Here are some life-skills I learned in school: how to make garlic toast, how not to make garlic toast, how to put out an electrical fire, how to call for help in an emergency, and how to take care of someone hurt in an accident. Here’s a skill I didn’t learn in school: how to take care of myself.
The concept of “self-care” is trending right now; for good reason. Most of us (and probably all of you who are reading this right now) have attained a level of proficiency in meeting our basic needs of food, water, shelter and Google Fiber. But most of us are nowhere near proficient in meeting our emotional and spiritual needs.
Civic organizations provide a structure to engage generously with our community at large, but sometimes the act of giving leaves us feeling depleted. And spiritual communities take care of each other; but a vast majority of millennials and yuppies (no malice intended, I’ve adopted this label wholeheartedly) aren’t actively participating in faith organizations at this time in our lives, so: who’s taking care of us?
My overarching New Year’s Goal (remember this article about Big Dreams?) was to practice better self-care. Just because I look young and fit, doesn’t mean that I’m ‘on point’ when it comes to self-care. One of my biggest challenges is developing habits and sticking to them. My work days are long and I’m racing to get to sleep after teaching so I can wake up early again the next morning; my self-care bedtime routine is sporadic at best. So, vitamins? Yea, I take them… I think. Herbal supplements? Definitely. At least, I took them last month. Revitalizing skin cream (I am getting older, after all) For sure I use that, when I remember to. Brushing my hair? Cutting my fingernails? I can do that in the car on my way to work.
These might seem like trivial, inconsequential examples, but it’s the intention behind the action of self-care that matters. What matters is that I’m channeling energy into caring, loving, life-affirming interactions with my body. When it comes to self-care, we only get one human body. Which is why I’m a proponent of practicing yoga gently, of sitting in meditation daily, and of setting micro-intentions throughout our day.
This Instagram infographic caught my eye and reminded me just how multi-faceted the concept of self-care really is:
It doesn’t feature “Treat Yo’ Self” (read: expensive) spa days, six dollar juices, or shopping sprees. (Although, yes, you should get a massage. Everyone should get massages!) It highlights intangible gifts we can give ourselves:
Presence, support, awareness, prioritizing, adjusting environment, mindfulness, and slowing down.
Just being there for ourselves and using a little mindfulness to prioritize what’s really important in life is an act of self-care. Adjusting our environment to be more life-affirming is an act of self-care. Saying no to extra events, even if they sound like exciting opportunities, is an act of self-care. Saying yes to slowing down is an act of self-care. Setting boundaries with supervisors and co-workers is an act of self-care. Becoming aware of our negative self-talk and mindfully choosing positive thoughts is an act of self-care.
This year has been emotionally arduous for me, to say the least. (Remember the old maxim: if you pray for patience then God will give you something to be patient about? That’s kinda how I felt.) I confronted my deep-seated fear of failure with the “New Dog Debacle” (remember Sir Kevin-barks-a-lot?) but ultimately decided to choose self-care and found the Little One a new home.
I encountered incredible resistance at work, which triggered insecurities about my self-worth but ultimately found courage to stand up for myself and speak my truth. I learned to prioritize my vocational aspirations and choose more time for myself and my family, as opposed to feeling like I needed to work every single day of the week (I mean my studios have incredible teachers on staff and you, dear reader, can practice at home; you love me, but you don’t need me). And I took a brave step forward in healing by addressing some chronic health concerns. (Believe me, if you spent your childhood in doctor’s offices like I did, the mere act of calling to make an appointment requires herculean effort.) Oh, and I figured out a 2:00 pm routine for taking my vitamins and supplements that hasn’t failed me yet. (I still show up to work without my hair brushed, but whatever: your hair doesn’t look too primped at 6 am classes, either!)
So, why I am sharing all of this super personal info with you? (Besides the fact that I’m honest to a fault? Thanks, Mom!) I want YOU to broaden your understanding of Self-Care. I want the concept of self-care to be separated from ‘indulgence’ and be seen as a skill worth learning, pursuing and perfecting. I want self-care to be so ingrained in your daily routine that you feel present, supported, aware, mindful and courageous on a daily basis. I don’t want you to feel guilty for putting yourself, your emotional health, and your mental well-being as the top priority in your life.
Tell me, how are you going to practice Self-Care today? Tomorrow? Next week? What new habit are you going to set that will only make your life more wonderful?
I can’t wait to hear about it!