"Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Any time we can listen to our true self, and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch." — Parker Palmer
As responsible adults managing our obligations and taking care of others, we tend to neglect our own needs. It’s not that we intend to do so, but life happens and our priorities shift. There’s nothing new and unusual about that; however, if the things that are happening cause us to get off center and focus more on others than we do on ourselves, we’re heading for trouble.
How can we manage to stay on track without following a strict regimen that takes the fun out of life? After all, enjoying a little lightness and levity while still getting the job done is not only pleasant but also allows us to do things in a relaxed manner. In addition, we tend to come from a more loving space instead of a fear-base that stems from anxiety and guilt and other negative feelings.
Nurturing ourselves does not require steps beyond the natural course of our day. Simply taking a shower or a hot bath can be a form of nurture especially when you find yourself pushing the envelope — forcing yourself to perform mental or physical gymnastics longer than what is considered healthy. During those moments of gentle relaxation, our minds respond intuitively to problems and situations without consciously being aware of it, and answers or results come to us more easily.
Taking time to care for ourselves is not only a sign of healthy self-esteem; it also communicates that we are worthy and that we value ourselves. It is not a difficult equation. We take care of the things we value most in life, starting with ourselves, by creating time to do so. I’d much rather have the choice than be forced, i.e. having something come along that causes me to be still whether I want to or not. After all, we do like to be “in control” of our lives even if it’s only an illusion.
Remember, what works for me may not work for you. I recently suggested to a friend who was taking a vacation in Northern California and going to the Napa Valley for wine tasting that she also enjoy some of the other delights that are offered, such as mud baths, massages, and a myriad of holistic practices. She quickly set me straight and said, “That’s not how we want to spend our money. We would prefer to spend it on fine dining instead.”
We’re all different and, personally, my private luxury is getting massages, and to be in an area where there’s such an abundance of options would be equivalent to being in heaven. If you can’t get away for a vacation, plan a staycation. Act like a tourist in your own town or a guest in your own home. Create a private at-home retreat; go to a retreat; visit the museums and aquariums; go to a play; take naps; take walks; take long, leisurely baths; turn off the phones for a day; buy something new. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself like someone you love. Investing in your own spiritual well-being is the greatest investment you can make.
For starters, practice the art of “being.” This not only causes you to settle into perfect peace but opens your mind and your heart so you can feel what’s going on inside of you and hear that still, small voice speaking to you. Sit perfectly still and allow yourself to be right where your body is. When your attention wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment. If you repeat this exercise daily, you will find yourself healthier, less stressed, and happier! You will have taken few precious moments to devote to yourself without leaving your home or paying someone to help you relax. And last, but not least, you’re creating and maintaining a sense of health and well-being with very little effort.
I know, it seems simple. And I also know that simple is not always easy. But it’s a start.