Five Things the Flu Taught Me About Self Care
January 4th, 2018. I had a hair appointment, and I was really cold. My lower back was achy. My skin was hurting. I needed to get my oil changed and run to Lush for my purple shampoo (#plantbasedbeauty). It took every single cell of my body to will myself through each errand. In my head ran a continuous loop of:
Please don't have the flu. Please don't have the flu. Please don't have the flu.
By the time I made it home, I had a fever of 99.5.
It seemed pretty likely I had the doggamned flu.
The next morning I awoke and my fever was only 98.8. I had a sold out yoga workshop and figured I actually didn't have the flu, and I did my own yoga practice and then taught the two hour workshop.
By the time I made it home, I felt like a cold piece of ham that had been over-microwaved and then placed in a stainless steel container filled with fire ants. My fever was up to 101.5, and I resigned myself to the fact that I had the doggamned flu.
I spent the next seven days trying to lay horizontally, but... I am not always the best at laying horizontally.
I watched three seasons of Six Feet Under. I recorded a brief audio excerpt from my book and made a page for you to check it out. I wrote blog posts. I interviewed for a new coaching gig. I lifted heavy boxes from 4 am to 8 am one day. I ate lots of miso. I drank tons of ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and honey tea. I poured garlic oil in my nose and ears. I drank tons of water. I tried not to suppress my fever to let my body do its thing.
Most importantly: I learned a lot about myself and how unkind I am to myself. Truly, it was an awakening not only for myself, but also for all the other women I spend time with in my life. How often do we give ourselves a hard time for having a hard time?
Having the flu was very enlightening for me. I am so very grateful I got the flu, because it revealed some habits I would like to shift; in fact, many have already been put in place. On top of that, immediately after having the flu, I got so many compliments on how awesome I looked; like, apparently I was glowing. It may have been the face masks I did every day, but I found it strange that after having the flu... even the first day back out in the world... I apparently looked... better?
Obviously something had shifted.
I've noticed a trend recently in self care articles. Have you? It seems we're in the midst of a self care Renaissance, and I'm ABOUT it.
Self care is more than pedicures and bubble baths and champagne and massages and yoga classes. Those things can be, and often are, self care, but I'm of the opinion that real self care is simply being your own best parent. Taking the medication that makes you feel better. Eating foods that light you up. Folding your laundry (dear god I'm actually the worst at this one). Going to yoga is only self care if you can be as yogic about your laundry folding as you are getting into a full bind in Bird of Paradise.
Five Things the Flu Taught Me:
- What I Want
- Affirmations Ducking Work
In yogic philosophy, many of the teachings stem from ahimsa, or practicing non-violence. Non-violence towards ourselves. Non-violence towards others. One of my favorite explanations of the importance of practicing ahimsa is this: our ability to be compassionate towards others is directly related to our ability to be compassionate towards ourselves.
I had a hell of a time allowing myself to simply lay on the couch not moving. Why?
I felt obligated to teach yoga classes. See clients. Run workshops. Update Instagram. Write and share my Wellness Wednesday radio spot. Do all the things. Show up for all the obligations. Be fully Brittany.
But... I wasn't showing up for myself. I wasn't being where my feet where.
How often do you find yourself somewhere totally different from where your feet are planted? Try kicking off your shoes every once in a while and allowing your bare feet to connect with the earth. Ground yourself. Remember where you are. In this moment.
And that leads me to number two:
I spend my days hopping from place to place and thing to thing. I am very busy. I am part of the "busy" problem. I never really realized just HOW busy I was until I had seven days to lay relatively unmoving and notice the passage of time. Usually, the days fly by and I exist in a constant state of "when am I going to get the next thing done." It's Monday and I'm worried about Wednesday. It's Wednesday and I'm worried about Saturday.
The flu frankly didn't give an eff about my plans. It was just like "what's up new host? I like you. Let's be friends forever!"
I had to take every obligation day by day. Each evening I spent reaching out to other yoga teachers. Clients. Affiliates. "I'm so sorry. I have the flu. I can't make it tomorrow."
You know what? Everyone was super understanding and... the world kept going. The fact that I didn't do Wellness Wednesday? Maybe a couple people noticed, but overall, it's not surgery. I'm not a surgeon cancelling life saving on the table operations. It was humbling and beautiful to realize that, number one, I had many understanding clients, affiliates, and friends... but also: what I do ain't all that important.
