For the first 18 years or so of our lives, our parents take care of us. They provide a safe and warm home, delicious and nourishing food, emotional support and encouragement, resources for a solid education, and a clear set of guidelines that teach us appropriate ways to engage with the world and meet various expectations.
When we leave our parent’s homes for good, we have to learn how to fend for ourselves. We feed ourselves and find our own housing. We get jobs to be able to pay for everything or complete a college education. We essentially take over the job of sustaining our very own well being.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and in my mind, caring for oneself goes deeper than having a roof over our heads and our physiological needs met.
Truly caring for yourself involves nurturing your emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical states. While all of these can be rooted in your biological well being, this ultimately means that there has to be an active consciousness and honest awareness of how you are feeling and doing both inside and out.
For example, let’s say you have a productive day. at work. You are firing on all cylinders and getting a lot done. On the outset, that is wonderful. It’s great to get ahead with your responsibilities, but what if the root of this productivity is an avoidance of dealing with a deeper sadness or anxiety? Just because all is well in one corner of your life, this does not guarantee that all is well elsewhere. I find it tricky to be able to discern these kinds of variations when you genuinely want to believe that you are doing just fine. Sure, everything is not always going to be peachy keen, but that is not the point.
The point is that you stay attuned to the vulnerabilities you face with honesty and an open heart and actively find ways to compassionately address them.
Every day, I have a list of little things that I do to help me take care of myself. They are geared toward rejuvenating my spirit and maintaining an awareness of self.
Have a look . . .
- I write in a journal every morning.
Usually, it’s one or two small paragraphs that state what feels most pressing in my life, how I am feeling, and reminders to do those things that enhance stability and growth. This is essentially a daily check-in with myself–kind of like a briefing for the CEO, CFO, the Board of Directors, and the shareholders of my body and my life. They each have a vested interest in my success and health, and they deserve complete transparency over every transaction and its outcome.
- I drink lots of water every day.
This is one of the points where the biology of your body effects everything else. Staying hydrating sustains everything. Yes, everything. It gives you more energy, flushes toxins out of your body, helps you stay regular, keeps your skin healthy, and refreshes/cleanses your internal organs. Water is your body’s version of the sun. It gives you life and stands at the core of your physical well being.
- I loudly state several things for which I am thankful.
It’s no secret that thankfulness has numerous benefits. Several years of having a daily thankfulness habit has improved my mental state. I’m more inclined to believe in the positive side of things and am less effected when setbacks happen. Gratefulness is what feeds resilience. It gives our minds the willingness to stay strong and keep trying.
- I stay as physically active as I can.
For me, this means taking the stairs and not the elevator, parking farther away so that I can walk a longer distance, and engaging in a physical activity that I actually enjoy like riding a bicycle and walking. Most days, especially on the large college campus where I go to school, I walk a whole lot, and I LOVE it. Move your body as much as you can and find a fun way to do it.
- I try to connect with loved ones and friends as much as I can.
There is something healing about the human connections we make. Through laughter, empathy, and heartfelt discussions, our mental health gains a lot by being engaged with people who genuinely love and care for us. Find those people and hold on to them for dear life.
- Be generous.
Whether you give of your time, money, or personal resources, just give. Do so with no expectations whatsoever. Just give. I will not tell you why, but I invite you to find out for yourselves.
- I make the time to rest.
Sleep, alone time to decompress, napping, and doing nothing are all forms of rest in my life. Rest is the antithesis of burnout. If we do not recognize those moments when we need rest, then we are in danger of getting far too worn out. Take the time to rest as often as you can. It will restore your energy and your faith in yourself.
For the record, I am not a doctor or psychologist, these practices are thoughts I have culled out of my own queries and experiences.
Life can be tough, and we often have so much we need and desire. The more we taking better care of ourselves, the better off we will be.
Honor the work and the diligence of your parents, and take exceptional care of your body and mental/emotional well being. It’s not fair to pin any of that on other people. Take responsibility for yourself. It’s your life and your own version of happiness at stake.