I first learned about the importance of self-care in a spiritual study class that highlighted the connection between a strong self and spiritual sensitivity via experiences, discussion and exercises. The two year course was a large commitment for me to make, and my gratitude for being considered for the class as well as for the knowledge gained have no bounds. I have struggled with my sense of self for my 36 years on this planet, and the concept of self-care has revolutionized my life experience.
As a former military member, a single mom of three, and a perpetually busy person, it is hard to think of myself as much more than a provider, a mentor, or a source of others happiness. I prefer my friendships to be very emotionally intimate, which I have observed to be quite different than most of the people I’ve encountered in my travels and many military moves. It never occurred to me during those 14 years in the Navy to ask myself what I wanted and needed instead of assuming that something was wrong with me and how I connected with others. I always assumed I was giving too much, which was partially right. I was giving too much to the “wrong” people and not connecting with people that aligned with my values better. Some people I did connect with and had great friendships that felt close and connected. Others showed what they wanted me to see, and used the knowledge they gained to further their goals. I do not fault them, though it hurt at the time. I learned some valuable lessons from those that took advantage of my kindnesses and refused to try to understand the diversity presented in the unique experiences we were blessed with.
As a single mother, I have to carve out time to myself whether I want to or not. Being introverted also means I have different needs than the norm, which contributes to negative emotions, depression, anxiety, and shortens the length of time I can spend away from home. Without the course I took, I would still be struggling to maintain the mountain of goals, job and family requirements, and perceived pressure from outside of me, while drowning in regret, judgment, and unfulfilled dreams. Without that course, my shift to asking myself “what fulfils me? “ as well as “What best supports me right now?” before I look to my duties would never have occurred. Two years after first hearing about self-care, I am still refining my list and understanding myself even more deeply.
Self-care begins with how you feed yourself. How are you eating and drinking? How are you feeling inside? What are you thinking? Whom do you look up to? What are you reading? How does your living space look and feel to you? Whom do you spend the most time with? Do you allow yourself to have enough fun? Nutritious foods, a well fed mind, friends and loved ones that support you and hold you safe, an environment that is as balanced as possible, and (if you’re inclined) a regular spiritual practice that fulfils you are some basics that I look at when tweaking my list. I also look at sleep, which is an essential for me. Most days I rise at 5:30 a.m. The rest of my house awakens (one way or another) around 7 a.m. I take the time when the house is quiet to meditate, yoga/workout (YouTube is a wonderful source for getting started), and if I have time to journal some. This practice helps to ground me and to center me in self before the selflessness of the day begins. I also make sure I have time to connect with others during the day. I do not have much time during the week to have in-person time with other adults, and if I am not maintaining my mindset I will experience loneliness and/or disconnect.
You can include anything that nourishes you on your list. Ideas include, cuddle time, sex, reading, exercise, connection time with others, alone time, nap time, added value and gratitude journaling, non-screen time, experiences in nature, etc. Adding finances to my self-care routine is my newest endeavor, which I plan to add to my daily checklist.
I hope this is enough to give you an idea of how you might handle self-care. Everyone will have different requirements and levels of variety on their lists. Happy list making!