In a busy life, self-care is often pushed aside or given low priority. Perhaps a weekly yoga class or run around the block on weekends are all you can fit in. But for optimal functioning you need to invest in your mind and emotions as well as your physical health.
The basis of looking after yourself is self-love. Not the narcissistic kind with false self-admiration but the love you have for yourself as a precious human being who deserves to be treated with respect and care and who has the right to be who they really are. With such spiritually-based kind and generous attitude towards yourself you know that looking after yourself on every level of your being is essential for living the best life you can.
Take responsibility for your physical wellbeing.
As the most obvious area to address it includes not only healthy food choices and exercising but also being perceptive to your own symptoms of stress, fatigue or unusual symptoms and taking action to address them.
Attend to your mental health.
Usually this is overlooked until problems arise. But many issues can be averted by checking in with how you think and what thoughts get your attention often even ruling your life.
Pay particular attention to your negative automatic thoughts. Believing them unchecked is very tempting as they seem so true, valid and compelling. Don’t let that fool you – such thinking is toxic, drains your energy, darkens your mood and draws further negativity into your world.
Question and challenge your negative thinking to find out if it is true and realistic. If you discover that it is extreme and exaggerating the situation, create alternative statements that are more realistic and helpful when dealing with difficulties.
In some instances you might choose not to engage but withdraw your energy. When you notice and recognise a particular thought or train of automatic thinking, name them (fearful, pessimistic, dejected …) but with the attitude of a witness rather than being drawn into them. Then move your attention elsewhere and leave the automatic brain to run its course. This is a subtle inner action you can do anywhere and anytime and which will become easier and quicker as you get to know your own special repertoire of thoughts that trip you up.
Manage your emotional wellbeing.
Positive emotions support wellbeing and effectiveness, negativity upsets your energies and impairs your functioning. Even if faced with demands and challenges you have a choice about how you respond: with drama or calmness, letting feelings overcome you or keep your cool with inner detachment?
Emotions cannot be changed directly. You can reduce some of their charge with conscious breathing and self-soothing techniques that will calm your nervous system and indirectly settle emotional upheaval. Being mindful of how your thoughts contribute to your emotions is also important: do they increase your emotional overwhelm or are they solution-focused or at least neutral?
You can ride out emotional storms as if you were steering a little boat through a storm: you notice and assess your emotions as if they were the wind and waves, let them be and calmly persist as you move through them.
Practice spiritual self-care.
You do not have to follow a religion and regularly attend church or spiritual gatherings. Rather it may involve practices such as meditation or contemplation, applying serenity and cultivating inner peace, and listening to your intuition and inner whispers. Creating conditions where you can express who you truly are will nourish your soul and spirit. Knowing how you tick, your values, needs and interests allow you to live with intention, meaning and purpose. That in itself opens doors and invites opportunities.
Take care of yourself in relationships.
Do you tolerate toxic people because they are ‘not like this all the time’? Are you listening to others who criticize and demean you? How are you in your social life — compliant and submissive or standing up for yourself? Do you act from a position of authenticity with a strong sense of self or from a need of approval or validation?
Set priorities about who you let into your circle and how and with whom you spend time. Of course, in many situations you have no choice who is in your sphere but you are free to choose the place you give them in your emotional life. If you do not like someone but have to work or socialize with them, remember to practice detachment and acceptance rather than getting stuck in dislike or hate.
While self-care does involve taking action within or in society, it is also an essential attitude for success. When all of you is working well — physical energy, realistic thinking, emotional balance, spiritual wellbeing and peaceful relationships — many problems can be avoided or much better managed. Choose one of the above tips and work on it for a while until you develop the habit of consciously taking care of your own state of being. It may take a bit of time initially but after a while it becomes a way of life that easily fits into a busy life and gives you the priority you deserve.
What kind of self-care do you practice? What needs more of your attention? How can you boost your wellbeing?