How to practice self-care that sustains us
Why is Self-Care Important?
You’ve no doubt heard the analogy about the need to put your own oxygen mask on before others. The wisdom from this emergency procedure has application in every day life.
In our busy lives we can become so concerned about what is going on around us, that we forget our own self-care.
I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. It is an act of survival – Audre Lorde
In order to continue at the pace of modern life, we need to take time for ourselves. We must look after our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Having a self-care practice or routine that fills us back up, so that we may pour into others and our pursuits is vital. You can’t build an impressive house without a solid foundation. Our health and wellbeing are our solid foundation and self-care is a contributor to that.
What is Self-Care?
If you look to social media, or the hashtag #selfcaresunday or #selfcareeveryday, you will no doubt be flooded with ideas of activities you can do in the pursuit of self-care. For example – reading a book, having a cup of tea and sitting for a few minutes, getting a pedicure, going for a walk.
I really enjoy these activities. However, these are surface-level activities for our self-care. They may provide momentary peace and quiet in our otherwise hectic lives. But we need to do self-care that leads to sustainable improvement in our wellbeing.
These activities help, and I encourage you to continue with your self-care routines that bring joy and peace and calm. I also encourage you to think about self-care as a deeper practice. Self-care is more than a menu of items of things we can do.
Self-care is a mindset. It is about how we think and how we feel.
Activities that allow us to shut out our external environment and demands are great. Even better is self-care that works on our thoughts and feelings.
Meaningful self-care are practices that go deeper – working on our mind and soul.
Attitude of gratitude
Acknowledging the good you have in your life is the foundation for all abundance – Eckhart Tolle
This is not just about writing a list of what we are grateful for. This is about practising a true sense of gratitude so that it becomes a physical experience.
Try this – think in your mind of three things you are grateful for – picture yourself smiling with gratitude for these things that are in your life. Now, take any one of those things you are grateful for. Close your eyes and place your hand on your heart and another hand on your core. Picture this thing in front of you – it may be a person, or a quality or an experience. Now imagine sending loving kindness to this thing. Picture and feel your heart sending warm light out to this thing you are grateful for. Take some breaths as you continue to send love and light.
Open your eyes. Take a moment to observe the sensations in your body. Do you feel an inner calm and joy?
In this process we are exercising our insula, a part of the brain linked to our emotional wellbeing. Strengthening it improves our resilience, kindness, compassion and empathy.
Your mind is a powerful thing. When you filter it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change – Buddha
Our thoughts have a strong influence over our feelings, and in turn our actions. Developing a self-care practice that works on our thoughts leads to positive and constructive feelings and actions.
You can practice affirmations in a variety of ways. Either you can set a specific time of day to run through affirmations, such as when brushing your teeth in the morning. Or you can run through affirmations as you remember at times throughout the day. Or as part of the end to your day, as you lay in bed, reminding and reinforcing how wonderful you are.
I am enough
I am worthy
I am confident
I have incredible potential within me to lead the life my heart desires
Your affirmations can be as brief or as detailed as you need. They are yours – so create affirmations that suit you.
Instead of judging ourselves, fearing for our future or dwelling on our past, we can fill our mind with affirmations that set us up for success. Conditioning and reinforcing our capabilities and our worth. Affirmations help us to accept who we are now and appreciate what we have. Affirmations increase our gratitude for the opportunities that are before us, waiting to be picked up and discovered, knowing we have what it takes.
Quiet the mind and the soul will speak – Ma Jaya Bhagavati
We know meditation is a healthy habit. There are many successful people who attribute a morning meditation, or daily meditation practice, to their ability to succeed.
In the moment meditation is a physical pause. But it is more powerful than that. Meditation creates a sense of inner calm. We connect with our centre, feeling whole.
In my meditation this morning I felt myself retreat into a deeper layer of self. In this place was more silence and space for me to simply be. I was present, with my breath, in this space just for me.
When I came out of my meditation – and it was only a few minutes – I felt supremely calm and at peace with me and my day. I also felt a spring of creativity and ideas flowing forth. I knew it was an act of meaningful self-care.
If you are unsure where to start with mediation, click here for my story on how to start a daily meditation practice.
Imagine if we practiced meaningful self-care every day. How would our perspective, our presence, our experience be different?
The reality of life though is that things get in the way. We set an alarm early to go into work before anyone else so we can catch up. We come home feeling tired and drained. The thought of doing another ‘task’ seems too much.
I do not like that kind of pressure. So, do self-care when you feel it is right for you. Whether that is once a week, or a few times a week, or every day. What works for you is what will work for you. This is not a competition. The only winner is ourselves, when we show up and practice loving kindness through meaningful self-care.
What self-care practices work best for you?