Monday, October 15, 2012

Self-Care 101

Relaxing in the Tobago Cays by Jason Pratt, cc license
The past couple of weeks I’ve been shining a spotlight on my least-gentle moments. It’s been rather instructive. I’ve been reminded of how powerful it can be to just bring awareness to that thing you want to change. Noticing, but not evaluating, those ugly moments has given me some great insights. I’m transitioning from, “Argh! There has to be a better way!” to, “Ahh, there’s the better way.” 

One of the first patterns I noticed was how run down I felt when I was lashing out at loved ones. It was a wake-up call to the fact that I had seriously been neglecting my self-care routine and I couldn’t replenish the resources I was using every day. I was running a deficit. I needed to reassess and recommit to self care, which I define as the things you need to do to keep yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Here’s how I break it down: 

Physical Self-care

For me, the holy trinity of physical self-care is sleeping enough, eating well, and being active. When one slips, they all go downhill. Conversely, when I’m on top of all three areas, I feel unstoppable. Physical self-care covers the physical needs of your body and what you need to do to get or stay healthy, so it’s going to be different for every body. 

Getting and staying healthy is a fairly major task. If the thought of implementing a physical self-care regimen seems overwhelming, start simply with one thing. Try completing this sentence: If I would just __________, I would feel so much better. 

When I filled that in a week and half ago, it was with the word: SLEEP. I’ve been doing my best to make that a priority. I’ve even napped with Cadence a few times instead of cleaning the house and preparing dinner. So there. I already feel so much better. 

Emotional Self-care

I think of emotional self-care as the things you need to promote self-understanding, acceptance, and self worth. For me, this means having enough time to myself every day for self-reflection as well as staying in touch with my emotions throughout the day. It also involves surrounding myself with positive messages and support. Whether it’s a quote, a documented achievement, or a wise friend in your corner, we all need those reality checks that remind us of who we are and our value when we forget. What is it that reminds you of your infinite value? 

Spiritual Self-care

Spiritual self-care involves nurturing our connections to each other and to our place in the world. For some, it means regularly attending church, for others regularly communing with nature, and for other religiously posting to Facebook. Whatever it is, it’s all about feeling connected, belonging, and feeling secure and held wherever you are. This is probably the most challenging area of self-care for me. When I’m feeling stressed and my reserves are low, my first inclination is to withdraw and disengage. I have to be very intentional about making time and space to connect with others as well as time for spiritual practice. Yep, for me this area really needs work. 

Attending to your self-care and being your physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthiest self will go a long way towards remaining gentle in the most trying circumstances. However, by no means do I believe it’s the entire picture. There are going to be times when in spite of our best intentions, we do become run down and life tosses one challenge after another. How do we stay gentle then? I don’t have all the answers, but I hope you’ll continue to explore with me.

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