“What is self-care?” a client asked me. “I don’t really know what that means. Eating well, and sleeping and exercising?”
Yes, and so much more.
- Good self-care is finding things that feel good to your heart, whether a favorite stone, a song, sitting somewhere special, calling someone special.
- Good self-care is not pushing yourself to function at your optimal level when you’re going through a rough patch.
- Good self-care is holding with compassion the person who is suffering and has suffered so much. In this case that person is you. Can you have as much compassion for yourself as you would have for your best friend going through what you’re going through?
- Good self-care is finding (healthy) activities that give you a moment of pleasure or are a time out from what is so stressful.
- Good self-care is being kind to yourself. Can you speak to yourself with as much empathy and caring as you would to a loved one? Can you touch your face or arm with tenderness? Can you give yourself a break when you need one?
- Good self-care is being responsive to your needs rather than shutting out anything that is painful or inconvenient and gets in the way of functioning. Your feelings and needs are important and deserve to be attended to with respect and loving care.
Caring for someone recovering from an illness often means bringing food and helping out, so the person can rest and heal. In a similar way, caring for yourself when recovering from emotional pain means supplying nourishment and doing what you can to make your life easier. It means that you—your well-being—comes first and is more important than keeping up with expectations. It’s nice to keep up as best you can, but it’s not as important as your healing process.
Just as you might protect an injured finger with padding, good self-care is providing a cushion to your nervous system. It is paying attention to all those things that affect you: sound, temperature, light, the effect of different food and drink on your digestive system, the effect of various people on your emotional system. When we are healing emotional wounds, our nervous system is doing extra work and starts with the disadvantage of already being compromised.
Knowing this, you allow yourself a little more “margin” than usual: an extra hour in bed, time to journal when you would have been paying bills, the option to leave the obligatory social gathering (or not going) because you just want to be alone.
There is feedback in this process. When you feel your body relax or you have a little more space emotionally, your self-care is working. Keep it up!