To tell this story, I need to take you back in time to last summer. I had just taken a HUGE step in my self-care journey by deciding to no longer teach lessons, so it seemed like I was on the right track. Add to that the mornings I dedicated to biking (my preferred choice of exercise) plus the personal development podcasts I listened to regularly, and I felt like a master of self-care.
I also felt like there was no better time to tackle one of my big goals: creating a course about how introverts can thrive in an extroverted career like music therapy. I sat down and created an editorial calendar — one that I thought was extremely reasonable and also allowed time for other pursuits.
As I dove into course creation mode, I realized just how big of an undertaking it really was. Since I was so passionate about the subject matter, I wanted to put 100% into every aspect of the course. Creating the outlines and writing the chapters were the most stressful tasks, though I loved every minute.
What I didn’t realize was the extent to which creating this course was taking priority over everything else in my life. I’ve let this happen in the past, so you’d think I would have noticed the signs…but I didn’t. I was going through the motions of riding my bike, taking care of my children, and attending to other work responsibilities, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t letting all of those things do what they should have done for me, which was to nourish my body and soul.
The biggest irony of all is that I was writing about the importance of self-care as an introverted music therapist, all while not practicing what I was preaching. While I convinced myself that I was implementing self-care because I was “doing” those things, I wasn’t present enough for them to be effective.
In turn, I spent the summer feeling anxious, preoccupied, and unfulfilled. Was I proud of the work I was doing? Yes, without a doubt. But I was ashamed of the bad habits I was letting creep in, like not eating well and spending too much time alone. That’s a slippery slope for an introvert, because although I get my energy from being by myself, an overabundance of solitude can have negative consequences.
Yet down that slope I went. Most of June, July, and August were spent holed up in my home office, hunched over my computer. My direct service load was especially light during these months, which meant I didn’t need to go into the studio most days. I saw very little of my friends, didn’t go out of my way to attend social events, and felt extremely disconnected from the outside world.
The damage that I had done to myself over the summer by letting self-care slip away became all too noticeable when my family headed to Florida for vacation. I had really been looking forward to this all summer, and purposely completed all of the course outlining and writing prior to leaving.
So while this should have been a time to celebrate and relax, instead I felt guilty and more anxious than ever. Guilty that I had let an entire summer pass without really enjoying it and soaking up the time with my family; anxious that I still had more to do when I returned home to finish the course and prepare for the launch.
Returning home from that vacation was a turning point for me. The wake-up call that my self-care was suffering came loud and clear, and I was ready to make some real changes in my life to get back to the good place I had been before.
Spoiler alert: I made those changes and got back to that place. But I’ll save the details of what I did and how that journey looked for my next blog post. In the meantime, I would love to hear if you’ve had a similar experience when self-care falls off the list of priorities (especially if you’re an introvert like me). And if you’re in that position right now, take heart: it is easier than you think to get back on track. Stay tuned…