Even though there’s usually a huge focus on self-care in times of chaos, I do believe that self-care can be practiced all the time if you choose. Reading this statement might stir flutters in your stomach or produce doubt in your mind. I understand and it’s totally normal.
One reason that I believe practicing self-care feels daunting is that the word ‘practice’ is applied. In the hustling society in which we live, we are trained that practice=discipline and this results in rigidity. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. I felt this way for most of my adult life because I allowed the outside world (the periphery) to affect my inner world (the center). It might sound odd to distinguish those but they are different.
The outside world is constantly tugging on us to attend to its needs and from a young age, we are taught that those needs supersede our own. This is how our distortion of selfishness arises. But caring for yourself is not selfish, it’s essential.
Here’s a hidden secret: When we understand our needs and express them honestly and openly, we welcome the people and situations into our existence that support our needs. This is the elegance of being open to receiving. Once we are able to receive by having our needs supported, we are fully-filled (fulfilled) to give in abundance to those around us.
Getting to this place is a choice and it takes practice, but not practice in the rigid do-every-morning-at-5 am-for-30-minutes type of practice. This is how many view their practices and it’s why so many “quit” before they realize the joy in most practices.
I now define Practice as Practicing (a verb) because it’s fluid and ever-changing based on my needs of the day or for the moment.
Therefore, Practicing is the wildly imperfect process I use every day to support my growth.
I ask three questions about practices that I learn to help guide my decision-making:
1. What do I need right now?
2. How useful is it?
3. Why am I doing it?
Asking these questions allows me to create many tools for my toolkit, and improvise when necessary. Having many ways to care for myself gives me options when the “tried and true” method doesn’t work right now.
Another secret: you can let down the weight of trying to find the silver bullet, and let yourself collect practices from sources you trust and try them on to see what fits your needs in the moment.
Gathering numerous methods is important because the tools that we use to dig out of one tough spot inevitably are NOT the same tools that we can use to dig us out of the next rough patch. This is the mystery of life at work.
Here are six practices that you can use to care for YOU! The key ingredients are curiosity, awareness, and choice.
This is meditation. Take one deep breath where you can feel the air dance around your nostrils, linger in your throat and move past your lungs deep into your belly. Feel the life force fill you up. Hold for a moment for stillness. Release from your belly slowly if you feel calm or with a lion’s roar if you need to let some stuff out. Better out than in! (Resources: Vipassana Meditation or Breath Meditation can be googled, here is one article)
Any time you feel off your game, check-in with your mind (what are you thinking?), your emotions (how are you feeling?), your essence (what are you saying?), and your body (how are you acting?). If the four parts don’t align, it’s a simple way to find out what’s out of balance. Once you become aware of the imbalance, then you’re in the best position to determine what you need to get back into your flow. (Resources: Viktor E. Frankl and Brene Brown)
3. Empower Up
Pay close attention to the stuff that lights you up and the stuff that drains you. What lights you up, find ways to do more of it. What drains your energy, find ways to do less of it. You might not be able to unload the draining stuff right away, however, by bringing awareness to what’s drawing and enlivening, your mind, body, emotions, and essence will figure out how to bring more light into your life and help you move the drainage elsewhere. (Resource: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers)
One of the hardest things to do is to ask for help. Why? I believe that it is because many of us are unsure about what we want or afraid to ask for what we need. Begin to collect breadcrumbs for what you want and need and capture them somewhere like a journal, notes on your phone, etc. Review weekly or whenever feels right and you’ll start to see themes. From this place, you’ll be well positioned to ask for what you want and need because you’re aware of them. Then you’ll step into what it means to thrive. (A resource to consider: The 5-Minute Journal)
5. Trust Yourself
Intuition is the sixth sense that helps us feel our way through life. This stands in stark contrast to thinking our way through life, which is what we are conditioned to do. As a result, this practice is going to feel unnatural, however, when you tap into the faint voice you might begin to know the most powerful GPS on the planet. Too often, the voice is so faint that we feel it in our gut or say “I wish I would have listened to myself” after the fact. You came into this world with gifts meant to be expressed only by you and your knowing is so much stronger than what is contained in books, but society likes to teach us to distrust our instincts and this is passed from generation to generation. You can stop this by listening intently to what you’re experiencing and feeling in a situation and acting from your authenticity even when it’s not “acceptable.” The more you say no to self-betrayal the more acutely your sense of inner trust will become your ritual for your life and the lives of your children. Doing this will shift the consciousness of the planet and it simply takes one person – You. (Resource: Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes)
Authentic compassion is built by giving to yourself first through honest and open self-acceptance. We’re human which means we are flawed and perfect as we are. A path to realizing this is to CANCEL the 3 D’s: Demoralizing, Destructive, and Debilitating thoughts. We all have them and they are the biggest lies told of all. So any time a thought meant to tear you down pops into your mind sharply, say “CANCEL” and replace it with something affirming of yourself (i.e. you made a stellar cup of coffee this morning). In time you’ll see the thoughts are replaced with silence and you’ll start to feel sparks of joy that just get more profound as you practice. If you can’t say cancel, wear a rubber band on your wrist – a little snap goes a long way. The brain can’t help but stop and direct its attention elsewhere. (Resources: Kristen Neff & Pema Chodron).
Remember that you are the first, the last, and the only you. I look forward to seeing you soar.