New Year's Resolutions And The True Meaning Of Self Care

Last November I was hospitalized from drinking a protein powder that had Maca Root in it. Three weeks ago I just missed being hospitalized again from drinking bulletproof coffee. A few weeks before that I'd gone off my antidepressants because I was having all the side effects. After some significant research, and multiple private messages from a therapist friend urging me to read a particular book, I realized that I am what's known as a Highly Sensitive Person.

HSPs have high sensitivities to most things (as the name would imply). We get all the side effects from all the medications (we're the 1% who experience the random side effects you read about in the fine print). We fully absorb most medications into our systems, which means we need far less than most people; this is why it takes us forever to wake up from anesthesia (outpatient surgery? HA!). Our bodies take twice as long to heal from injury (or surgery), and we are far more sensitive to things like stimulants (which is why I was hospitalized from Maca Root and the MCT Oil in bulletproof coffee was leading me down the same road). We get easily overwhelmed by the world around us because we fully absorb all the energy surrounding us.

On the flip side of this, we are also highly intuitive and are able to see straight through to the heart of a matter in a nano-second. We are deeply empathic, and take on the emotions of characters in books and movies, but can also empathically embody the perspective of anyone we're in conversation with. This is what makes me so damn good at what I do; it's why I'm able to zero in on things my clients (and friends) say their therapists haven't been able to see in years, and why I'm able to help my clients make huge changes in their lives in relatively short periods of time.

As I learned all of this, I felt like my whole life came into focus, and a mantra started to come to me:

STAY IN YOUR LANE

Because lemme tell you, my lane is so damn narrow. So. Damn. Narrow. HSPs make up 20% of the population, and I've been living my life for the last 47 years as if I'm one of the other 80%. And the older I get, the more narrow my lane becomes. 

{I can't tell you how annoyed I am by people like me, by the way. I have spent a lifetime thus far judging people who are precious about themselves like this, because in my twisted world self-care = narcissism. There's a lot of unraveling to do in all of this for me, because if self-care = narcissism, and that's basically the worst thing you can be (according to me), you can imagine how little care I've been taking of myself.... So if you're reading this rolling your eyes, rest assured, I'm rolling my eyes at myself. That being said, when I have a strong reaction against something, it's always a clue that I need to dig more deeply into what I'm afraid of, or what I'm avoiding.}

It’s made me look at self-care in a whole new light. Because let’s face it, New Year’s Resolutions are mostly about self-care, but most of the self-care practices women take on have been defined by the Patriarchy: mani/pedis, massages, losing 10 pounds. They keep women doing light and surfacy shit that continue to keep us feeling like shit about ourselves, while distracting us from the truest radical acts of self-healing and empowerment.

Because true self-care is about deep self-knowledge.

You literally cannot take care of a self that you don't know or understand.

And now that I actually have some cursory understanding of myself, I'm able to make choices that care for that self. But because HSPs don't get an absolute roadmap the way a Diabetic might, there's a lot of experimentation involved. I'm down with that, but what it requires is mindfulness and paying close attention to my reactions. 

And that's where my New Year's resolutions began to take shape:

  • I've quit drinking. I’m not declaring that I’ll never drink again; I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ve grown more and more sensitive to the effects of alcohol on my system (thanks, perimenopause!), and I’m just kind of tired of feeling like shit a few days a week. A friend introduced me to Hip Sobriety, and I really love Holly’s message. I went to a party last night and had no desire to drink. I also left early because I had no alcohol to mask how the chaos and noise was affecting me. Sober, I was able to hear my inner cues and take appropriate action to take care of myself in the moment. Perhaps I had less fun than I would have had I gotten drunk, but I drove myself home, snuggled down to read and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I call that a long-term win.
  • I’m meditating daily. I’m not an avid meditator, but waking up clear-headed and hitting this habit is making a difference, and I’m keen to keep digging deeper into it. I also have ADHD, and meditation has been proven to improve focus (and so many other things). This is going to be a huge year for my business, so I’m going to need a focused mind.
  • Exercise 3-4 times a week. I’ve always been a pretty rabid exerciser, but in April of this year, I went into treatment for disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with diet and exercise. The healing has been profound, deep, dark and difficult, and it exposed some really sticky thinking about how to maintain my health while rejecting diet culture, which manifested in me rejecting it all, and gaining an ungodly amount of weight, which I can't lose on another diet!! It’s a bit of a knotted yarn and the detangling process has been slow, but I’ve arrived at what feels like a good place with it, although I understand it is ever-evolving.
  • Healthy eating. Part of my recovery was allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted for a good period of time. I had to undo the “good food/bad food” programming before moving into listening to my body (that I’d literally never listened to) to understand my organic hunger cues, and what foods my body naturally wants and needs. For example, I’ve learned that dairy gives me horrible gas, so while I don’t categorize it as a “bad food I can never eat” I want to become more mindful of when I eat it, making the choice from an empowered and mindful place, rather than a totally checked-out place, which usually leads to binge-eating.
  • Eat planned meals. One of the problems with working from home is that I tend to graze and snack all day. One of the paths to healthy eating is through eating actual meals that I’ve planned out in advance. This is going to be SUPER hard, but I’m game to try.

Those are the major ones. Here’s a list of others I’m taking on:

  • Drink 1 pint of warm lemon water upon waking, and 4 more pints throughout the day.
  • Floss every morning
  • Dedicated reading time 3-4 hours per week (not just before bed)
  • Dedicated writing time each week
  • Financial health and organization
  • Make my bed every morning
  • Put away clothes when I take them off
  • Weekly business planning + scheduling
  • Stretch
  • Nightly gratitude list
  • Walk dogs daily
  • Wash my face each night

I’ve set up a habit tracker in my bullet journal to help, and my friend and I are doing the Whole Life Challenge starting January 20th. (If you’d like to join me and play on my team, click here.)

Most years I go into the New Year thinking I have to change every aspect of my life in order for me to “be better.” This year, I’m going into the New Year focusing on self-care — the kind that requires me to more deeply understand my own system and what works for me to be as finely tuned as I can be.

If you want to join me in this, here are some questions you can think about:

  • What do you know that your system needs (that might look different from others) that you’re not adhering to?

  • When have you felt at your best? Most happy, satisfied, focused, successful. What was present in your life then that might be missing now?

  • What habits are you doing now that are really working for you that might become non-negotiables.

You might be surprised how simple this actually is!

Kate Anthony

Kate Anthony, CPCC is a certified life coach who specializes in co-parenting, separation and divorce. Kate's expertise lies in the areas of parenting, supporting children through divorce, creating co-parenting plans, and helping couples create a healthy split that keeps children at the center, not in the middle.