How do you take care of yourself? How can you do more of it?
Self-care is fundamental to our well-being. It has elemental implications for doing well as we get older, or for recovery from illness and accidents. Self-care strengthens our resiliency to cope with adverse situations; both minor and large scale events. Self-care topics can encompass how we treat ourselves psychologically, physically, and in other realms. I encourage you to take a look at the Self-care wheel provided on this website; it breaks our self-care into categories and gives ideas for specific actions you can take to positively address your own self-care.
Let’s start with psychological self-care. Many of us have learned and reinforced habits of negative self-talk. Addressing detrimental self-talk is key to befriending yourself; borrowing a phrase from Dan Siegel “when you’re in a fight with yourself, nobody wins.” Thought patterns can be examined and changed. This is not always an easy process, but it is possible. Brain science has revealed that our brain is neuroplastic, which is just a fancy way of saying we can teach our minds to think differently, and this changes our brain. Specific resources that support changing negative self-talk are listed at the end of this article. A professional counselor or social worker experienced with fostering positive self-regard might be helpful to your process as well.
Your relationship with others impacts your self-image as well. What kinds of things are others doing to help you feel connected and loved? Are there things you could do or ask for to increase these behaviors? Feeling connected to other human beings is intensely related to feeling good about ourselves. Increasing the health and optimal functioning of your interpersonal relationships are important keys to positive regard with yourself (your intrapersonal relationship). Asking for what you need and want, and exhibiting good boundaries are examples of fostering healthy relationships. Again, sometimes people find that a professional trained in interpersonal relationships can be helpful. One resource written for couples–but the material can be used for any relationship—is the book Relationship Cure (resources are listed at the end of this article). Non-violent Communication, also known as NVC, https://www.cnvc.org/ is a modality that has helped many people increase their communication skills.
Consider long-term as well as short term goals of treating yourself well. Some people find it useful to post a list of self-care activities on the bathroom mirror or someplace else where they will see it regularly. Anything that fosters a positive connection to yourself can be considered a self-care activity.
Self-care is an ongoing, life long process. The more stress you are under, the more crucial your self-care will be to you being able to manage that stress. Periods of relatively stress free—or low stress—give you an excellent opportunity to develop and enforce good self-care habits.
Relationship matters! And your relationship with yourself is of paramount importance. Your ability to take care of yourself is directly related to your ability to effectively and significantly connect with others. Think of self-care as always arising, always new things to explore, always new things to try and do in the adventure of loving yourself.
Resources for self-care:
Self-esteem a family affair, Jeane Isley Clark
Radical acceptance, Tara Brach
Start where you are, Pema Chodron
There is nothing wrong with you, Cheri Huber
Self-compassion.org, Kristen Neff