Self-Care or Laziness: Trying to Learn to Tell the Difference

January is a rough month. And this January has been rougher than many. As soon as I started to feel better from the medication transitions I came down with a bad cold. I’m having trouble shaking it. A lot of my goals have been put aside while I focus on making tea and food that I can eat despite my aching throat. I haven’t worked out or attended my doctor appointments, or done much of anything but the bare minimum.

self-care or laziness: trying to learn to tell the difference

When I first got sick I felt like I had to do something so I pushed myself to be productive. I couldn’t focus and instead I took care of chores and cleaning. I burned up all my energy and woke up much worse the next day.

Since then I’ve been trying to force myself to rest, rest, rest, and more rest despite my need to be doing something, to work on something, anything. When I’ve had a spike in energy, I’ve had to be careful not to go all out and set myself back further the next day. It’s so hard.

This isn’t a new problem I have. It’s just exacerbated when I am sick or having a bad mental health day. But this kind of need to always be doing makes it harder to bounce back. Instead I stay sick. In fact, I probably have a cold because I didn’t rest enough when I was struggling with my medications.

I never know when I’m taking care of myself and when I’m being lazy. As a result, I fluctuate back and forth between trying to take care of myself and trying to work hard. I’m sure I’m not the only one, especially among those who have chronic illnesses. It’s harder when you already need more downtime, especially when the world isn’t set up for that kind of need.

It’s easier to take time out for having a cold, because people understand when you tell them you have a sore throat and lost your voice, but they don’t understand when you’ve been up all night because your new medication made you wired and awake.

Of course, it was also easier for me to email in sick when I literally couldn’t speak than when I was mentally low or my back was screaming. I felt like that was a clear need. I was sick (maybe even contagious) and so I should take time off. But I have trouble giving myself that permission most of the time.

I’m afraid of being lazy and of not being as productive as other people. I feel the constant need to prove it, like I have to do even more than others because I often can’t do as much as everyone else. And then I push myself to the limit and run into a wall, which gives me no choice whether to rest or not, like this cold.

So this week, I’ve been sleeping extra, reading more, and watching TV instead of taking care of my extensive to do list. Or at least trying to. I can’t totally repress my instincts, even if that means that I have to skip making dinner because I used up all my energy catching up on email and other small things.

I try to believe that’s why there’s frozen pizza: for days when I am not up to making dinner for whatever reason. Is that lazy or just what I need at that time? I’m trying to believe it’s the latter and for others I would of course recognize that there are frozen pizza days and cook from scratch days. As a result, I’m trying to trust myself to know the difference. I’m trying to rewire my need to be productive and always doing to more accurately represent my instincts.

This post has a lot of the word “try” in it. I feel like that’s not an inaccurate representation of where I am mentally, physically, and in general—this is what I think I was getting at with my post on resolutions. So in that regard, I am on track to fulfill my goals for this year, in a roundabout way!

self-care or laziness: trying to learn to tell the difference

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6 thoughts on “Self-Care or Laziness: Trying to Learn to Tell the Difference

  1. This is such a relevant topic, Jen! In my experience, many Millennials have been pushed so hard — by parents and also by technology’s erasure of 9-to-5 time — that “self-care” vs. “laziness” are the only, polarized-opposite, options. What has happened to other, on a spectrum, ways of being? When we take a day “off” lots of good things happen: we can waken naturally, without an alarm; we can experience a slow pace that recharges us; we can give our brains space to consolidate and crystallize feelings and thoughts …… we can BE. Being is as important a task as doing. You were sick, and your body was telling you that “laziness” is an appropriate response. But, yes, “self-care or laziness?” is a question that resonates for so many these days. Thanks for this post.

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  2. I so appreciate this post. I think part of the problem for me by always feeling like I’m lazy is I had a boss for years who would super guilt trip you when anyone would call out. Are you really sick? You don’t think you could make it through the day? At least try. On top of that when other people called out as well he would make it very clear he didn’t believe them. Unfortunately those things kind of stick in my head well, maybe I could do it. If my boss doesn’t care if I’m coughing all over the place I should go. It’s a vicious circle of other people’s judgements clouding out my thoughts on this one. Anyway take care of yourself! There’s a whole year ahead to look forward to 🙂

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    1. Definitely! Graduate school taught me that I was never doing enough and that taking any time off was laziness, even being sick, because everyone else was sick and came anyways (which is probably why we were all sick). Getting out of academia is giving me the chance to try to get away from these kinds of judgements, although it’s hard because they get internalized. I’m sorry your boss was so awful!

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  3. I so enjoyed reading your No Sidebar post today, which led me here to your wonderful blog! It was so nice to meet you! I surely understood so many things you talked about in this post. I struggle so much with a lot of the same things, and I can relate. I truly hope you get to feeling better very soon and am praying for you right now. Thank you for sharing your heart. It was such a blessing to me to get to visit with you today!

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