Self-care is one of the most important things we can do, and it is also one of the easiest things to forget to do or put aside in favor of tending to others or when responding to challenges. Yet compassionate self-care is vitally important to our health. It is not difficult. It just involves small habits that, when done regularly, can greatly enhance our body, mind, and spirit. When we care effectively for ourselves, we benefit and so do others in our life.
For the past many weeks (or even longer depending on where you live in the world) many of us have found ourselves struggling with a “new normal,” which can look different for each person. As we navigate through these uncharted waters, we have a choice. We can proceed with loving compassion for ourselves and for others.
On an airplane, in an emergency, the oxygen mask drops down in front of you. What should you do? We have all been taught that the first rule is to put your own oxygen mask on first before you assist anyone else, including a child. This is because when we help ourselves first, we can then effectively help others.
This is an important guideline to remember when considering the practice of self-care. It is impossible to give to others if we do not also give to ourselves. Some say self-care “is like pouring water from a vessel.” We can only keep pouring the water if we are refilling the vessel. Otherwise, it will eventually run dry (Blum, 2014).
Self-care means treating ourselves as worthwhile, showing ourselves (and others) that we are valuable, competent, and deserving of care, compassion, and nurturing.
Many belief systems and even religious dogma frame self-care as selfish. Instead, they believe serving others is self-less. But is this really true? There are lots of “others” in the world who need help. This means there will always be more people who need help than can be helped by you or me. Without self-care, we may find we eventually have less energy to help others and feel like we are constantly “running on empty.” At some point, we won’t be able to take care of ourself and will need others to help us.
Why is self-care so hard? In today’s turbulent world, it may be because of:
- Feeling depressed, fatigued, overwhelmed, or drained
- The effort involved in self care
- Past traumas or abuse that make it hard to maintain effective self-care habits
- Shame related to social norms that say we must put others ahead of ourselves
- Confusing self-care with indulgence
- Mental illnesses or cognitive declines
- Lack of time to really check in and see how one is feeling
Self-Care Practices for Health and Healing
There are many different self-care interventions. Some take more time than others, some are free, while others may require minimal resources. Try these and see if they help you care for yourself in a more compassionate way:
- Practice self-reflection and self-awareness
- Become aware of your personal thinking style
- Be aware of your intuitive powers
- Be aware of your emotions and feelings
- Be aware of your body
- Be aware of the environment
- Be aware of how you relate to others
- Give yourself permission to express, in healthy ways, how you are feeling
- Create self-care rituals
- Communicate effectively and compassionately
- Use music and sound to heal and soothe you
- Focus on the present moment
- Limit viewing of news and negative information
- Savor life’s small (and large) joys wherever you find them
- Eat healthy foods
- Connect with nature
- Engage in art and creative expression
- Dance, move, and/or exercise
- Engage in cleansing ceremonies or rituals (such as smudging, sweating, or fire ceremonies)
- Take part in pleasurable rituals (such as enjoying a morning coffee or walk, enjoying a walk with your dog in the evenings, etc.)
- Find ways to laugh and enjoy humorous activities
If you would like to learn more about Self-Care, check out the following Courses: