The holiday rush includes the upcoming New Year, bringing with it a feeling of hope for renewal. Many seek self-improvement at this time, most commonly by getting in shape, losing weight, or setting goals of ways to be a better, more fulfilled person. Whether you are setting any grand goals or looking for simple changes, I encourage you to think of this change in the realm of "self-care." Framing personal and even professional and family change as self-care evokes a different perspective, as it calls for stress management and engaging in a healthy lifestyle.
Self-care is not just for those who are feeling drained, down and out. Self-care is about putting healthy rituals and habits in place to rejuvenate and replenish yourself regularly. We all encounter stress and struggle, so self-care is for all of us.
What self-care is not is extravagant pampering. This is not a suggestion to buy an item for which you don’t have the budget, get a manicure, or have a martini.
It is also not “self-centered” or “selfish” to care for yourself. Just as we tune up our vehicles we also need to tune up ourselves to run properly and use our full capacity.
So what are some examples of self-care? Self-care falls under the categories I bring up often in therapy sessions: your physical, mental/emotional and spiritual well-being.
Physical care includes eating healthy foods, preparing meals yourself and eating them slowly and mindfully. Physical care means moving--yoga, dancing stretching, walking, or running, for starters. This means attending to your physical ailments whether with a doctor, alternative health professional like a masseuse or chiropractor. Do things that are appealing to you so they become enjoyment and not just another item on your to do list.
Mental and emotional self-care includes spending time with those you love, keeping up with friendships and relationships, being available to support the important people in your life and in turn letting them aid you. This also means self-soothing and guiding ourselves through our days with gentleness, perhaps approaching our short comings and successes with humor. This also may mean joining a support group or entering psychotherapy, or reading books and material of interest.
Attending to spiritual self care can aid with being kind to ourselves. Do you meditate, or belong to a particular faith? Identifying our values and priorities to find meaning in the world can also provide inspiration and rejuvenation.
To get you started, here is a modified version of the Defense Scale, an exercise used by dance/movement therapists and other movement professionals to encourage grounding and balance. You can practice this modified version from a chair.
- Start by placing your feet on the floor and sitting with your back in a straight but comfortable position. Tune into your breath.
- Begin by rising with lightness by lifting your arms, and head, and gently lift your upper body.
- Next, sink down into your chair, ground your feet, and reach for the floor with your hands (go as far as you are comfortable). Sink into gravity using the strength of your muscles.
- Sitting upright again, cross your arms and legs to narrow your body as directly as possible.
- Open your arms and legs as freely and as wide as you are able while remaining balanced.
- Reach behind you with an arm or your gaze to retreat into the space behind you. Do so quickly if you can.
- Finally, advance slowly by reaching forward and pulling your torso forward.
- Return to your neutral, seated position.
- Notice your breath and body sensations, be aware of any changes in mind and body.