Self-Comfort or Self-Destruct?

I've been going through quite a strange period lately, a bit of a rut, or slump, in which I haven't really been looking after myself properly and have, on reflection, been neglecting my health, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This prompted me to really think about why it is that, in times of stress, I sometimes still reach out to old, unhelpful and unhealthy coping strategies for “comfort”, as opposed to taking refuge in the healthy strategies that have helped me to grow?

What is it that makes me reach for Pizza, sugary fizzy drinks, ice cream and a ‘couch-potato’ lifestyle, when I know, deep down, that fresh, wholesome food, water, herbal tea, Yoga, exercise and meditation are far more nourishing and enriching and would be far more effective in lifting my mood and alleviating stress? What is it, within me that, despite really knowing this, still opts sometimes for self-destruct rather than self-care?

What I’m learning is that personal and spiritual growth is not a straight, A to B journey, rather, it is a winding, meandering road, with varying gradients and occasional rocky terrain. A step forward, particularly when that step is significant, is often followed by several steps backwards, and this can feel frustrating and disheartening. I often find, after a “light bulb” moment or significant insight, that one of these “rut” periods follow. This slump is, for me, often accompanied by feeling restless or stuck somewhere. Perhaps it is a necessary period of adjustment or assimilation…or perhaps there is something within me that resists positive change and insight… perhaps the “ego” can only take so much growth at once without feeling threatened and defending itself by retreating in to old patterns of behaviour…

What I do know is that, after some weeks of these negative behaviors, eating poorly, not exercising or doing yoga, not meditating regularly etc. is that I feel heavy (physically, emotionally, energetically), that everything seems flatter and duller. During these periods, my moods are easily swayed by outside influences, sometimes inexplicable and stubborn low moods descend upon me like a dark cloud, my thinking becomes more negative, I pick at my own flaws and faults and my “ego” becomes more prominent – I’m embarrassed to say that I “sulk” when I don’t get my own way and feel less kind, compassionate and considerate towards others.

When I do look after my whole self, nourishing my mind, body and spirit, I feel lighter, more alert; colours are brighter and music, art and nature more beautiful and inspiring. My moods are balanced and peaceful and I am generally undisturbed by negativity in others and my environment. During these times, my thoughts are largely positive and I am more accepting of myself, as I am, as well as being more accepting and tolerant of others, feeling more warmly and compassionate towards them.

What can I, or you, take from this?

Perhaps that, despite our effort and better instincts, we will all go through periods of self-neglect to varying degrees, when wellness and well-being slip down our list of priorities.

Perhaps that these periods are part of the journey, growing pains if you like, and that all we can do is accept them and work with them, rather than compounding the negativity by beating ourselves up or making self-care another “should” to feel guilty about. In this way, we work with, rather than against the flow of the universe, accepting that there is Yin and Yang, darkness and light, and that they all serve a purpose. Perhaps there is a safety in this slump period that you needed, or even, that you needed to re-learn the lesson about proper self-care and the difference it makes to your well-being?

Perhaps that, during such periods, by listening to our intuition, we will know when we are ready to gently bring ourselves back to healthful, nourishing behaviours and take the next tentative steps on our journey home.

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