After six months failing to cure a pinched nerve, I told the physical therapist I was ready to graduate or flunk out. The therapy was wearing me down. He approved and brightened my summer with a lighter, maintenance routine.
There’s always more you could add to your life for self-care and self-improvement. Exercise, learn a language, eat right, meditate, and on and on. Trouble is, we all know there is a limit. If it isn’t hours in the day, it’s the stress of being more and more on duty, even if the duty is to oneself. Where’s the self-care in beating up on ourselves for all the self-care we aren’t doing?
Maybe if I’d gone further with physics or calculus, I could devise a formula to calculate the turning point between worthwhile and obsessive self-care. Perhaps economics offers a clue in the concept of marginal utility: the diminishing benefit gleaned from adding one more unit of whatever.
Not having mastered any of those disciplines, I give a lot of weight to trial and error. What leaves me sluggish or tense? What refreshes me? I used to journal three full pages a morning, come what may. Being more flexible about it improves my spirits, but skipping it two days in a row throws me off balance. There’s nothing like personal experience as a guide for where to draw the line.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.