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The Importance of Self-Care and Feeling Our Pain

Today’s post was actually supposed to be about “Breaking Bad Habits”.  That’s what I had scheduled to write about in my calendar.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, because the last few days have been really tough, and I didn’t feel like writing about something in a negative light – such as how I really want to stop late night snacking after a long night shift or how I need to be more diligent about foam rolling after a long run.  So instead, I decided to put a slightly more positive spin on things.

Some of you may have been able to read my most recent post, “The Real Reason I Chose to Run a Half-Marathon”, before I made it private.  I was feeling very strong and brave and wanted to share my story and the struggles I felt that I had overcome this year with all of my readers, because you guys are amazing and supportive and always have such kind things to say.  But I guess I didn’t think about how posting something so intensely personal would affect the rest of my family, who I now know aren’t ready to share this story yet.  Even though I worked really hard (like 3 and a half hours hard) on it, out of respect to them, I have privatized the post.  I never meant to upset anybody, but since then, I feel like I’ve been walking around with this dark brooding cloud over me.  I felt like a weight had been lifted when I was able to get all of my feelings and thoughts out in the post, but now it feels like that weight has steadily settled right back down onto my shoulders.  But that’s okay – it’s no different than how I felt before.

You know that old saying, “Always Be Kind, because Everyone is fighting some type of Battle?”  It’s true.  As a reader, you’re probably now thinking about all of the struggles and challenges you’re facing right now in your own life.  We all have our demons.  We all have something that we feel is working against us in our lives.

Back in February, when I got the call that prompted me to immediately fly to BC to say what I thought were my final Goodbye’s to my Dad who was losing his battle to severe chronic alcoholism, I received an outpouring of love and support from my social circle.  I was open and honest about everything.  I figured if Dad was going to pass away, people were going to hear about it anyway, so why continue to keep it a secret?  One of my dear friends, who also lost her father recently, reached out to me and spoke to me about the importance of Self-Care.  At the time, I was overwhelmed and didn’t really have time to process what she was saying, especially when my father was discharged from the hospital by some miracle, but now I understand what she meant completely.


When we are fragile, vulnerable and heartbroken, we have a tendency to do two things – Wallow, and then Escape.  I did both.  I wallowed for a little while, spending a lot of time in my bed with the blinds shut, watching a lot of Netflix, looking at a lot of old pictures, and crying a lot of big, warm tears.  Soon after, I escaped, packing my schedule with travel, running events, and lots of work.  While these aren’t necessarily unhealthy things at a first glance, (like, say, escaping with alcohol would be) I also don’t believe that this was the best way for me to process what was happening, either.

I think it is important for us as human beings to feel our pain.  To feel everything.  Our love, our joy, our heartache, our disappointment.  We are emotional beings and as such, we are destined to feel everything.  But the funny thing about feeling our pain is that – surprise! – it HURTS.  So we look for ways to make the hurt go away as quickly as possible.  Maybe we distract ourselves with a new lover.  Maybe we indulge in retail therapy.  Maybe we run away to spend 10 days alone in Costa Rica (guilty.).  Maybe we use narcotics to numb ourselves to reality.  Whatever our escape route, we all have one thing in common – we are absolutely terrified of FEELING OUR PAIN.

What if we could feel our pain for an acceptable amount of time (whatever that time may mean to you) and then be our own hero who swoops in, scoops ourselves up into our arms, and gently lays ourselves down into a warm, cozy bed, telling ourselves that everything is going to be okay?  We could allow ourselves to watch our favourite movies, eat our favourite treats, and go for relaxing massages.  But then we could also remind ourselves to take nice long walks, eat nourishing foods, get lots of sleep, and surround ourselves with loving, understanding people – people who recognize our needs for space, for comfort, for an unbiased ear, for love – for whatever it is that we need in that moment.

I urge all of you who are going through painful situations to honour your need for self-care.

Below are a few of my favourite methods;

  • Take a long bath, complete with candles and relaxing music – if that’s your thing
  • Take up a healthy or creative new hobby
  • Treat yourself to a gift of self-improvement, such as a good self-help book (here are a few of my faves) or a yoga membership
  • Spend time with animals – they are very healing
  • Spend time in nature – also very healing
  • Journal.  Sometimes when I journal, if a lot of negativity comes out, I will rip out the pages and burn them as a symbol of letting go
  • Watch a favourite movie from your childhood
  • Plan to work towards accomplishing a Goal that you’ve always wanted to accomplish
  • Cry as much as you damn well feel like crying and don’t apologize to anyone about it

The Big Idea here is to simply allow yourself to be sad, or angry, or hurt.  Don’t push your pain away because you think you shouldn’t be feeling it – or, God forbid – because somebody tells you that you shouldn’t be feeling it.  (This is a MAJOR peeve of mine and I could write an entire post dedicated to the assholes who tell people that their feelings aren’t justified.)  Fight the urge to bury your feelings and focus on other things – even though this may temporarily be helpful – I promise you that those painful feelings will be back with a vengeance sooner or later if they aren’t fully processed and released.

When we feel our pain, we heal our wounds properly, with much less scabbing and scarring than we would have had if we’d just thrown a band-aid over the wound and attempted to keep running through the battlefield in ignorance.  And when we heal, we learn.  We grow.  We strengthen.  And, if we’re lucky, we just might inspire others along the way.

IMG_1663What are your favourite methods of self-care?

Have you ever taken up a new hobby or activity that helped you through a difficult time?

What is your go-to escape route?

Ashley Dempster is a twenty-something Canadian Travel and Adventure blogger based in Calgary, Canada. Her passions include good food, minimalist packing, running, music, and chasing down every opportunity for adventure.


  1. I think self care is SO, SO important. Every person needs to take care of themselves first in order to be the best version of themselves. What that means for every person can be very different but it’s important you recognize what you need to meet your own needs.

  2. Self Care is so important and often so forgotten.
    I’ve been working a lot on this since seperating from my son’s father – practicing gratitude, journalling, more yoga, and indulging in those blissful bubble baths to melt away stress. It’s made worlds of difference when the tough days hit.

    1. GRATITUDE is another huge one. I could write a whole post on the importance of Gratitude. During my darkest times, I kept a Gratitude Journal and forced myself to write down at least 3 things I was Grateful For every single night before bed. Sometimes it was as simple as Clean Water, Netflix, and Pizza Delivery, but hey.

      I’m really glad you’re taking the time to love yourself Becky 🙂 xx

  3. yes, yes, a million times yes. When it comes to my past struggles with anorexia, I definitely can’t attribute it all to one cause (impossible) but I’m confident in saying that my inability and unwillingness to let myself really feel my emotions was a large part in it. Hyper-controlling my body and what I was putting into it allowed me to completely distract myself from dealing with the shit going on in my life that I didn’t want to acknowledge.

    And while that is obviously behind me, I do definitely still struggle with self-care sometimes. Actually, I had a near panic attack last week freaking out about everything that I had to get done and my crazy work schedule…and ya, it wasn’t pretty.
    So thank you for the little kick in the ass to take some time for myself, and soon – because I definitely need it!

  4. Learning that I CAN feel my feelings and that my feelings are valid has been such a great lesson for me. No matter what, how I feel in that moment is real and it’s valid and no one can ever tell you your feelings are wrong (though, some people don’t seem to do a good job of learning this…….).

    Also, I’ll be sending you a note on your other post, because I never got the chance to comment <3

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