Looking After yourself when you "don't feel like it".
(because I'm an expert of bad moods and crisises, I realised that I also have another article on this called How To Make The Best Of Bad Times. Make sure to check it out, younger me was wise!)
Let me paint you an image of what Kawtar (the author) is usually like when she's not "feeling well":
Wakes up moody so calls it a day off, crawls in bed, procrastinates showering and eats whatever whenever and doesn't talk to anyone, doesn't clean room (and Kawtar gets anxious when the room stays messy for so long), watches movies way after bedtime even if her body begs for some sleep.
And this goes on as long as the moody mood goes on because Mind thinks that Kawtar doesn't deserve to be treated well when Mind is in bad mood or feeling down, scared or feeling like a failure ....or some other crisis that Mind made up.
And let me tell you, I haven't been feeling so well lately, my mind locked itself into a bubble, made a maze out of it -for fun- then froze in the middle of it unable to make a move or take a decision or look at the sky in meditation... it just ... stood still for a while...
(Yeah let's just put it that way.)
On the good news department, no harm was made to the self this time, showers were taken regularly, an effort was made to eat what's right, the laziness was reduced and sleeping patterns were more respected than usual.
What happened is I have learnt (and still in the process of mastering) to draw a line between my emotions and my reactions to them.
Whether it's about my body or my mind, I've learnt to forbid my emotions from keeping me away from what needs to be done and from what I want to do.
I want to study and learn the skills I wanna learn although that's the last thing I feel like doing.
My body needs to be cared of and well-fed and respected even when I feel like I don't deserve it.
I want and need to call my uncle because it's impolite not to, although I don't like talking on the phone.
The trick is to not leave to your emotions the privilege of making the choice between what you feel like doing ( which is usually nothing, especially when you're feeling down) and between what you want to do and need to get done.
Instead, you spare yourself that decision making and get things done, because heck, you don't need to be 100% positive and joyful to workout daily or to practice a skill as regularly as you need to.
One day you'll be feeling pumped to do it, the next day you'll feel down and won't feel like doing anything, will you let your practice depend on your mood? no,
because the mood is ephemeral, the practice is and should be permanent if you want to get any results out of it.
This is called the breaking of mental habits, I first heard about this in some episode of some podcast where the host pointed out that our toxic responses (like self-destruction) to bad emotions (like fear, or disappointment...) are just habits we got used to do and ones that can be replaced by more mature, stable and healthy responses ( like self-care, discipline...)
What this process of breaking the loop gave me was a broader meaning of what it is to look after yourself and to practice self-care. I used to think of self-care as this pampery Sunday you spend doing face masks and drinking tea and you're in a good mood and everything is fine.... when in fact, it is a much regular and permanent practice than that.
Self-care is a lifestyle and a vision of life where you don't let anything interfere with your rituals of doing what's right for both your mind and body. Whether it's your skin care routine at night or your daily reading session first thing in the morning. Practices that you do without accepting any bargaining from your mind.
The Effect of this practice.
The effect of this taming of emotions and breaking mental patterns is displayed in how you feel right afterwards: you feel better about yourself, you feel accomplished and you gather so much hope for being the best version of yourself.
What helps build this strong mindset.
One thing that has tremendously helped with this is religion! When you set the intention of following religion, such issues become indisputable because you put your mind on an airplane mode and do what is meant to be done.
For instance, it is our duty to take care of our bodies in religion, we are forbidden to feed it what will be of harm to it, we are told to make our ablutions in order to pray and not to pray with dirty clothes or with some dirt on our bodies, and we're adviced (and ma2jourine) about walking to the masjid, which results in a clean and healthy body, all these are our bodies' rights on us because they are God's gift to us and He gave us instructions to take care of them.
When we have this mindset of following God's instructions, we start seeing the body as something that isn't entirely our property and so we become more vigilant in taking care of it like we would take care of and respect something that belongs to a friend of ours.
When we think of our relationship with ourselves as a duties and rights dynamic and as an unshakable practice, everything becomes easier and it spares us so much energy to do great things instead of being slaves to ephemeral emotions that wish us to stay in bed and do nothing.