Self-Care is extremely popular these days for good reason. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, self-care was not part of my vocabulary. I was taught to take care of everyone else first, as were many of us back then. Taking care of others is a good thing, but not when we jeopardize our own well-being.
Self-Care As Opposed To Being Selfish
Self-care does not mean self-indulgence or being selfish. It means taking care of yourself, so that you can be healthy in your life. So that you can be well to help take care of others, to do your job, and to get your needs met. When we feel good in our lives, we are much better equipped to be helpful in the world.
TMS stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome, which is chronic pain where there is no physical injury. It can also be called Neuroplastic Pain or Mind-Body Syndrome. There is a miscommunication in our brains, and sometimes our brain causes pain where there is no injury. It may sound bold of me to name Self-Care as the cure for TMS, but in my opinion it is.
Self-Care and Our Critical Voice
As children, many of us did not learn to attend to ourselves, to allow ourselves to feel and express our feelings in a healthy way, to talk kindly to ourselves, to be our own best friend, and this is really what I am taking about. Taming our critical voice.
How can we be happy in our world, in our lives, when we are being critical of ourselves; when we are pressuring ourselves all day long. Emotionally well, fulfilled people, do not do this. They attend to themselves first, and therefore have the energy to tend to others. They are not running on empty.
Many of us with TMS have run on empty for years because we have not practiced self-care in our lives. So in my opinion, learning self-care is the cure. I’m not saying this is easy, it takes time to learn new patterns, but eventually, over time, we will feel much healthier and fulfilled in our lives.
Self-care vs. Fear and Hypervigilance
I live in Colorado and through my long road with TMS I have compared this journey to the wildfires that have been burning through the West the last several years. They’re not such a bad thing if they didn’t burn down our homes, cities, and take lives, including animal life. The soil gets richer making it easier for new plants to grow, getting rid of the dead ones. Insect infestation can be decreased. But overall wildfires are destructive, and we would prefer to not have them.
TMS is about fear. When we get in the habit of living from a place of fear, instead of ease, we become hypervigilant. When we are hypervigilant, our brains sometimes send danger signals which results in pain. Pain is a danger signal from living a life of hypervigilance; people pleasing, perfectionism, worrying, anxiety; instead of a balanced life of self-care.
Read my post “How to Retrain Your Brain Out of Pain,” to learn more about how to get out of a chronically fearful, hypervigilant, or fight or flight state.
Nobody would choose to live with TMS, but walking through it can enhance our lives. It inspires us to learn about ourselves, to dig deep into our fear and learn why we have lived a life of hypervigilance. We learn to have compassion for ourselves, live a little easier, a little more gently. We learn that we are human. No need for shame. We start to cut ourselves some slack, put less pressure on ourselves. We learn not only how to live without chronic pain, but we learn to heal our relationships and our lives. These are all forms of self-care.
So where do we start? Our old patterns die hard. This is a process and it takes time, practice, and repetition, but it’s very possible. I’ve done it and I believe you can too. Below are five ways I was able to start putting this process into practice.
5 Ways to Improve Your Self-Care
Below are 5 ways you can begin to break free from your old patterns. From running on automatic to the same old ways that no longer work for you. They are simple, but not easy. Changing old patterns takes effort and conscious choice, and that is what these 5 steps will help you with. Choosing consciously to make better choices so you feel better in your life. So you can have a fulfilling, pain-free life.
- Take a Deep Breath
- Ask “How Can I Help Myself?”
- Choose A Better Way
To change a pattern you have to pause, or stop. Pausing gets you out of your head and that is the first step. It helps you to become aware, instead of being on autopilot. It brings you back to the moment.
Taking a Deep Breath
Taking a deep breath will help your nervous system to slow down. It will hep you to feel more calm so that you can attend to yourself. So that you can notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Focusing on our breathing is the number one way people meditate. Breathing helps us to get out of our heads so we can notice and attend.
Noticing or becoming curious about what you are thinking and feeling takes you out of fear. Noticing is the antidote to fear. You are now “The Watcher.” Noticing or watching is like zooming out so that you can see the bigger picture, or so that you can see more clearly.
How Can I Help Myself?
Now that you are attending to yourself by pausing, breathing, and noticing, ask yourself, “How can I help myself?” You are now in a place where you have choices rather than reacting in the same ways that have led to pain in the past. You can now choose a better way. You can respond, instead of react.
Chose A Better Way
Now you can choose a better way, rather than the old way. It may be choosing to journal, it may be choosing to talk lovingly to yourself, and having compassion for yourself, it may be just sitting there being present and enjoying the moment, or it may be setting a boundary with a loved one.
Whatever you choose, choose what YOU need to feel good in the world, and over time your life will begin to transform.
We would prefer not to have wildfires that can bring new life to our forests, as we would prefer to have had a life without chronic pain, but in the same way a wildfire can enrich a forest, TMS can enrich our lives. Being pain free is not the goal, but self-care is, living lighter is. Living in the peace and calm. Living compassionately and courageously.
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