It feels like we often have this view that self-care and self-love is "extra" in our lives. We treat it as something we'll do when we finish everything else that needs to be done. We act like self-care is not a necessity... It's something to do ONE day when we get the time, or money, or feel we've earned it.
I definitely had this mentality at one point. But then somehow, little by little, I started to flip this paradigm, as experience has always proven that nourishing myself is not an "extra" something to do on a rainy day. It is the very essence from which I create myself and my life in a way that is always deep, balanced and inspired. The more I care for myself, the more success and abundance always flows into my life. I learned that at the height of stress and chaos, the best thing to do is always what I resist most: rest, love and coddle myself. Be frivilous! Be "irresponsible"! Take time out and forget about everything. Go on a vacation, even if that only means shutting off my phone for the day and doing whatever I want and not feeling guilty about it, and not caring about whose txts I miss.
This is difficult because the immediate urge is always to work harder, do more, hold on tighter to everything you have so you don't lose or drop anything! Meanwhile your hands are clamped shut and are closed off from receiving what might fall easily into your palms if only they were open to receive.
I still fall into this trap from time to time. It takes practice to stop the cycle, and interrupt it with something that feels seemingly so undeserved. This is work in its own right. It is work that creates its own reward. As my favourite philosopher, Spinoza, puts it, "Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but is the virtue itself."
This practice starts with something as simple as rewarding yourself with simple pleasures BEFORE you do the work, and then riding on the joy of that reward to create work that is far more inspired than something you are only doing to get to the reward after. If you put yourself and your joy first, you create work borne of joy and its excellence is the reward in and of itself.
Over the years, I've learned to be more and more extreme in this practice. I've found the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Most people would have spent the week before their thesis defense studying and preparing. I went on a vacation to Calgary, and prepared minimally when I returned for a few days. This seemed insane to me. But it turned out those few days I took to prepare were superfluous. I ended up being over-prepared anyways. If I had stayed home I would have stressed and prepared for nothing. By leaving and spending time in good company and nature, I centered and focused myself, and the work I did for those few days when I returned was more efficient and more inspired.
Similarly, before I got married, I went on 3-week trip in Bali all by myself - my first time in Asia. It seemed like an extravagent (and selfish) thing to do before a wedding. And yet it opened up my heart up to new possibilities in ways I couldn't have ever imagined.
Time and time again, I have learned that self-care is not an "extra" in my life. It's kind of like putting on your own air-mask in the airplane, before trying to do or help anyone else.
Self-care and love should serve as the foundation of our lives in which everything else is to be planted. It is the fertile soil where everything grows. It is the ground from which we CREATE time, we CREATE love, we CREATE nourishment, we CREATE abundance, we CREATE the "extra" in our lives here.
We spend so much time living our lives "upside down." We think that if we work hard enough and prepare long enough we will magically earn the right to self-care and self-love. But these things are our divine right. They are always here ready for us. But sometimes our hands and hearts are closed.
The real work comes in CREATING self-love instead of waiting for it to appear. It is simple work, but can be so hard because it often 'appears' like laziness and lack of discipline in our lives - even though it is the very opposite. It is the work of opening up the space to receive.
If this is new to you, I encourage you to take it in small steps. Unless you're an extremist like me and like to do "spiritual cliff diving." In that case, do that crazy thing that seems impossible to prove to yourself that it is possible!
A small step you could take is to schedule in 1 hour of time for yourself to do something frivolous that you would normally feel is a waste of time but is a secretly a guilty pleasure - except, hold the guilt. If it makes you feel better, pretend it's a homework assignment I'm giving you - doctor's orders! :p
Hope you feel inspired to take some time out for yourself! Stay tuned, Part III of the Ultimate Guide to Calming the Eff Down is still on its way.