I learned how to cultivate the art of self-care the hard way. A painful and chronic nerve condition called CRPS, that I contracted after sustaining an injury when I was 26 years old, taught me that self-care is a crucial component in my ability to function optimally in a body racked with pain and limited mobility. But it took me a long time to get the message. I was in fight mode, in an effort to cling to how my life was pre-injury, until I landed myself in even more pain. Eventually I understood: fighting against my body and my current reality equates to more hardship, and taking good care of myself means I can engage more skillfully and sustainably with the things I want to do with my time.
I turned 40 last summer and while I still live with the presence of CRPS, my daily pain levels are much lower than they used to be and my pain management skills are much more honed. At this point in my life, most people would have no idea that I am someone who lives with chronic pain. Those who knew me back when I was walking with a cane and worn thin by simply leaving the house, bedridden on a regular basis, sometimes ask me what has helped the most in ushering me to this greatly improved state of wellness and I tell them: learning the art of self-care.
Perhaps the biggest part of the self-care equation for me is that I rest when I need to rest. It sounds so easy but it’s what took me the longest to learn because in order to truly and completely reap the benefits of resting, it’s not just the body but also the mind that needs to take part in the process. Body and mind are interrelated, not separate.
Self-care is a daily practice that I invest in and prioritize. Self-care is no small thing. It isn’t trite or synonymous with being selfish. Self-care is what makes it possible to do what I do and to keep on doing it.
Nicole is the director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center in Missoula and helps lead retreats, organize events, and serves as the program director for Be Here Now, a weekly meditation group she founded in 2002. For more info: InMindfulMotion.com.