Making Self-Care Non-Negotiable

Post by Nikki Starcat Shields for the Kind Kindred series.


image courtesy of Britt Reints on Flickr

Self-care is such a hard thing to schedule in our fast-based, go-go-go culture. If you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous that so many of us go through life feeling exhausted. Wouldn’t it just be common sense to take care of yourself, so that you can be more present and effective in doing all the things you want to do?

Do you feel guilty about taking time for yourself especially if you’re a parent or caregiver? I suspect this has a lot to do with ingrained notions of giving, service and helping others. It can seem selfish or perhaps even wrong to take a couple hours to get a massage, go for a walk by yourself or take a yoga class. Women in particular are expected to be “on” all the time, taking care of your family, your job and your household first. Then, if you have any time and energy left over (yeah, right!), you might exercise or enjoy a “Calgon, take me away” moment in the bathtub.

But how can you sustain the pace of a lifestyle of constantly giving and putting others’ needs first? The answer is, you can’t. Something will eventually happen that will cause you to slow down and force you to recharge. You might get sick, become depressed, face a spiritual crisis or have a mental breakdown of some kind.

Why wait until you feel really awful and dysfunctional to implement self-care?

Think about the message that you’re sending when you choose this route of self-neglect. You’re affirming to your kids, your extended family and your community that you all have to give until it hurts. When you buy into this mentality, you’re only helping to perpetuate it. What quality of life comes at the expense of your own basic wellness?

I would argue that taking care of yourself – your body, mind, emotions and spirit – is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. Not only will you be of better service to your family and community, you’ll also be happier, more productive and kinder to those around you. Plus you’ll inspire your friends and colleagues to improve their own self-care.

First step: Start where you are.

How can you make your self-care non-negotiable in your life? Think about what you need the most right now. What’s missing from your wellness care? Let’s take a look at some of the challenging areas where you might be missing out on your self-care needs.

Body. Our bodies need basic sustenance: air, food, water, movement and rest. Beyond the basics, though, you will thrive when you nurture your body mindfully. Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat foods that feel healthy and nourishing? Do you exercise regularly? Do you take time to get outside in nature and breathe some fresh air? Taking good care of your body is foundational. You can’t do anything well if you’re always run down and sick. Caring for your body with massage, regular wellness care and rest will help keep you going strong. Make a list of areas where you could use some more regular self-care for your body.

Mind. How are your thoughts treating you? Think about both input and output for your mind. What are the things that you read, view and talk about on a regular basis? Your mind won’t thrive on a diet of gossip, mainstream news media and TV drama. Do you have time for creativity in your everyday life? Do you set goals for yourself and then work toward them? Mental self-care might include enjoying your hobbies, reading inspirational books and blogs, taking meaningful steps toward your dreams and releasing negative self-talk with the help of guided meditations. Learning new things will keep you vibrant and mentally agile. Are you a life-long learner? Make sure to add some great self-care for your mind to your list.

Emotions. Your emotions are like a GPS that guide you through your life. They tell you what’s not working and what needs to be changed or let go. Emotions also remind you of what and who you love most. With all the overwhelming stimuli you encounter, your emotions will help you sift the wheat from the chaff. These important messages from your feelings will allow you to flow more easily through life and to feel more grounded and centered. If you’re an extravert, you’ll want to process your emotions by talking with a trusted friend or family member. Introverts need time alone to think and perhaps journal about their feelings. How do you prefer to nurture your emotional side? Jot down a few ideas.

Spirit. Your spirit is your essential nature, the part of your inner self that is directly connected with the Divine Mysteries. Spiritual self-care helps you to weather the storms that come and go in your life. When you realize that you are an eternal being, you understand that your troubles are just temporary. You can find a deeper connection through meditation, prayer, reading sacred texts, a Tarot card reading or attending a church or temple. When you commune with nature you’ll connect to the sacredness of the world and yourself more easily. What are some ways you can nurture your personal spiritual connection?

Self-care practices will often be beneficial to more than one aspect of your life. Going for a solo walk will exercise your body, calm your mind and help you spiritually connect with nature. Vigorous exercise not only makes your body stronger but will help you be more emotionally centered and focused. Creativity keeps your mind healthy and connected to the eternal creative spark of the cosmos.

Now that you’ve made an inventory of self-care needs, I challenge you to implement three of your ideas this week (no, not next week when you might have more time). Create an intention to prioritize self-care in your daily life, and more importantly, follow through.

How do you get started? It sounds cliché, but try this: schedule time in your calendar just for you. Add your self-care items to your daily to-do list even if you start with only ten minutes at a time. If a daily practice seems like too much, add a weekly self-care time dedicated to you. As you continue to integrate self-care into your routine add another day, and gradually increase the amount of time you devote to nurturing yourself.

Build up to where you feel your self-care needs are being met regularly. Notice the difference? Cultivate your self-nurturing awareness and adjust as needed. Your self-care practice might look like a daily ten-minute meditation practice, yoga classes twice a week and a monthly massage. Make it a practice to check in with yourself each week, perhaps on Sunday evening, to schedule your self-care for the upcoming week and see if you have any special needs or concerns.

Treat yourself like you would a beloved child or client. Be firm with boundaries around your self-care time. It’s no longer okay to put yourself last. Self-care is non-negotiable and the benefits will ripple outward from you into your family, your community and the world at large.

 

Nikki Starcat Shields is a published author, Mom, Reiki healer, and licensed priestess. She blogs at Starcat’s Corner and shares her callings at Feline Dreamers. Looking for ways to expand your creativity and bring more joy into your life? Here’s a gift just for you: download Starcat’s brand new free e-book, Open Your Creative Portals.

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