We all have different definitions of self-care, and these definitions evolve as we grow, and often, as we age. In our 20’s, self-care might mean a good trip to the spa, while in our 30’s it might mean a good talking to ourselves. What self-care means in your early days might contrast drastically from your 40’s, just as in your 40’s it may be very different from your elder years. This article is meant to be a guideline by which you can determine if your definition(s) of self-care is / are about a deep regard for yourself. And if they aren’t, how to deepen your rituals of caring for yourself so that you can tap wellbeing and resilience more impactfully. Your future self will love you for it.
Self-Care As A Divine Responsibility
While going to the spa is amazing!… fun, relaxing and luxurious (you don’t have to ask me twice), there is self-care that takes a deeper cut toward your wellbeing. This type of self-care is sacred and cuts to the heart of what it is to be truly good to yourself; and that cuts to the heart of what it is to be connected to yourself in a way that harmonizes your actions and brings you a deeper integrity of being.
10 Things to Consider as You Deepen Your Self-Care
Do you find ways to manage your stress? There are many ways to take on stress, and while getting a massage can feel incredible, a spa visit is not always an effective way to handle stress. Why? Because stress does not only live just in your muscles. Stress has its roots in your nervous system. You can’t massage stress from your nerves. So you must find deeper ways of reconnecting to your Parasympathetic nervous system, the system in your body responsible for the states of Rest & Digest.
The states of Rest & Digest are highly important to the optimal functioning of your body. When your Sympathetic nervous system is constantly in action preparing you for Fight or Flight, then you don’t have what your body needs to restore itself. Imagine if you were fighting a war constantly without eating and without sleeping, you body would fail from deprivation. The war would no longer be waged, because your body would give out. In your everyday life, your brain identifies danger and responds to it. It can be actual physical danger, but more often than not it’s the more sinister dangers of not getting that report in on time; of upsetting your boss, or your employees; of upsetting your already on-edge spouse or partner; of missing out with your family; of not paying that mortgage bill in time that trigger the brain into Fight or Flight response.
Whatever your circumstances, your brain is trying to keep you safe from these eminent (and most sinister – lightness is necessary here) dangers. So if you a) are not sleeping well, b) have a busy mind, c) find yourself in different states of anxiety or depression, and/or d) have physical ailments that keep you from functioning optimally (or fully) in your daily life, look deeper into what can relieve your stress upon your nervous system because your body’s restoration to wellness depends on it. Meditation and mindfulness are great possibilities, and there are a multitude of modalities that can bring relief and peace. Find ones that suit you.
Do you honor your body? Do you take the proper time with your food to digest it? Do you take care to get the proper nutrition – even on the go? Do you get enough to eat? Or are you an overeater to numb yourself to bad feelings? Do you fog eat? Are you aware of what’s in your food? Do you eat mindfully? Do you honor your food as you eat with a prayer or a thought of appreciation? Do you think negative thoughts about food like “I really shouldn’t be eating this” or “this is bad for me?” Do you heed your body’s warnings?
If you don’t have answers for these questions, seek them out. You can get the answers from within yourself or from a health professional.
Your body is a temple.
If you don’t think so, consider how that kind of sacred regard for the one body you’ve got – the tool that carries you through this life and you cannot do without – could transform your health.
Do you check in on your physical wellbeing on a regular basis? Or just hope for the best? Or worse, do you say you don’t have the time to go to the doctor or get checkups? Not having enough time to check in on your own physical health is indicative of a denial of what’s important to your wellbeing.
You don’t have to identify with Western medicine or Eastern healing methods. You can participate in both or either. However, it is important to tune into your body and get whatever it needs to remain healthy. Self-imposed limits are just that – self–imposed limits. They are an opening for a new perspective, for insight, for a chance to change your behavior and begin to deepen your relationship with yourself thereby enhancing your self-care. Use this eye-opening moment as a pathway to your own well-being. If you haven’t seen a doctor in years and you ascribe to Western medicine, go see one now. It’s that simple.
Do you think well-being is only about your physical body? Wellbeing is not just about your physical body. It is about your whole being. Being well relates to your mind, your body and your spirit. Are you well? Are you concerned that you may not be? Or are you not concerned, but have an inkling you should be?
