taking care

post-COVID pep talk

so much has fallen into place these last few months. part of me wants to celebrate, but a part of me is energized and inspired to accomplish more. it’s not an entirely new feeling, but one that hasn’t come up in a while.

i am moving away from survival mode and finally into a space where i can analyze, evaluate, and evolve. these past pandemic years uncovered determination and resilience in myself, the likes of which i’ve never seen. 

as i reflect, i feel proud to have endured the hardship and uncertainty. at the same time, i am keenly aware of how those years of being stuck in “fight or flight’ mode have affected me.  it’s exhausting to be worried about work, family, security, and health all at once all the time.

every human has to consider a few major focus areas in life:

basic needs // one’s ability to obtain food and shelter profoundly impacts the way they see the world. 

health // this does not just encompass physical well-being and mental health, but also personal safety. 

relationships // humans depend on social interaction, evolving and adapting in relationship to other beings.

during the pandemic, every human on the planet experienced a disruption to one, if not all three, of these things. this makes us feel off balance, preoccupied, irritable and unsettled. as a result, we did what humans do best which is to respond to stimuli. 

our nervous system is awe-inspiring AND remains largely unchanged from many thousands of years. when we feel stress in our bodies, they react the same way they did since the dawn of human existence. this means that the body’s natural response to being chased down in the bush by a prehistoric saber-toothed tiger is the same way we react to getting a snarky email from a coworker or encountering a traffic accident on our way to an appointment. our muscles tense, our heart rate increases, and our senses heighten. regardless of the stimulus, our sympathetic nervous system is blind to the details and can only hear one message: 

S T R E S S. 

so, when life hands us a rotten egg as it did in 2020, and the drama mounts because we experience job loss, exposure to infectious disease, and physical distance from the ones we love, we are no longer able to function as we did before.

we transition into survival mode: a sustained ‘fight or flight’ response that sends our stress hormones into overdrive.. as we soldier through the day with clenched teeth and fists, we make choice after critical choice in order to survive each moment. 

instant gratification really shines when we are in this state, bringing with it joy and pleasure that delights even if it is temporary. and why shouldn’t we enjoy a momentary respite from the constant survival struggle? we cannot pour from an empty cup after all. 

for me, it’s food. abundant and delicious food makes me happy and, when i’m extremely overprogrammed with stressful thoughts, it offers comfort from the chaos and a chance for me to enjoy myself. for others, it’s a glass of wine or online shopping or garbage television. whatever we use, the result is the same: a feeling of joy that soothes and reminds us everything is fine so we can continue the fight to survive.

the sympathetic nervous system is critical to human survival, but excessive activation comes at a price. i will stay out of the weeds and simply say that chronic stress does, in fact, take a great toll on our mental and physical health. 

for this reason, i have to share my gratitude for the blessings of this year. through a lot of hard work, a little luck, and boatloads of determination, i managed to pull off some sweeping lifestyle changes that are helping to balance my three main focus areas. i am starting to feel secure in my survival once again.

plentiful work at new companies and homeownership means that food, shelter, and utilities have once again become a certainty for my family. research has produced therapies and vaccines for COVID-19 that have stabilized the spread which helps assuage my health concerns and provided more opportunities for gathering with loved ones. 

simply put, i’m not wringing my hands with worry every day, or doom scrolling on my news feed. i have things to look forward to again. for the first time since january of 2020, i feel like i have room in my brain to level up. and now that i can look out a little further into the horizon, i want to optimize. i don’t just want to survive, i want to thrive. so, where to begin? 

let’s circle back to instant gratification. it is incredibly powerful because it can lift us from the lowest of places with a snap of a finger. we will go to great lengths for the dopamine rush, even if it yields an undesirable outcome. 

for myself, the action of eating comfort foods has become a ‘go-to’ solution in my survival toolkit for how to cope with uncomfortable feelings. it felt good in the moment, but i’m not sure it’s serving me anymore. of course, i want to lose the extra weight, but i recognize there is a bit more to the solution than that.

before i can change my survival habit for good, i have to understand where it’s coming from. i also need to forgive myself for “letting it happen” in the first place. 

as much as i wish life were a video game, and i could just select a different character or persona when it suits me, it is not this way. change and adaptation takes much more time, attention and intention than i had to give when was stuck in survivor mode. 

