September 15, 2017
Self-care can be as much of a mystery as Bigfoot, Stonehenge or the Loch Ness Monster. It is illusive at best. When one thinks of self-care, the following may come to mind: getting a mani/pedi, eating well, journaling, going to the gym, doing yoga, meditating, or sipping mimosas with the girls or a beer with the guys.
Yes, these are fun activities but as far as self-care goes, they are a bit like putting a bandage on cancer unless you do one vital thing during all these activities.
First, it’s important to understand that most of us were not taught self-care as children. My family’s motto was, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” I was never asked, “Stacey, what’s going on? How are you feeling? How can I help you?” So I pushed down that part of myself that needed something and was not receiving it to protect myself from further hurt. That inner part of myself grew distant.
Can you think of incidents from your own childhood that are similar? I bet you can.
First, we were taught to ignore our true selves and then we were taught to run from them.
How were we taught to run from them? We were taught, especially in America, to be busy, to be focused on the prize, to do more, to be the best, to be the prettiest, thinnest, strongest, fastest, and these days to have more “likes,” or to be an “influencer.” These are all vapid goals.
They are the proverbial carrot dangling in front of us that we are never able to reach because it just keeps moving away. We get skinny but suddenly we are still not skinny enough. We make our salary goal but then it’s not enough and so on and so on and so on.
It’s a vicious cycle and not natural.
As we pursue “happiness,” we actually leave our true happiness farther behind. This is why we get depressed, drink, shop, do drugs, take prescription drugs, shop, gamble, get sick, and have mid-life crises or a couple of them (we are living longer.)
The following strategies can help:
• Set aside time, it can be as little as 15 minutes to get to know what’s really going on within you. I love to do this by asking myself questions and answering them journal-style but you don’t have to do anything. You can just sit with a coffee or tea and contemplate your inner self. Get a sense of how you are really feeling at any given moment. No phone, no music, no TV – be with yourself.
• Mindful breaths. There is a wonderful app called the Mindfulness Bell. You can set the Tibetan bowl bell to go off as frequently as you’d like. They even have an option to do two random bells an hour, which is so fun. It’s whimsical to not know when you might be called to take three deep breaths and observe how you feel in body, mind, spirit. Again, there is nothing to do, just observe.
When you take care of yourself, you are taking care of others. If you do not fill your own well, what you are offering others comes from a place destitute of love.
• Read something that inspires you, look at pictures that inspire you or listen to music. If you love to garden look at gardening books, something that activates positive imagination. Think back to when you were a child, what made you happy? For most of us that was being outside, which leads me to my next tip.
• Go outside. We are natural organic beings but live and work in mostly artificial environments. The more time you can spend outside, the better you will feel. Nature reminds us of our true essence, that everything moves in seasons and cycles. Breathe into it.
• Spend time with positive friends that are supportive and kind. Be with friends that you can share what is really going on inside you, your truth, and they can share the same with you. I’m not talking about complaining. I’m talking about a transformational conversation where you are sharing and processing on a deeper lever. I have two weekly circles where I gather people together for just these sorts of conversations. It’s been so transformational for my clients and for me. Perhaps you can find something like this in your area.
Have you figured out the one thing you need to do during all activities to make it about self-care? Here’s the answer, do everything in your day with a sense of self, have part of your awareness inward so that at any given moment you know how you feel. This will turn work, activities, anything that you do into a quiet mediation. It’s powerful.
When you take care of yourself, you are taking care of others. If you do not fill your own well, what you are offering others comes from a place destitute of love. Once we learn who we are and how to care for ourselves, the love we have to offer is full and feels so good.
If the thought of any of this sounds like torture, I’d look at how much self-hatred you have for yourself and perhaps seek a spiritual teacher or therapist to help you process the hate you feel for yourself. Remember it’s not your fault you hate yourself. You were taught to view yourself that way. Be kind to yourself. You have a you inside that really wants your attention and to receive your love.
It is never too late to cultivate self-care. The first step is a desire to know one’s self.
I’ll leave you with this wisdom from The Upanishads: “As our desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so are our acts. As we act, so we become.”
Stacey J. Warner is a certified life coach, equus coach and yoga teacher. She received her bachelor of arts in drama from the University of Washington and currently resides in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Intensives for Radical Healing, Consciousness, and Grace. Her one passion in life is to lessen the suffering of others through deep inner work and laughter. To learn more, visit: www.staceyjwarner.com.