Recently I received a response on Facebook from a dear friend and author, Anne Campbell, who reminded us to love “your God-given self, as you’d love others.” It has been awhile since I wrote about this topic and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a good subject to lead into 2021."
Now you may be good at taking care of others but how good are you at caring for yourself? We are compassionate towards others but what about self-compassion? Self-care is a critical element of our physical and mental wellness that we often suppress and do not discuss enough.
On one level we need to be quite focused on how we go about taking care of ourselves; and, on another level we can feel selfish and almost overwhelmed when we do.
When was the last time you took a day or even a week off to decompress and explore the meaning of life? We often save our days and guard them like gold, preserving them for times of illness or family vacation days. Perhaps we need to challenge ourselves and think differently. A better approach may be to find a healthy balance that allows for self-preservation without sacrificing all those things we hold as being equally important such as family, career, and community.
Practicing compassionate self-care allows us to be fully and compassionately present to ourselves to others.
This may be a good time to reflect on our self-care practice. Many of us are cloistered, so to speak, because of COVID-19 and wonder what tomorrow may bring. Let's not be anxious about tomorrow but concentrate on what today brings and how we can become better self-care givers.. Think about it.
How Do We Know If We Are Neglecting Our Self-Care?
Here are a few tell-tale signs that we might be neglecting our self-care: feelings of being stressed, feeling burned out, finding that you are short tempered or responding angerly at others when normally you don’t, or not sleeping well. Failing physical health is another sign. Illnesses can tax our body so much so that we need to take time away from work, and after an illness we find that it takes considerable time to regain our energy.
Another indication of neglecting ourselves is that we rarely allow others to do something for us. For many of us this becomes a learning curve – that is to enable others to take over a situation while we take a necessary break or focus on other activities that require our attention. For some of us this means being open to a new skill set called delegation.
Critical Ways To Strengthen Self-Care
Proper self-care can create a pathway to a way for you to better manage your stress and ultimately live your best life according to Psychology Today. It can protect the energy you need to survive.
Here are five key ways to strengthening your self-care.
#1 Know When To Say ‘No’
Practicing self-care requires you to establish clear boundaries on behalf of yourself with others who may or may not have your best interests at heart.
You can’t please all the people all the time, so, give yourself permission to say ‘no’.
Don’t fret about whether people won’t like you for saying no. People will probably like and respect you more if you are honest with them instead of over-committing yourself and having to cancel things at the last minute.
Our personal boundaries and how any given situation affects them. Then develop a strategy to deal with that.
When saying no, do so politely in a way that makes your boundaries clear. And avoid guilt after saying no. You always have a right to turn down an invitation or refuse a favor. It’s okay to make yourself and your mental health a priority.
#2 Plan For Self-Care Activities
For many of us self-care just doesn’t happen without some conscious effort. A part of that effort is to remind ourselves that we need to take breaks from our busy schedule. And speaking of scheduling book into your calendar some ‘me’ time. Read a book, take a walk, find a quiet spot and just sit in the moment. The point is our body, mind and emotions need a break and in order to do this we need to re-focus some of our energy towards looking after ourselves.
#3 Put Sleep on Your Priority List
Ensure you get sufficient sleep. Put it on your priority list.
Inconsistent sleep can have some serious consequences. Not only does it affect our physical health, but lack of sleep can also contribute to overall anxiety and stress. And sometimes it turns into a vicious cycle since anxiety often leads to disruptions in sleep and disruptions in sleep often contribute to anxiety and even depression.
Schedule a full seven to nine hours of snooze time and then monitor your levels of anxiety throughout the day. You don’t have to be like our cat that gets 19 hours a sleep a day but get what you need to refuel your energy.
Adequate sleep fuels your mind, keeps you in balance, sustains your mood and improves your interactions with others.
#4 Maintain A Healthy Support System
Now this seems a bit of contradiction. This is not about ‘caring’ for others in a way that takes away from caring for yourself but finding support in true and positive friendships. When we get busy, we often skimp on our relationships with others. We become overwhelmed with busyness to the detriment of our family and friends. Socializing in a positive way gives opportunity to grow physically and emotionally. The importance of healthy relationships is such that sometimes we need to plan time for them. Build them into your calendar.
#5 Connect With Your Spirit
Finding our inner spirit through meditation has lasting effects on improving our well-being.
Spending quiet time by putting your mind to rest using the techniques of meditation gives you the space for healing in the moment.
Here is a simple technique to get you started. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting -- out loud or silently -- a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “Maranatha”. Breathe deeply and place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds. Then, just rest in the moment.
Take some time today to focus on whether or not you are practicing self-care. If you find you need to improve some areas, you don’t have to make drastic changes all at once. Take one step at a time by targeting a single area and then make small adjustments. You will be surprise by the overall improvement that begins to take hold of your life. Remember that compassionate self-care allows you to compassionately care for others or to fully understand the meaning of “love others as you love yourself.”
Take Care and Stay Healthy