Now, I say that rather flippantly. Obviously I love the work I do, and it is important to many. But it's not so important as to risk my own health.
In fact, being so very present with myself and missing out on a few obligations helped me to realize:
What I Want
"Seek your truth. Speak your truth. Want what you want." This is a quote from my own writing, and it is an integral step in my Fed Up to Well Fed Framework. I am a firm believer that many women are suffocating their desires, stuffing them down beneath "should"s and "shouldn't"s, "couldn't"s and "could"s.
How often do we fill our calendars, over scheduling ourselves and desperately attempting to fit it all in? Sacrificing what we want.
The seven day space on my couch allowed me to exist in a parallel universe in which... I got to do exactly what I wanted. Now I'm not talking shirking responsibilities and devolving into a life of Netflix binging (those aren't probably what anyone really wants), I meant that I had the space to journal. Evaluate. Be with myself and my responsibilities and feel which ones felt really heavy and unaligned, and which felt super GREAT and aligned. I mentioned I had an interview for a new coaching gig (a first and a second, actually), and I was clearly able to see what I could let go to provide room for this new opportunity.
As of December 31st, I was teaching seven yoga classes a week. Now? Now I'm down to three.
What is no longer serving you? What can you let go of?
As one of my mentors says, you have to let go of the good to make way for the great.
What's good in your life that isn't necessarily lighting you up? What do you want more of? What do you enjoy? What lights you up like the top of the mother trucking Chrysler Building?
I wrote the following as a battle cry for both you and me:
I will make and implement plans and no longer sit and wait in the shadows.
The time has come to rise and take what I've been working for for so long.
To take it and make it happen.
I will not sit and wait to be chosen.
I felt this so deeply into the marrow of my bones that I had a dream my high school best friend and I were getting married. We made a pact when we were about 15 that if we were both single when we were 30, we'd get married... 30 seemed terribly old, I suppose (NO! Elliot, I'm sorry, I love you, but not like that) Which leads me to the next realization...). In the dream I was like, HELLZ NO, but I will buy myself this gorgeous engagement ring because... I love myself. And in the dream it was so terribly specific. And so in real life I bought it for me. As a reminder of what I want.
Affirmations Ducking Work
Whilst checking my temperature and navigating the waves of high temperature and low temperature that washed over me throughout the seven days, I noticed that quite often when I felt the worst, my temperature was actually way below 98.6. 97.1. 97.3. Why would this happen?
I know thyroid health and fevers are intricately linked, but what I really tuned into was: the power of my thoughts.
Call me crazy (many do), but I used to use the power of positive thinking ALL the time.
I would sit and meditate every morning, thinking thoughts of gratitude and appreciation for what I have and for all the things that I receive. When I had the flu, I realized this practice of mine had totally gone by the wayside, and when my temperature would drop, I would tell myself, "you should be feeling better; get up and get shit done!" Yet i felt worse... so I shifted my thoughts. And that shifted my actions. And that shifted how I felt.
I've recently begun working affirmations into my program with women more deeply, and I'd like to share a few that we've devised:
For the woman who treads a fine line between overeating and not eating enough:
I eat foods that I know benefit my body and fuel my desires, and I don’t overeat out of boredom or habit. I eat out of Desire. I savor.
For the woman who wants to up her yoga practice, but can't seem to muster the gumption to actually hit her mat:
Doing yoga on or off the mat daily brings me joy and fuels my desires.
For the woman who feels she's in a dead end job, or a job that's no longer serving her:
I am grateful for work that fulfills me.
And one of my personal favorites:
I'm sorry. I love you. Please forgive me. Thank you. (Ho'oponopono)
Oh. My. Gators. It's not until you have the flu and you're cut off from your normal people are places that you realize how very empty your house is. And how very much you absolutely love the dear friend who brings you lentil soup (thank you, Erica) and the mom who drops by with toilet paper, kleenex, and a tulip (bless you, my mother) and the roommate who doesn't care that her living room has become the sick ward and the yogis who you've never met who cover your yoga classes...
Just like that, you remember that it takes a village, and self care is just as much about caring for yourself as it is about caring for others.
Inevitably, when I have the self care conversation with clients, they have no idea what self care looks like for them. No idea how they like to relax. No idea what brings them joy. No idea what "downtime" really looks like.
What's self care look like for you, friend?