In this series, we’ll be exploring the area of self-care. In Western culture, we pay lip-service to the idea that we indeed take care of our bodies, minds, and spirit as we should however when questioning folks about exactly what rituals and activities this includes, how do they truly alleviate stress and bring their systems back to whole, I get blank stares. My informal research, based really on the adults in my life – both young and old – indicates that women and men alike are doing a pretty poor job setting up routines that support good mental and physical health.
Women, undoubtably, are raised and wired to be care givers and we do a fantastic job of proliferating the species and raising those children to adulthood. So we nurture everyone else in our lives but not necessarily ourselves. This is nothing to beat ourselves up about but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a contributing factor to PMS, postpartum depression, migraine head aches, and a whole host of other hard to define, explain, and treat ailments.
And with most men, the mainstream expectation that you will provide for the family and bring home the bacon becomes primary and family is a close second. Men have their own list of vague ailments that Western medicine finds difficult to explain.
And I will admit that nothing in my upbringing helped me to understand this topic nor did the older women in my life set a good example or provide a role-model to show me this path. I was probably raised like most boomers in the 60s and 70s. Both of my parents were busy with raising a family, working outside the home, volunteering as scout leaders, with the occasional family vacation – by car of course – thrown into the soup pot. Neither seemed to do very little to nurture themselves short of going out to the officer’s club occasionally, attending parties, and 45 minutes of mass once a week. They didn’t seem to have stress relievers in their life yet any household with 9 children has plenty of tension.
So where in all of this do we find not only the time but the energy to insert anything else? It wasn’t until my own children were much older that I became interested enough to investigate and admittedly, it was because my own systems were broken and not serving me well. The PMS was probably the first indicator but before that I was relying on other substances and activities to alleviate my stress. By the time I had the migraine headaches my marriage was already in trouble. So life really forced this all on me and it took years of questions, healers and practitioners of all sorts, trial and error, and of course time to assimilate what I now realize was a completely new way of living to begin to make changes. And life began to get better starting day #1 – the key is to start. Start somewhere, start somehow, just get started.
We hear a lot about stress in the press today. We know that it’s inherent in life, that the body is uniquely designed to handle it and in fact, that we need some of it to keep us on our toes. We also know that too much will kill you for sure, and that learning ways to relax and renew are critical for a well-balanced life. But many of you reading this article will admit that you have limited ways of alleviating it. Like dust collecting in the corners of your home, you don’t notice stress until you are faced with a crisis and you are desperate for relief. Perhaps it’s a drink or two … maybe 3. Perhaps there’s a pill that takes the pain away. Perhaps it’s someone that helps you forget. Or a shopping trip. We all have our methods however many of them come complete with some madness on the other end. See https://zendances.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php But as I matured, I began to realize that everything I thought I was doing to dull my pain seem to magnify it the following morning. Not only was I faced with the original crisis but I had this renewed awareness that my coping mechanisms were failing as well- they were simply becoming yet another problem.