We often think of self-care in terms of having a relaxing bath or a massage, eating well, exercising and generally taking care of our physical well-being. These things are important in maintaining a healthy self but they’re only a small part of the whole picture.
Self-care is also about looking after and nurturing our mind and spirit as well as our body. It’s about noticing the negative, judgmental self-talk and replacing it with a more encouraging inner dialogue. This is a profound act of caring because it’s this critical inner voice which depletes our reserves leaving us feeling anxious or with low mood.
Another aspect of self-care is about seeking support, reaching out to others and making ourselves a priority. It’s about creating space for ourselves emotionally and allowing feelings to be held and accepted. It’s about noticing our difficulties without judgment.
One way we fail to take care of ourselves is by avoiding difficult situations and having poor boundaries. Many of the difficulties we encounter in our day to day lives can be encapsulated by one principle: avoidance. Most of us avoid a great many things; having difficult conversations, asserting ourselves, asking for what we want or need, expressing our emotions, taking care of our feelings.
On a deeper level, we avoid our own selves, our frustration, our hurt, our fear. We distract, push away and fight, seeking to keep away and close off from those thoughts and emotions which we don’t like and which we believe just aren’t acceptable.
In all its many disguises avoidance has one main purpose, to prevent us from making a meaningful connection with ourselves. While we are ruminating about the past or worrying about the future we are in our heads and avoiding the vibrant, unfiltered experience of the here and now. It is only in the moving towards ourselves that we discover the sanctity of presence and when we stop avoiding ourselves and gently and graciously attend to all that arises. This is deep level self-care, this is attending to all elements of self which gives us a sense of inner joy and peace.
Giving ourselves permission to be fully human is profoundly self-caring and self-loving. We can treat ourselves like a nurturing, supportive mother who notices our limitations with compassion and is always on hand to provide a sense of stability, calmness, support and unconditional love.