Self-care is such a buzz word these days. It’s all over blogs like this, videos, social media posts. There are books on the subject, healing techniques from well-respected teachers and gurus. The list of self-care experts is endless.
So what exactly is self-care?
Since I was not exactly sure of the definition, I consulted everyone’s favorite resource Google. Here is the definition found in the beloved search engine: ”the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” Definition #2 “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” I personally prefer the second definition.
I work with a lot of women, let’s say selfless women, sometimes referred to as perfectionists. If everything is just perfect, one will be rewarded with a good night’s rest or peace of mind. If all is not up to those high standards, the engine of the mind will shift into overdrive to find the perfect solution. Are you starting to get the picture?
During a recent meditation class composed of very intelligent women, I formed a theory about self-care. There are various degrees of self-care and are subjective in nature to the individual. I call this Donna’s Theory of Self-Care. This has a catchy ring, huh? Most of these women explained they put the needs of others before themselves. All described various selfless acts to make others in their life happy, to meet all their needs first. The acts ranged from cooking meals, doing errands, driving people to appointments, to listening to their stories of suffering, etc.
Happiness is an inside job!
My curiosity challenged me to inquire if the people we are to make happy are not actually capable of making themselves happy? The reality is happiness is an inside job. Someone could cook a delicious meal for another person with the freshest of ingredients, but if the recipient is not in a place to enjoy the meal for whatever reason, the meal will not bring the desired happiness. This lack of enjoyment can cause the preparer to start to doubt themselves in some way or another.
Let’s discuss the various degrees of self-care. I believe there are three degrees of self-care.
Third Degree Level of Self-Care: care of the ego
This encompasses those little things in life that make us happy and bring a smile to our face. This may include a shower, morning coffee or tea, reading the newspaper. Third degree of self care also has to do with pleasing one’s own ego. This can include activities such as shopping, TV or movies, going out for lunch, hobbies. There is nothing wrong with pleasing the ego and we should do pleasant things and activities frequently. The world would probably be a better place if we focused on fun and joy. Just be sure to keep such ventures in check and be mindful of your strategies for stress management.
Second Degree Level of Self-Care: care of the physical, mental and emotional needs
This includes the basics of a healthy lifestyle. This may include activities such as exercise, healthy eating and sleep. All of these activities are very important to our overall health and require consistent dedication. One healthy meal or a single workout does not constitute self-care. We have to be committed to take care of all our bodies on a regular basis. Over time the regular exercise, healthy eating and regular sleep help us to function at optimal levels.
First Degree Level of Self-Care – includes care of the Spirit or Soul, AKA Authentic Self-Care
In my opinion, first degrees of self-care are states of being or activities which connect one to their authentic self, anything that makes one’s spirit come alive with joy and happiness. This allows for a continuous flow of natural energy, where the person is tuned into their personal power, feeling vibrant, joyous and full of life. It’s an enviable state of being where everything feels right in the world. This may include activities such as meditation, journaling, time in nature, simply being alone or religious prayer. This is a shortlist of ideas. What makes your spirit shine?
Factors of First Degree or Authentic Self-Care
What gets in the way of authentic self-care? The answer is simple and profound – the acceptance of our emotional state of being at the present time. When we are authentic we know how to create a safe space within ourselves to feel and process our feelings as they naturally arise. We are not always happy or in a good state of mind. Life happens and sometimes we feel upsetting emotions. The idea is not to get rid of uncomfortable feelings, but to give them space to breathe and be accepted or even validated. There are times we can’t help the way we feel. A simple validation and embrace of our own feelings is sometimes all that is needed at the moment and can be healing. The loved ones in our lives can’t always be expected to understand our emotions. The expectations we put on others about our feelings can cause discord. When we can hold a gentle space for ourselves, we can connect to our authentic self. This deep connection contains the wisdom and comfort to be our best.
Prioritize Your Own Self-Care
What should be practiced as a part of first degree self-care? Dedication to put ourselves first! I love to travel and especially on airplanes. It’s fun to think a plane can fly in the sky like a bird and carry so many people off to faraway places and adventures. So when the flight attendants review the safety protocols, they start with putting the oxygen mask on yourself before another person. It’s true, we need to care for ourselves before we can care for others. It’s not selfish to put yourself on the priority list. Would you go around your home bleeding all over the floor? Of course not. But when we are grouchy, stressed or moody it’s like emotionally bleeding all over the house.
I have always prioritized self-care. Since experiencing COVID back in November, my authentic self-care has become non-negotiable and a real source of joy. Every day I carve about 30 minutes for an authentic connection to my spirit. This takes the form of journaling, meditation or both. This gives me precious time to be present with my thoughts, fears, dreams and goals. The practice of journaling allows me to get random thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I can then get a perspective from my wise mind. This facilitates an active listening practice for guidance and energetic alignment. When I feel the vibrational alignment to the all, I’m in a better headspace for my family, friends and clients.
Are you willing to prioritize your own self-care? I challenge you to do this for one week and notice. You will be glad you did!