The Practice of Self-Care
“Self care is about having a radical trust in your own goodness” – Steve Sims, author
There is a joke I once heard that went something like this, “every time I feel the urge to exercise, I sit down and mindfully observe the urge passing away.”
Although the practice of self care appears to be simple enough, it is fraught with subtle misunderstandings and unexamined decisions of defeat. At one level, it runs counter to the trending ‘hustle culture’. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Need two more hours in your day? Sleep six hours a night. How? Sleep faster”. To the hard-core hustlers out there, the expression ‘self care’ reeks of soft, weak, sensitivity training, breeding people that are fodder for the dragon’s den or shark tank of the bloodied business battlefield.
When I was working as an engineer in a typical corporate environment, I often ran across people that wore stress like a badge of honor. It was seen as a sure sign that one is earning their keep and worthy of promotion. I recall playing the unspoken game of who can stay at work the longest and look the busiest. The double-edged sword of either being genuinely overwhelmed with too much work, or the equally stressful situation of faking it because there are not enough meaningful tasks to perform.
Beyond this, in this hyper-information society, rife with uncertainties and endless distractions, the words of Mark Twain have never been more inundating and truer, “I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” To take a break from this, many gravitate towards even more nerve-jangling forms of entertainment. I won’t compound your concerns by citing statistics on the escalating burnout, insomnia, depression, and anxiety in society.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some that give themselves eight to ten hours of alone time in the morning to mentally prepare for the day. Those that conveniently avoid a deep sense of misalignment or laziness by taking their fourth self-care day in a row. ‘Self-care’ for some, is a very effective way to procrastinate the possibility of failure that may come with taking on new challenging tasks or making impactful decisions.
So how can we practice genuine self-care in this societal and psychological quagmire? Here are a few principles:
1. You have been gifted a precious human birth. Not just any sentient being, a human being! You did nothing consciously to deserve it. Are you taking full advantage of this gift to truly explore and enjoy life? Don’t waste this precious gift that will be taken away from you in a few breaths. What must I do, so that you can live, love and die without regret? Ask this question every morning, gain clarity and act on it.
2. Doing good feels good. It is a simple law of nature that is as old as breath, just before every wholesome action, there is a pleasant feeling. Trust your own goodness and the aligned action that comes out of this.
3. You are a conscious being with choice. You are not an unconscious, choiceless victim. You get to choose how to look after your body, mind, energy and emotions. Claim this choice and choose wisely. Take care of the gift so that you can truly explore and enjoy life.
4. Master your mornings. Although the day ahead may be unpredictable, most of us have some say over how the day begins. As an act of love, give yourself an hour of personal power every morning with exercise, breathwork, meditation and journaling. Where is the hour going to come from? Here’s another strategy, with much respect to Arnold, go to bed an hour earlier.
5. Ask yourself who else will benefit from you taking better care of yourself. If you practice self care just for yourself, it will feel heavy, like carrying a bag of bricks up a mountain. When you do it for the benefit of others, your practice will have wings and echo for generations.
6. Me, We, Omni. Only when you are well, can you truly take care of your relationships and contribute to life in an uplifting, impactful way. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people.
7. Seek out a mentor. All athletes, from beginners to elite have trainers. Skillful living is no different.
Self care begins with first noticing all that is you. When you really start to notice, you start to appreciate. What you appreciate, you take care of. What you take care of, thrives. The practice of self care has everything to do with how much you care about you.
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