I am so excited that you are here today because the topic we are covering was so eye-opening for me when I learned about it!
Why can’t we practice self-care?
One of the main reasons is that we are unable to stop and listen to the signals that our body sends us. The reason we don’t stop is that we have learned to adopt a “push through” mentality, along with certain patterns of being and psychological behaviors that actually work as barriers to our intention of practicing self-care. These behaviors unintentionally prevent us from taking care of ourselves.
These patterns of behavior all speak to one universal truth: we don’t act like we deserve self-love.
So let’s dive in.
- The first pattern is a compulsive and automatic concern for the needs of others while ignoring our own. This behavior happens because we are wired to be other-directed and we think that every answer to our questions is outside of ourselves.
- The second pattern is a compulsive and rigid identification with a “duty role” and responsibility, rather than what our own mind and body need. What does that look like in real life? We are so consumed with our roles, trying to be impeccable at home, at work, with our family and even with friends, that we ignore what our body is telling us.
- The third pattern is the suppression or overexpression of anger. We either hold anger in too much, or let it out too much, and there are serious consequences for both.
Suppression of anger is a major risk factor for chronic stress because it suppresses the immune system and in the long run, this could lead to autoimmune disease and even cancer. On the other hand, when we are raging all the time, it increases our risk of heart disease and stroke. Most of us don’t know that there’s a healthy expression of anger, which is the defense of our boundaries.
Put simply, all the barriers to self-care that I have described are due to a lack of strong personal boundaries. This concept is difficult to grasp or admit, but it is necessary if we want to practice authentic self-care and grow healthier and happier in our lives.
One way we can learn to become more self-directed and self-aware is by asking ourselves difficult questions and striving to answer them with kindness and honesty. Do we need to stop and take a break? Do we need more sleep? To eat better? To take five minutes to refocus? Do we need to say no even if it means that someone will not like our answer?
The reason it is so important to become aware of what our mind and body need in real time is that the western lifestyle we live creates a continuous state of activation of our nervous system response to stress. Then, when the time comes and we are exposed to higher levels of stress—which is an inevitable fact of life—we have a rock-solid practice in place to support the increased demand on our nervous system and remain healthy.
Unfortunately, for most people when they are under increased stress, all of their self-care behaviors just fall apart. They forget about diet and exercise, they eat more high fat and sweet food, they are more sedentary and have more trouble sleeping.
We become victims of our stress instead of using stress as a framework to organize our lives and maintain health despite the smaller or bigger challenges of everyday life.
Have you ever wondered, why so many of us struggle with practicing healthy habits and taking care of ourselves when we are stressed out?
The answer is in our brain.
The human brain is hardwired for survival when we are exposed to increased stress, which makes it really hard to control our behaviors. There are two main systems in our brain that control this behavior: the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system.
The prefrontal cortex is the home of planning and control; this is the part of the brain that we want to be on all the time! This part of our brain is activated when we’re feeling really relaxed and clear-headed or after working out. This is the area that helps us solve problems and control behaviors that we don’t want to be doing. So, when we want to ignore the cookie that is sitting there, it takes a tremendous amount of prefrontal cortex activity to leave it on the table.
Then there’s the limbic system, which is our reward center, the home of emotions and pleasure. This system drives a lot of our unconscious behaviors.
These two systems are extremely hardwired. This is how they work: when we are emotional or under stress, we live in our limbic brain and this brain is a killer because it literally shuts off the prefrontal cortex. As a result, we are doubling down in our inability to control our behaviors because 1. we are feeling emotional and under stress and, 2. our control center in the prefrontal cortex is now turned off. On the other hand, the limbic brain is hyperactive under stress and its activation actually calms down our stress response–which makes us feel better–but because we are not able to use our control center in the prefrontal cortex, we chose to do calming behaviors that are not good for us, like eating too many of those cookies!
Basically, our brain is hardwired to do things that make us feel better but are not necessarily better for us.
This is what I meant in the beginning when I said we don’t act like we deserve self-love. And that is why we need to learn strategies and tools to become aware of our emotions and regulate our behaviors and our stress response so we can manage stress and grow our capacity for health and happiness in our lives.
When I discovered this, I became obsessed with researching rituals and healthy habits of self-care that are backed by solid science and that can help regulate how the nervous system responds to stress and challenges.
Next week I will share the core of these rituals so you can start making an action plan to remind yourselves to re-connect with yourself and make time every single day to take care of yourself and grow your capacity for health and wellbeing.
I hope you will join me on this journey to learn about them!
Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are your barriers to self-care?
Leave a comment in the comment box below and let me know.
And if you want to learn some very powerful rituals of self-care, go to my website and download my free audio-training of the 4 rituals that will change your life forever.
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And remember you have the power to harness your stress into growth, health, and happiness!