Christy Tending: “Self-care is like a fingerprint”

Christy Tending

Christy Tending is an activist, healer and mentor whose primary goal is to help world-changers live free from burnout. Her project Christy Tending Healing Arts offers workshops, coaching and resources for effective self-care. Christy recently shared her experience and insights with Laura Gilmartin.

1. What brought you to launch Christy Tending Healing Arts?

I’m not exaggerating when I say, “My whole life.”

I was a nature-loving kid who also lived with chronic pain. That led me to both activism and yoga (as well as other healing practices). At first, my self-care was simply about pain-avoidance.

As my activism deepened, I experienced real burnout, and I knew that I needed a strategy. I wanted to continue to be an activist, but the way I was doing it wasn’t working. Luckily, I had a healing practice that gave me a lot of skills to tend to myself.

Eventually, I sought a way to bring my activism and my healing work under one umbrella, which is what I’m fortunate to be able to do in my work now.

2. You offer a self-care toolkit that seeks to avoid, as you call it, ‘cookie-cutter self-care’. What makes the difference between sustainable self-care and tokenistic self-care?

We hold a lot of myths about self-care. In the shadow of those myths, self-care can feel robotic and unrealistic. The best way to bust through that mythology is to make self-care as personal as possible.

Self-care is like a fingerprint; so personal. To do it well relies on a lot of self-trust. When we trust ourselves as the experts in our own experience and when we create self-care that’s unique to our real lives, magic happens: not just sustainable self-care, but meaningful self-healing.

3. In your experience, what can hold us back from effectively practicing self-care?

The most common excuses I see are a lack of time, a lack of money, or a lack of knowing what to do. What I love about these beliefs is that they’re really easily dissolved.

In fact, they all stem from the same overarching tendency: to make self-care more complicated than it needs to be. At its heart, self-care is simply the ability to be compassionately present with yourself and your needs. Start with baby steps.

Maybe you need a glass of water. Maybe you need to move — and walk around the block once. Maybe you need a break and to take a few deep breaths. As long as you are doing those activities in the spirit of compassion and with kind attention to yourself, that’s self-care.

Over time, your self-care may start taking on more complex forms, but start small. Self-care doesn’t work if you go all in, only to flame out in a week or two.

4. One of the things you encourage people to do is to start a lovingkindness meditation practice. Can you explain what this is and why you feel it is important?

Meditation has been one of my core self-care practices for fifteen years. In that time, I’ve tried a lot of different forms. Lovingkindness (or metta) emerged as my primary meditation practice. Such an interest and investment of practice in metta is somewhat unusual, but it is a balm for my heart.

Lovingkindness is a mantra meditation practice in which one repeats phrases of well-wishes or blessings for oneself and then for an ever-expanding range of people in one’s realm of experience.

We wish ourselves (and others) well, with our whole hearts. It is an incredibly powerful practice for people who are looking to make change or just create more compassion in the world.

Spreading lovingkindness has never been more necessary than in the face of the hatred and fear that is pervasive in my country’s culture and government at the moment.

5. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with activists about wellbeing? Reflections from your own life are very welcome.

Wellbeing is an essential ingredient to effective activism. In the face of oppression, injustice, environmental destruction, and other forms of repression, wellbeing itself can be an act of rebellion.

I would encourage people to model the world in which they want to live. How would you honor yourself? How would you care for yourself? How would you care for others.

The urgency can feel overwhelming. But caring for your whole self isn’t taking you away from the struggle — it’s keeping you in it. Things are cyclical.

Sometimes, I’m all in. I work long, hard hours, with little institutional support or financial backing. Sometimes, that’s how it goes when you’re working to make an impact.

I try to punctuate those times with periods of rest, pleasure, and ease. Those experiences refill me, so that I can continue to give. That’s the beauty of self-care: to know what replenishes and nourishes me so that I can keep going.

If you’re having a tough time as activist, there are a couple of important things to remember:

  1. You are valuable — without caveats or conditions.
  1. It feels hard sometimes because you care.

When you remember that, it’s easier to remember how worthy you are of awesome self-care.

How did you discover what self-care practices work for you? Have you tried metta meditation? What was your experience like? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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