or a way in which you have access to it, so that you can reference it and modify it. And so you’re going to actually schedule the time to then do it. “When am I going to incorporate these? When is my optimal time throughout the day, and what is my–” I love this… ICE - “In case of emergency, break glass” sort of thing, what is my self-care plan when I’ve tipped over and I need emergency intervention?

All too often we do the things on our calendar. How novel of an idea is that? …I put it on my calendar and I prioritize it.

Yeah, I love this. One of the things from a good friend of mine that shared, because she’s very type A and likes to complete her list, that she would literally put “Read book” on her list.

And you know, this is one - as life has slowed and changed a bit… I’ve mentioned I like to read, but I often read non-fiction or other brain-based books… And so I started reading fiction, because it’s a little sort of hiatus; it doesn’t have to be for a certain amount of time… But it’s a little escape when I’m still present around other people I love and care about.

Yeah. The accountability thing, too - even calendaring can be accountability, in the fact that sometimes it might include others, so you can invite them to that calendar item… And letting down a friend is a bummer. The last few times I’ve gotten out to ride, to use that as an example, was because I had a commitment to somebody else, too. Not just me.

Yup. And we’ve talked about this in other shows, to go “What’s the best-friend test? If this were my best friend, what would I tell them to do, or how would I respond to them?”, and let that be true for you as well.

Look, we’re always learning and growing, and that’s really what we hope for all of you as well - when you recognize that there’s a problem or a constraint, that you don’t simply get fixated on the what associated with the challenge, like “What challenge?” and then ruminate around that… But rather, examine the How. What is the workaround, and the way in which you can get others’ support, be it people, or resources that help you buffer that challenge, so that you can come out ahead on the other side in a way that really is tailored to you.

So give us feedback; we always love to hear from you guys… And until next time.

Changelog

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