You’re busy and burned out, my friend. You need passive care.
Okay, you may say, but what is that anyway?
I’ve been promoting the idea of passive care with my patients and inner circle in response to the wonderful concept of “self care” that has been circulating the internet lately. In principle, the idea of putting some time in to prioritize yourself is much needed, whatever your rationale for doing so. The fact that we have to promote simple acts of self-maintenance is to me both tragic and mystifying. It’s a true sign of the times: we are pushing ourselves and denying basic self-maintenance like sleep and energy more than ever when we really need to be doing the opposite.
We don’t take time for ourselves. Between working/running business and caring for loved ones, it seems like we don’t schedule time in to make our own darn meals, for pete’s sake. To me, sacrificing our well being for whomever or whatever else comes up escapes common sense. We need to feel well and cared for in order to bring our best selves to the table to excel in work, home and personal life. And it just feels good to take care of ourselves. You feel better when you cook healthy meals for yourself instead of eating scraps of pizza pockets your kids left behind, or chugging that second coffee when you know you’ll have trouble getting to sleep that night. If you feel guilty caring for yourself, it’s time to end that nonsense. You are not a selfish person for demanding a little time and effort for yourself; but if it helps any, consider that you can be a better version of you for others as well. Self-care is not a selfish act.
With those misconceptions out of the way, I hope you can now see the necessity of practicing self-care. We know the benefits of eating well and exercising; making time to see friends and family; taking your vitamins; scheduling a night alone for yourself. This, along with many other activities, is self care.
But sometimes, for the ultra busy and uber burned-out, even self care can be too much. By its very nature, self care has the danger of being a very active, potentially taxing activity. It can be easy to overdo it, especially if you are a high performer/achiever. Suddenly, your self-care routine can become an overwhelming list of things to do for yourself on top of your regular to-do list. It can become a chore to schlep yourself to yoga and spend hours doing meal prep that you hate. Suddenly, you just can’t bare to swallow one more freaking vitamin pill, or do those cold showers that some bio-hacking guru promoted a while back. You can burn out on recovering from burnout, believe it or not.
This is where passive care comes in.
Passive care involves having someone do something for you to benefit you. You can just be, rather than do, and be a recipient of care. You must actually like the activity. Passive care can look very different from person to person as there are subjective components to what people see as relaxing, but these are my 3 criteria for an activity to be passive care:
- It must involve a minimal amount of “doing” on your part and, ideally, involve someone else performing a service for your benefit
- It must be fun/relaxing/enjoyable
- You must benefit by it in some way
Passive care can be different from one person to the next. For some people, a massage may be passive care, but my tight muscles mean that massage can be painful and, while beneficial, this alone makes it more of a self-care strategy for me.
For example, making a healthy meal is self-care, but ordering a healthy meal service is passive care. Yoga is self-care because it is more active, but acupuncture is passive care (especially if you don’t hate needles. If you hate needles and fear acupuncture, it can’t count as passive care by my criteria even if it does confer some benefit to you).
Some other ideas for passive care include: guided meditation, spa treatments, acupuncture, IV vitamin drips, mani-pedis, relaxation massage, reflexology, reiki, osteopathy, aromatherapy, “floating”, and so on.
You can be creative, but the activity should fit those three criteria above and you’re good to go.
I know that as a fellow type-A perfectionist high achiever, it can be hard to relinquish some control over your routine to another person, but think of passive care as outsourcing. You probably outsource some of your work/life/business tasks (or else you wouldn’t be as successful as you are), but please know you can, and should, outsource some of your self-care and self-maintenance tasks as well. Instead of feeling depleted and haggard, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to roll.
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