I have always struggled with self-care, especially growing up in a "church culture" that taught women that we should be taking care of everyone else first and that it is selfish to care for ourselves. Then there is an American cultural bias that says: You deserve it! Treat yourself! This isn't a wrong way of thinking, but often is a symptom of a lack of reflection. I tend to shy away from both or pendulum swing between the two.
What do I know for sure about self-care?
When I listen to my own needs and try to take action toward those needs, I better take care of myself and others.
When I am attentive to my inner dialog, I start to notice what I’ve been saying to myself and how that plays out in my day to day IE. How it affects my self-worth; my relationships with others; my spiritual practice; the food I eat; and how I take care of me.
When I pay attention every day to the ebbs and flows of my moods, feelings, emotions, and interactions with people, I become more aware of what needs my focus. For instance, if I am on edge all day, am beating myself up, and my inner dialog is negative, often that is a sign for me to take a walk, literally! Get outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes to breathe and be in a different environment. That change and momentary reflection can hold the key to what is really going on. It might be nothing more than a need for a change of scenery or a bit of space to breathe into some sadness I am are feeling.
Self Care doesn’t have to look like hours in the gym!
A. Self care can be as simple as deciding to consciously breathe a few times a day. This is my simple way of saying: I will consciously breathe 3 times a day. When you wake up; at lunchtime; and before I go to sleep.
1) Wake up take 3 deep breaths.
2) Breathing in slowly and out slowly.
3) Feel what each breath feels like going in and out of the body.
Notice how you feel when you consciously breathe.
B. Practice noticing emotions in your body.
In the morning 60 seconds before your feet touch the floor say…
1) How is my body feeling? Weak, energized, powerful, tired, etc.
2) How is my inner-self feeling? Glad, happy, hopeful, reflective, alone, etc.
3) Is there something I can do or give myself today that can shift my awareness? Conscious breath, meditation, the forgiveness of self and others, get with healthy people or get alone, exercise, read, etc.
C. Goodnight inventory. Take 10 minutes before you shut your eyes and go through your day, either in your head or in a journal.
1) How did I treat myself and others?
2) What awareness muscles am I practicing that bring attention to patterns, inner dialogs, and motivations?
3) What did I learn about myself that I want to reflect on tomorrow? For instance, my capacity to draw healthy boundaries, where I couldn’t before; my growing ability to forgive; motivation to believe the worst in others; seeing new places of my privilege; letting myself fail, get back up and try again, etc.
No matter what we were told culturally and religiously, self-care is one of the most important and simple tools for awareness that we can give ourselves. It starts with us taking a small noticing moment.