For Valentine’s Day this year, think about focusing on your own self love. Women far to often look outside themselves for love and acceptance and can sometimes cause harm to themselves by doing so. By taking care of our own needs, we are better able to serve others; our families and communities. Taking care of ourselves is sometimes mistakenly taken as pampering. And although pampering is good, self care can sometimes mean tough love and discipline. It is also a teaching tool where we can show our children what is important by example.
Self care allows us to become our most happy and grounded selves. I often get caught up in focusing on goals, achievements and meeting other expectations that I create bad habits. These practices can be reversed by developing good habits.
I’ve divide self care needs into 4 categories: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Creative soul. Learn how to care for these categories in yourself so that each can grow.
Our physical bodies need healthy food, regular exercise, plenty of water, and sleep. How do you plan your day in such a way as to get these? Some tips are to pack a lunch so that it is easier to avoid high calorie, junk food snacks. That lunch can include fresh fruit such as apples which both nourish and fill the stomach. Eat the apple instead of a donut!
No time for the gym? Get a short walk in whenever you can, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Get up from your desk, stretch and go outside. Winter can make exercise more difficult, but make a point. Sometimes I’ll jog in place as I watch TV. Dance can be a wonderful way to exercise. Put on Pandora and sway around the living room.
Medical research consistently shows that daily exercise not only helps your body physically but also improves both mood and energy levels. There are times that I have come home fatigued from the days work and all I want to do is sit down and relax. On those days, if I force myself to go upstairs and use the elliptical for 15 minutes I feel energized and alert. Remember, exercise is also good for skin health by increasing blood circulation.
Do you get enough sleep at night? Stress can keep me up at night. Taking care of our physical needs during the day by eating right and exercising can help with sleep. Read this blog for sleep tips.
Mindfulness and gratitude are ways to help emotional needs. Each day, reflect on what you are grateful for and try to live in the moment and appreciate what is going on right now. Emotional needs also have to do with loving and belonging. Although emotional self care for me can be the hardest, one thing I try to remember is to not take things personally. When others lash out, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. A book that has really helped me here is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. It taught me that happiness comes from within, not outside. I recommend this book for anyone. Be authentic, live intentionally.
Social interactions are beneficial to your emotional health too. How often do you see and interact with others? Call a friend for coffee! Go on a hike with someone.Take a step back from social media where everyone can seem perfect and more exciting.
Intellectual or Cognitive Needs
Most of us are glad when we get out of school and leave the rigorous world of academia. But learning should never stop. Do you stimulate your mind everyday? We can always be growing in our knowledge in many ways; reading (fiction and non-fiction), attend a seminar, take a class, read technical papers associated with your work). Education helps us understand and better solve problems that arise. Research continually shows that learning something new can decrease the risk of dementia.
Acknowledge a higher power in your life. This can mean going to church, praying, meditating, or even going into the woods. Connecting with God has always been important for me and sometimes I get my best sense of understanding that connection when I am in nature. Spirituality focuses on cultivating a sense of peace, self-love and purpose, not only within yourself but within the earth and the universe around you. Sometimes we have to disconnect from the modern world and get away from material possessions.
Theologian Matthew Fox who wrote many books including “Coming of the Cosmic Christ” and “Original Blessing” has helped me put much into perspective. He talks about a very mystic and contemplative spirituality.
I don’t know if creativity is it’s own category or a way of connecting the other 4 categories. I’m finding that feeding my creative soul is important for my well-being and you may too. This does not mean we have to create something beautiful that will hang in a museum. It just means using that creative muscle and helping it grow. Recently, a Facebook friend introduced a drawing challenge and I drew something with colored pencil everyday for 3 months. No one would ever mistake these drawings for something a great artist would do, but drawing put my mind in a different place and improved my creativity.
Other ways to stimulate creativity are doing things with your hands such as knitting, arts & crafts, sewing, clay work or cooking. Recently, I’ve been reading “Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art, and Ritual” by Day Schildkret. I like this book because it uses things found in nature to create temporary art. It helps me look more closely at nature and things around me to collect and arrange in interesting ways including mandalas. It is something I can do on the farm, or on a hike.
What happens if we ignore our needs?
Ignoring our own needs while constantly trying to meet the needs of others can have serious health ramifications. Science has regularly shown that stress can increase a person’s risks of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Stress also has a negative effect on skin. You can read about that in this blog. Attending to our own needs, and developing good habits is a way to relieve stress and keep up healthy. It also helps us to help others.
What do you think? How do you attend to your self care? I challenge you this Valentine’s Day to think about what your body needs to be healthy.