November 2011

Getting on the road to self-care

The genuine desire to take care of becoming more conscious in your life is not a goal for the fragile person. It takes strength, support and discipline.

It is not a hobby or a treat, like going to a spa. It is a commitment to the deepest part of yourself  – a desire for a profound inner awakening of your gifts and talents.

Inner transformation is a huge challenge. You shed old ways of doing the quick and easy things that soothe yourself in the moment, and create new ways that support your soul’s deepest desire.

Self-care vs. Self-Indulgence

Okay, so maybe you don’t skip the wine and go for the herbal tea every time you’re tempted to indulge.

But do you ever wish you could exercise a little discipline every now and then in the name of self-care?

The difference between Self-Care and Self-Indulgence

There’s nothing wrong with a little self-pampering every now and then.  That could mean treating yourself to an expensive box of dark chocolates or using your credit card for a spontaneous weekend getaway.

Delighting in life’s little luxuries can be a source of pleasure – that is, if you can afford them.

Advertisers love the term “self-care.”  They tell us we deserve to have the best.   After all, you’re worth it.

But when does self-care venture into overindulgence territory?

Self-care means choosing activities that help to balance us physically and/or emotionally. It contributes to our overall well-being and highest goals for ourselves.

Sometimes self-care does not feel good in the moment.  It is the rare person who would rather savor the taste of a nice, healthy salad over their favorite dessert.

Self-indulgence is avoiding the work that is going to help us in the long run by substituting quick and easy fixes.

Self-indulgence behaviors seem like they are going to help us deal with stressors. But many of the ways we practice self-indulgence actually tax our physical and emotional systems further.

We tell ourselves that the stresses of the day have drained our energy and that vegging on the sofa is all we can expect of ourselves.  Keeping ourselves running at a break-neck pace can seem like self-care too. After all, we are earning money for our family, doing volunteer work to make the world a better place, helping out a friend, working out, growing organic vegetables, composting, doing our part.  But staying busy is often a way we avoid taking care of ourselves.

Sometimes we have to kick-start ourselves to start down the road to self-care.  But the energy expended on self-care is an investment in our future.

Self-care gives back more than you put in. Self-indulgence takes away more than it gives.

When you exercise regularly, you have more energy through-out the day.

Self-care behaviors include:

exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation or relaxation techniques, journaling, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets, finding supportive friends, engaging in psychotherapy.

How to know what’s right for you

Caring for yourself takes time and thought.  You have to get to know yourself.

  • Ask yourself “Does this activity/behavior help me to know myself and my needs/desires?”
  • “Am I doing this activity/behavior to soothe myself now at the expense of how it might make me feel later?”
  • Make a list of your go-to activities/behaviors when you have had a hard day.
  • Make a list of some affordable self-indulgences. (Self-indulgence is not always a bad thing…if you can afford it and it does not take away from your overall well-being, go for it!).
  • Make a list of some ways you intend to practice self-care this year (see the above-mentioned list).

The art of self-care

I had a bad cold last month. It was a sick-in-the-bed kind of cold. For the first day or so I watched a little tv, caught up on some reading, made trips to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher.

After the second day, there was to be no distraction from being all the coughing, blowing, and sneezing. All I could do is lie in bed.

I lay there wondering: Did I wash my hands enough? Am I getting enough sleep? Do I need to take more vitamins? Am I taking good care of myself?

Day two stretched into day 3 and day 4, and before long I had racked up about 3 weeks worth of being sick.

After a few days I was just well enough to return to work.  But nearly every moment when I wasn’t working, I focused on employing whatever means necessary to get healthy.

I got antibiotics from the doctor, and acupuncture and Chinese herbs to deal with the sour-tummy side affects from the drug.

I sipped ginger tea with lemon, echinacea tea with honey, valerian tea to induce relaxation.

I went for a walk outside to clear my lungs. I watched comedies on Netflix — thinking that laughing would help clear my lungs.

I took hot, lavender-scented baths. I did respiratory steams of eucalyptus to open the bronchial passages.  I slept with a humidifier in the room — in case the central heat keeping our bodies warm was also drying out my sinus passages.

All this self-care was exhausting!

But something must have worked because I am on the mend.

Now I’m wondering what kinds of self-care does this healthy person do.

I have a tendency toward working too much, staying up too late, going-going-going until my get-up-and-go is gone.

Most of the time I operate on 2 speeds: OFF, as in sleeping; and ON, as in going 90-miles-an-hour.

Sometimes the only way for me to take any down-time is for me to get sick.

Maybe it’s time to make a change. Try extreme self-care while I’m healthy — instead of doing SOS self-care once I’m sick.

I posted a list on facebook of all the things I do as a means of self-care. They included the following:

  • eating when I’m hungry
  • sleeping when I am tired
  • seeing a movie
  • opening the blinds and letting sunlight in my room
  • going for a walk
  • spending time with my family
  • roller-blading
  • saying ‘no’ when I need to
  • taking a hot bath
  • saying no to a workout when I’m feeling unwell
  • saying yes to an activity that will add some fun to my life
  • taking a trip with my husband

I asked my facebook friends some ways they practice self-care.  Here’s what they had to say:

  • i try to spend a little time in the park every day
  • walk every day
  • protect my art time
  • sleep enough
  • dance often
  • i work on saying “no” when i’m over-booked, but i’m not always good at it
  • have my nails done
  • use good shampoo, soap, lotion, etc
  • quiet time each day to do anything but clean the house
  • rest when I am tired. If I can.
  • epsom salts. bath time gives me clarity
  • spend time with my kitty cat. And my friends. And trees. trees make me feel nice
  • if I am upset about something, I remember how great I have it and I watch this ridiculously awesome video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9MszVE7aR4&ob=av2e It’s even better when my 3 year old dances around.
  • Have a consistent yoga practice that is both firm and soft…and try to live life that way also
  • I write in my journal and let it all out
  • I try to remember that I alone am really responsible for self-care.
  • eat nutritious food
  • I try to know and respect my needs, and ask for help if I need it.
  • read
  • write
  • do nothing
  • hop on my super-fast bike and take off like there’s no tomorrow
  • cook
  • massage
  • eat good clean foods
  • forgive myself because I am my own worst critic

I take inspiration from the list above.

What do you do for self-care?