I share a different perspective on “self-care” and how it ultimately benefits the world around us.
This was originally featured in the Traveling Within section of the International Yoga Teacher Spotlight series.
How do we take care of ourselves when things are challenging?
The first thing I would say on the topic of self-care during challenging times is that it is not a luxury, it is a must. Recognizing that some of our time and attention needs to go towards our well-being in addition to the time we may need to give towards managing the challenging circumstances is essential. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness is going to directly influence how we can cope with our situation. If we are remaining fairly balanced, then our choices and actions will come from that balanced space. If we are the opposite; stressed, anxious, physically exhausted, nutritionally depleted, then our decisions are going to reflect that state of being. We may find ourselves taking actions in ways that are exaggerating the problems we are facing rather than functioning at our best to manage them.
You titled the article Wellness starts with Self … capital S. What do you mean by capital S?
We often think of self-care as the things we do to nurture and support our physical bodies and emotional being. For instance; some self-care practices we may choose to do include the food we are eating. Choosing to eat healthy and highly nutritious foods and staying away from foods that agitate our nervous systems is a good practice to do anytime but especially during times of challenge. Getting enough exercise is important. Getting enough sleep is important. Talking to a therapist could be necessary. All of these things are important to replenish our reserves, boost our energy and support us with clarity but they are often not enough. When our lives get turned upside down, these are powerful times of transition and transformation. Calling on our deeper Self, the wisest and most spiritual aspect of our nature, that part of us that remains the same no matter what the surrounding circumstances, is what will offer us some steady ground and perspective. It is this Self that can observe with a more panoramic vision all that is going on. This is the Self that is the source of new habits and patterns of being which are often the keys to helping us move forward through these transitional periods.
The Self (capital S) is usually experienced as a deep silence space within. But even though it is felt inwardly as a reservoir of quiet and peace it manifests outwardly as a strong, resilient guide for our life choices. An inner stronghold in which we can rely upon even in the heaviest of storms. A last thing about the Self is that this Self (capital S) is not something out there that we have to strive hard to reach. We are already the Self and all that needs to be done is to recognize this inherent source of creative vitality, wisdom and love.
What are some practices that you suggest we do?
Begin by recognizing and honoring the time period you are in.
Taking some time in quiet reflection to step back from all of the chaos and just listen. Meditation is a great tool for this. Even if it is only for 5 minutes a day. That 5 minutes of doing nothing but just being quiet can become the most important 5 minutes of your day.
Attend to yourself with both wisdom and kindness.
Wisdom is how we gain insight into our deeper selves and kindness is the necessary ingredient that helps opens us up to more care. Treating yourself kindly could be as simple as eating a good nourishing meal or taking a walk in the woods. Whatever it is that you find comforting, do more of it.
Accept the “not-knowing” part of the process.
You may be moving into unfamiliar territory and want to know all of the answers right away. As Raine Maria Rilke says, be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart, learning to love the questions themselves.”
And at the same time, you accept the “not-knowing,”
Live the experience that even though you do not understand; somewhere, it is understood.
Acknowledging the mystery of the Greater Universe and the presence of the Self, the deeper part of your nature that does know that it is all OK just as it is.
Be willing to ask for support when you need it and seek out others’ help and presence.
Building a network of “care-givers” when you are having a hard time caring for yourself is essential.
The last thing I would share is that our “Self-Care” is not selfish.
We can think of it as the foundation of selflessness. When we feel healthy, balanced, nourished and centered in our wisest Self, we not only have more to offer others but what we will offer will be more skillful and compassionate.