Truth be told, the idea of wholistic “self-care” used to trigger my disdain. It seemed a bit trendy and twee; a non-essential and indulgent concept, and not nearly as important as the concept of caring for others. I wonder, now, why that was? Perhaps it was due to being in a helping profession where I was focussing a lot on client-centered service delivery and didn’t have much time left over to put myself on the list too. And perhaps too I was taking my wellbeing for granted, which, let’s be honest, we can tend to do when we have the immortality of youth on our side.
So, I’m curious if in your life you have recognized the importance of self-care? And why and when did you tune into it?
One catalyst can be awakening to the real value inherent in your personal brand, and the contribution possible in this lifetime. Appreciating your gifts and energy and where you are directing them for community benefit starts to invite a sincere interest in looking after them so you can serve your purpose wholeheartedly for as long as possible.
Once you have your “why” sorted, you can really invite more self-care into your life. In fact, if I were drawing self-care as a shape on a whiteboard I would represent it as a large round shape – for it takes a great big circle to encompass all the aspects of ourselves that have an interconnected influence upon our state of being and on our energy levels. Within that circle, we would also need to include the activities that we undertake to care for those many aspects of our self.
For starters, inside the ‘circle of self-care,’ we could include our physical BODY that benefits from cleaning and adorning, nourishing and hydrating, exercising, strengthening, moving skillfully and sufficient resting activities. Our SENSES would need to get a guernsey too, connecting as they do with some of the older sections of our brain and benefitting from enrichment with pleasant stimuli and environments. Then there are our higher cortical capacities that we can perhaps think of collectively as our MINDSET which benefits from learning opportunities and novel challenges to ponder and solve and the cultivating of positivity. Our CREATIVITY has to be included in this big self-care circle too for if we neglect that we deny our very humanity and our mood can crash.
Whilst we are at it, let’s also pop in our MOTIVATION levels, because when they are engaged well they can trigger ‘flow’ states in which we can feel as one with what it is we are doing, bringing the benefits of a true taste of bliss and boundlessness. Our genetically encoded needs for LOVE and BELONGING have to be nurtured and here we can think of activities that help us relax and keep our emotional reserves high so we can remain vulnerable, trusting and resilient in the way we relate to ourselves and others and for finessing our sharing and caring and repairing behaviors within our circle of “significant others”. And our SPIRIT benefits from our caring actions too through self-compassion and restorative activities…. and so we could go on.
Yes, this circle of self-care that we could draw sure does need to be big and generous to hold all the relevant contents.
From this wholistic place, it is apparent that self-care can perhaps best be served by weaving a positive and proactive attitude and approach to wellbeing across many areas of your life simultaneously and building them up into routine and regular practices rather than random, occasional or isolated actions. And that becomes a life’s work. One which we can keep crafting as we mature not just physically and sexually and occupationally, but emotionally and spiritually across all the decades of our lives.
That being said, developing a “self-care and wellbeing tool kit” can be valuable in providing go-to techniques and strategies that are your personal favorites because they are particularly effective for you or relate to particular needs at particular stages. A toolkit can keep the concept of self-care do-able rather than overwhelming and encourage a persistent focus while you build up habits. As an occupational therapist, I am aware that occupational therapy consultancy can assist you with developing your toolkit of self-care activities from the perspective of health and wellbeing, meaning and balance, and the practicalities of scheduling.
Another creative reason for drawing self-care as a round shape could be to mirror the shape of our mother – the planet Earth. You see, we get to spend our precious life-time upon this gorgeous planet with all the other living species that this biosphere supports, so we are literally surrounded by sources of Gratitude! Yes, it’s easy to find at least 3 things or experiences daily to spark gratitude, the challenge can be in stopping there. But if we do not keep it ‘front of mind’ it’s also easy to overlook this simple practice and then it can’t take root as a daily habit to support a positive mindset for wellbeing.
An image of self-care as a “circle of self-care”, the same shape as our Earthly orb, can cue this all-important Gratitude component and it can also remind us of the significance of the self we are wanting to nurture, and the real benefit of self-care. For when the self is seen as an amazing and dynamic being who can develop and contribute to new opportunities for a better world, then self-care is truly an investment in collective wellbeing.