Self care sounds easy, but requires understanding, practice and awareness to become a lifelong practice
These days, we are inundated with tips and tools for self-growth. lf you’re on the path of transformation, you’ll notice that most of these helpful suggestions and practices overlap — which is a good thing. It tells us that basically ‘all roads lead to Rome’. You can pick whichever one feels right for you. You can try one on for size and if it doesn’t fit, try something else. You learn along this way, no matter what.
One of these categories of self-growth is ‘Self Care’. But what does that term mean?
We’re told to take time for ourselves, to pamper ourselves, to get enough sleep, to ask for help, and to be non-judgmental of ourselves and others. So many ways to care for ourselves if we would just do it! But how do we do it?
After years of hearing and reading about all the ways to take care of myself, I realized the most important element is to want to take care of me.
You need to want to take care of you
Why should I want to take care of me? I grew up thinking I needed to have somebody else do that dirty job — a lover, a spouse, a relative, even a stranger. That job was not supposed to be mine; my job was to take care of others, but not me. In fact, ‘me’ wasn’t in the picture at all. I wasn’t supposed to Love myself, let alone Love myself enough to take care of myself with Love.
I was supposed to do for others as I would do for myself (but not actually get around to doing for myself). And that part was easy. Because when you are so busy doing for others, you don’t have time to do anything for yourself — or do you?
Time is a funny phenomenon. That’s because it’s a matter of perception and discernment. Given the same amount of time for the same number of activities, each individual will experience the time they have very differently. I have a friend who is busy with many different aspects of her life, yet she feels she has all the time she needs. Another friend who feels she’s very busy, complains she doesn’t have enough time and never enough for herself. This is where perception comes in, and discernment.
Step 1: Developing the desire to take care of yourself
This requires teaching yourself, or re-learning, or remembering, that you are a sacred child of the Universe, or God or whatever you want to call the Source or Energy that is available for us to tap into. You deserve Love. You matter on a cosmic scale. Each one of us is responsible for our part and energy in the greater scheme of things. You matter. We all do.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Until you start to take care of yourself, you can’t even understand the effect you have on others as you care for them. So you could think of this new job of taking care of yourself as a learning process to improve your ability to care for others.
Step 2: Experiencing Self Love
The next step is to experience Self Love. That old adage is actually true: You can’t really know what it is to Love others if you can’t Love yourself. I have deliberately capitalized the L in Love to distinguish it as “Unconditional Universal Love” — the Love that comes from the place of non-judgment and compassion, the Love that knows we are all the same.
My gateway into Self Love was a practice of gazing into my eyes in the mirror in my bathroom and saying: “I Love You“. At first it felt like a joke, but I kept at it and eventually it began to sink in. There are many different practices; there is one that will work for you.
I have time, because I make time. By discerning and prioritizing, I find time because I need time for myself. What I love best is to do for others. And now I have discovered that I Love to do for me, too. I have learned to reject feeling guilty for taking care of myself. I know what kind of things I need to do to for me to recharge or relax. I can feel when I need to take a break, rather than push myself to the brink. Taking daily care of myself in one form or another means I won’t have a huge job of it later on because, through self-neglect, I would be teetering on the edge of disaster.
Self Care by the hour, day, week, month and year
Each person has to discover what satisfies their needs hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
Hourly, I might need to get up out of my chair and take a quick walk around the house or studio to clear my head, or do some yogic breath work, or wakeup my body with some simple warm up movements, or diffuse some essential oil, or take a moment to feel gratitude and be present.
Daily, I might take time for some meditation (this can be guided), or a warm bath infused with essential oil, or a tea or hot chocolate at 4pm where I stop and do nothing for at least 1/2 hour, or dance, or sing.
Weekly, I might make time for a restorative yoga class, or an exercise class, or a walk in the woods, or make a favorite meal, or have a silent day, or at least get off social media and not answer my phone for a whole day, or dance or sing.
Monthly, I might take care of my feet with a pedicure, or get a massage, or indulge in a workshop, or go out for dinner, or take a 3-day weekend.
Yearly, I might plan a vacation or a staycation, or I might splurge on something, or go on a retreat somewhere.
And all of the options and possibilities are not static. They can change at any time to other ways of taking care of me, based on how my needs change. The point is to listen to your self and your needs. Do it in a way that is self-nourishing. Don’t think to yourself, What I really need is a week off with nothing to do, but I can’t have that so I’ll eat a pint of ice cream instead! If you can’t get a week off, take a day off — the world will most likely not come to an end.
Notice how you can prioritize by discerning what absolutely must be done versus what can perhaps wait a day or two, in order to make the time you need to soothe your mind, body and spirit. Trust me, you’ll feel how much more energy and time you have — so much more than you thought.
You may also enjoy reading What We Seek | A Lifelong Journey Uncovers a Basic Truth, by Indira Abby Heijnen