i am working to reframe the moment and choose self-kindness. my inclination is to be frustrated with myself for end up in a place i didn’t like, however the smarter, wiser me is proud of myself for surviving and eager to create better habits for the future. 

the journey to thriving will be long, but i am curiously optimistic about what i will learn along the way.  wanna join me?

xo,

e

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Self-Care is NOT selfish

Today, I want to talk about guilt. Not a guilt-trip or a verdict in a courtroom, oh no. I’m talking about the guilt we heap upon our very own selves. That special kind of self-loathing reserved for when we do or feel compelled to do something we shouldn’t. Eating the extra helping of dessert, taking a chill day when our to-do list is miles long, or just generally living with a case of the fuckits… We are adults (mostly) in command of our own lives, yet when we decide to do something for ourselves, we feel terrible about it! Not only that, but the guilt hangs around haunting us. My question is why? Self-care is not selfish.

Humans are hardwired to focus on deficiencies. 

We are analytical, detail-oriented beings who are very good at noticing when things don’t add up. As a species, this has served as well and made us very good at keeping ourselves alive (in a primitive sense) and seeking out and exploiting opportunities. Along the way, we’ve developed a practice of shortcutting by way of binary thinking. In trying to make decisions quickly and efficiently, we label things as good or bad, wrong or right, love or hate. We want more good and less bad, we want to be right and we don’t want any negativity. I mean positive vibes only, yah? It all seems very simple, maybe too simple.

For a great many of us, this mindset shapes our view of self-care. 

More good stuff, less bad stuff. Spend more time doing more things, not just things —productive and important things. As if taking care of ourselves is some irresponsible act, we view time spent on ourselves as something that could/should have been spent doing something more valuable. Like taking care of ourselves is at the direct expense of the rest of the world. No wonder it makes us feel shitty.

If we ask ourselves whose responsibility it is to take care of us, to ensure our happiness and safety, we know the answer. Yet, we trivialize any effort undertaken to deepen our relationship with ourselves. This simply makes no sense. Self-care is NOT selfish. If we are aware of the important role wellness plays in our day-to-day lives, we should feel empowered to seek self-care and wellness. We should not feel bad or guilty when we practice self-care. 


join Erica for a flow class on July 27!join Erica for a flow class on July 27!

join Erica for a flow class on July 27!

By gosh we should feel PROUD of ourselves!

The last time you woke up and didn’t feel good, you probably went to work anyway. Maybe you just had a tough day, but maybe you found yourself feeling worse and eventually at the doctor sometime later. By that point, you earned a note from a physician that says you’re officially sick and authorized to begin caring for yourself…now, armed with prescriptions and a guilt-free pass, it is now time to focus on your recovery and nothing else. Just a quick show of hands, who has ever received an accolade or financial incentive for coming into work sick or not using all of their sick days? Even if you did, you would still be sick! 

I bring this up because I have noticed that in many ways we all seek approval and validation to engage in caring ourselves. We’re looking for that guilt-free pass so we can focus on us without that swirling icky feeling. When we are children, validation comes from a parent or loved one that advises we are too sick for school/activities today. Later on, it’s a medical professional’s diagnosis or expert recommendations that get us off the hook. Sometimes medical help is vital, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining whether or not we need a little self-guided TLC.

It’s easy to see how we are conditioned to look to others to validate our feelings and action plan for handling them, but we don’t have to stay in this place forever. 

I’m here to tell you that we do not actually need ANYONE ELSE to authorize our self-care.

We are smart and we are capable of appraising and executing our own self-care rituals. Whether they involve skipping a workout, taking a day off, or spending a little extra on the nice shampoo. We get to call our own shots! Outsourcing self-care is silly. When you’re hungry, do you make an appointment with someone to decide what you should eat? No! You just eat! When you’re low on gas do you stop driving your car and just take an Uber? No! You go get gas. We are empowered independent amazing humans. When you need a minute, honey, TAKE A MINUTE! It’s just a minute after all. 


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Just as happiness is an inside job, so is self-care. It’s not about excuses or inventing reasons to blow off our responsibility, it’s about loving ourselves enough to say “Hey, I love ME enough to prioritize MYSELF.” We are the creators, the approvers, and the managers of our own guilt-free passes y’all, so get your best, most fanciest ink pen and do some autographing! (And if you’re free on July 27, join me for a celebration of self-care and friendship!)

In love and light,

E