Do you hope for the best often? Or do you not think about it at all because… “you’re not sick, crazy, or anything else I might be implying!”
Mental illness has no prominent indicators. You have a high temperature with the Flu. Your nose is running with a cold. You have a rash and irritated skin with Eczema. What do you have with mental illness? Not often a lot. Unless you pay close attention to yourself. If you pay close attention, you can see patterns of behavior, pains that are recurring, bad feelings that accompany negative thoughts… there are indicators, they’re just more subtle.
Everyone can use a place to share their authentic fears, their confidences, their ups & downs, their anxieties, their safe harbors and the breaches of those safe harbors. While sharing all of this with someone you are familiar with can lead to a new level of intimacy, it can also subject you to their opinions and judgments and their personal preferences – they’re human.
A therapist, or other mental health professional, however has expertise to offer objectively from years of education. Have you ever thought of seeing a therapist? If you have but you’re afraid someone you know will find out and judge you, there are apps for that. There are a number of celebrities who are being outspoken about their mental health challenges. There are multiple resources, literally at your fingertips.
If you take the deep dive and go for an in-person experience, you certainly don’t have to settle for the first therapist you visit. Absolutely, find a place where you feel safe and make sure you vibe with the person you’re working with. And if the one-on-one aspect doesn’t work for you, you can also try group sessions where the focus is not solely on you.
Every one of us has something that bothers us. All of us have learned well how to suppress, avoid or ignore what bother us, so much so that we have numbed ourselves in the process. Once you are numb, of course not much bothers you anymore. But living that way can undermine both your wellbeing and your success in life. Being vulnerable is your greatest strength. Resilience is your birthright. Choose someone to talk to who honors you and what you have to speak about.
A healthy mind leads a healthy life.
Do you speak your truth? And I don’t mean in a Stand Up For Yourself Or Lay Down And Die-kind of way. Although, if that’s important to you, it could be instrumental in your self-care, but I’m talking about on an everyday basis. Do you speak your truth in business dealings? Do you say what you know needs to be said to your employees, to your boss, or to your team? Do you bite your lip when around a certain friend or work colleague? Do you edit yourself to mute when around your mother? Your father? Your brother? Your sister? Swallowing your words, or keeping them to yourself, can be detrimental to your well-being.
Maggie Kuhn may have been speaking of strangers but this goes for family and friends as well. It is important to find a way to say what is there for you to say – gently or fiercely. And most importantly, you do not have to act out on others to be truthful. You have a point of view. Your thoughts are valid. We all have areas where we go radio silent – or on the opposite side of the coin, we go on hyper-blast – because we don’t feel safe to say what we feel.
For some of us, communication can be threatening. But it is important to remember, it does not have to be “either” their opinions, “or” yours. Both perspectives can exist at once. All can coincide together. And since they can coexist together, there is room for everyone. Frankly, if you think about it, our opinions already exist together – theirs in their minds, and ours in our minds. Peace can come from knowing that if this is so, then so can our opinions exist at once in a conversation, or in a relationship.
Do you think of yourself first in relationships? Yes, I know. This may sound odd and even counter-intuitive given a relationship is an opportunity to give yourself over to another, to put another ahead of yourself. Except… that’s not necessarily so. A relationship is an opportunity to be generous with another human being. But generosity, just like charity, begins at home.
We have evolved our understanding of ourselves and our responsibility to be true to ourselves, so now is the time to continue evolving our understanding of relationships. A relationship is the space in which you can begin to realize that you are important. When you highly regard your own importance, it’s quite natural for others to follow suit. When you regard yourself highly, you are now fully charged (filled up and ready to go) to give of yourself to another.
Imagine that. Two whole people discovering who they are becoming and being interested in their own well-being first. This contributes to them both being able to bring their whole selves to one whole and healthy relationship. Then you can be more peacefully united, because you’re not using your relationship to make up for what you believe you lack, or don’t do well. Then we are more wholly ourselves so that we may be more truly ourselves together. The greatest opportunity for intimacy lies in this equation:
whole + whole = whole and healthy
Do you hold onto grudges and resentments? Yes, examining the way you respond to resentment is about self-care – a deep, abiding self-care. Get ready… we’re jumping in.
