What is Self-Care?

On this website, self-care is defined as the act of taking care of one’s self in a nurturing and loving way. It comes from a sense of personal value and self-love. For many of us, self-care has been a foreign concept. We have been so busy caring for our families and other significant people in our lives that we have forgotten to take care of ourselves. Other times we have focused all of our time and energy on one area of life such as work, volunteering, or the gym that we have neglected the rest of the areas of our lives. Part of this may be due to our own feelings of unhappiness and unfulfillment or even the manipulation of a significant person in our lives. Perhaps it could be from ourselves or others thinking we that should be totally selfless and self-sacrificing out of a heightened sense of moral or spiritual conviction. It could even be from our own need to be super human and the desire to be seen as the perfect spouse, parent, friend, etc. Whatever the case may be, we find ourselves in desperate need of a positive change.

Many of us suffer from guilt, depression, anger, rejection, self-doubt, self-hatred, and other self-defeating attitudes which produce negative conditions in our lives. Instead of allowing these overwhelming feelings to control our lives, we need to build ourselves up to free us from their grip. In the Christian faith, the Bible tells us that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Allowing those words to sink in, we can clearly see that God himself expects us to love ourselves. Self-love is not selfish. In order to love someone else, we must first love and value who we are not mistreat or sabotage ourselves for someone’s greater good.

Where do we start to love and value ourselves? With Self-Care. Self-care can take many forms but we should strive to incorporate as many areas of the whole-self as possible. The whole-self includes, but is not limited to the following areas: the physical, the mental, the spiritual, the emotional, the social, and the sexual sides of our being. As they say, it is impossible to eat a whole elephant in one sitting, so too must we not expect to accomplish this change in our lives all at once.

To begin, start on the easiest area for you. Incorporate a few routine elements in that area so that you begin to feel a since of accomplishment. Then once you have gotten your feet wet in the first area, add in another area of the whole-self. Keep in this fashion until you are doing at least a few things in each area. Then start back at the first area and add in a few more self-care elements and so on.

To help visualize what I am talking about, think of a spiral that starts at a given position and winds around and around getting ever farther from its starting point. Now divide each full circle of the spiral into six sections and label them with each of the areas of the whole-self (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and sexual). Each time you go around the spiral, you come back to the same areas. That way you are constantly adding to each area in the nurturing of yourself.

So what are the elements of self-care in regards to each of the areas of the whole-self? The list is almost infinite in possibilities. I’ll go into more depth of each element in subsequent articles, but for now here is a short overview:

  • Elements that are designed to nurture the physical side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, a nutritionally sound diet, appropriate exercise for your body, good hygiene, etc.
  • Elements that are designed to nurture the mental side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, mind and memory stimulating activities such as reading, music, learning, etc.
  • Elements that are designed to nurture the emotional side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, learning to share your feelings both good and bad with safe people, delving into the world of self-help therapy, meeting with a counselor on an ongoing basis, etc.
  • Elements that are designed to nurture the spiritual side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, seeking a relationship with a higher power, prayer, meditation, etc.
  • Elements that are designed to nurture the social side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, meeting new people, gathering with friends, meeting with a group of like-minded individuals, etc.
  • Elements that are designed to nurture the sexual side of the whole-self include, but are not limited to, protecting yourself from disease, protecting yourself from harm in all other areas, coming to an understanding of what you need and want in this area, etc.

 

Moving On

When is it time to move on? The answer is simple—it’s when we have done everything in our power to change the situation but it remains unbearable to stay. Many of us find ourselves at one of the lowest points in our lives when a significant relationship ends. We not only miss the person that is no longer in our lives, but often what we miss even more is the relationship itself. We have come to depend on its stability and structure, the family unit, the status among friends and coworkers, and the feeling of belonging. It really doesn’t matter who did the leaving, the sense of loss can be felt on both sides.

This feeling of loss can be overwhelming. The depression and anxiety it leaves in its wake can be paralyzing and keeps us from experiencing and living life to its fullest. We may become tethered to a past that didn’t work and find ourselves unable to move forward. In this overwhelmed state, we often start to avoid activities that we once found enjoyable, and we may begin to isolate ourselves from family and friends. Ultimately, we disengage from everything that can help pull us out of the shadow of a shattered life and into the light of a healed and full life.

Just how do we get to that new life? We get there by refusing to stay in that miserable place. Standing still is not an option when seeking change. The journey from the old to the new begins by placing one foot in front of the other. Remember, even small steps get us moving in the right direction. Ok, enough clichés, even though they carry much truth—the point is that we need to do the things that move us beyond our present circumstances. This starts with a conscious decision to get back to, or discover new, activities and people who feed our souls. Even if our energy level is so low that it’s hard to get off the couch, out of the house, or even out of bed, we must do it anyway! When we do, we will eventually find that it is not the chore that it started out to be. It actually becomes one of our lifelines. In other words—we must fake it till we make it!