We hear a lot about forgiveness, so much so it can begin to sound like a formula. To not tip the scales on cliche, I’ll simply say this. When you choose not to forgive, or to continue resenting someone or something, you are amassing negative emotion within your body. You may not be conscious of this. Most of us are not. This act, in and of itself, can expose your body to ailments that are physical responses to the emotional accumulation and stagnation. In other words, you harbor resentment, your body will have a physical response to it.
Being emotional, in many societies around the world, is seen as being tumultuous, or unnecessary. However, being emotional is healthy. Not allowing your emotions to be expressed and suppressing them instead is a sure way to shut your self down, and then shut your health down. And not allowing yourself to fully express and be healed through that full expression is a sure way to disconnect from yourself and the innate health (also known as resilience) that resides within us all. How that disconnection will manifest as illness or disease depends on how long you allow it to continue, and at what intensity the resentment and negativity within you lives. Expressing your emotions – which, by the way, is definitely not the same as acting them out on others – makes forgiveness an easier prospect and a more definite resolution.
Do you confront what you know is within you? It’s not important how long it takes you to confront something that you know is requiring you to grow in your life. Do it all in your own time – however long that is. What does matter however is if you are actually paying attention and being willing to give yourself over to the challenge of your own growth, to your own transformation. If you are not, and instead you are giving all your attention to others and the quality of their lives, or just plain hiding out from your own, then you’re not about caring for yourself.
If your actions right now are inconsistent with caring for your self, then this is a great big opportunity for you to take a look at this area of your life. Take on the challenges that will grow you. The accomplishment of taking care of yourself will far outweigh the sour taste you may have for introspection.
Do you serve others before you take care of yourself?
Service is a wonderful thing. Playing a big game and putting yourself on the line for something greater than yourself is a hugely transformative experience. However, putting others’ needs before your own constantly, and before dealing with your self-care, is detrimental to your own well-being.
As a precedent, it can be damaging to take into account the preferences of others before your own. What if their preferences don’t honor who you are? What if giving of yourself leaves you with nothing at the end of the day? It could have begun differently, leaving you inspired and impassioned… but now no longer. No energy. No fulfillment. No zest. Lackluster. Where will you fill up? Or do you just keep going whether you’re taken care of or not?
This kind of all-or-nothing thinking (all for them, and nothing for you) can lead to depletion and illness. Some of us learn to forsake ourselves for the good of the whole. Consider that is a lie. There is no good of the whole if the good of one is overlooked. Overlooking yourself makes your altruism not altruism at all – because it doesn’t include you. Service is best fulfilled once you are. Bringing your joy to serving others is far more generous than bringing a shadow of yourself to it.
Do you give yourself what you want?
Desire can be a contentious subject for human beings. For some of us, it’s a preposterous thing to think you can have everything you want. Arrogant. Self-serving. For some of us, it’s a preposterous thing to think you cannot have everything you want. Which camp are you in?
Humility does not equal poverty. Poverty is not nobility. If you make yourself wrong for wanting, you’ve made yourself wrong for the very thing that is the impulse of who you are. Experiment with giving yourself something you want that you’re not sure you should have. Remember to observe all your thoughts that may say, “This is wrong. You shouldn’t do that. This is what gets people in trouble.” Notice and observe yourself when your thoughts make you wrong for wanting and for fulfilling your desire. Start small.
If you have negative feelings around your desire, you may want to heal what is underneath that negativity. Negative feelings are not islands, they are always connected to much deeper issues of disconnection. Healing will bring you peace and a possible new outlook that will surprise you.
Divine responsibility is not a term meant to overwhelm you, but it is meant to bring a precious regard to something you may be taking for granted:
You are precious. Spas are nice, wonderful in fact, but remember there is more to your own care than the “bells and whistles” of the luxe life. Self-care is a grounded everyday practice that can help you honor yourself and bring integrity to who you are and how you live your life.
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