We hear the phrase “self-care” often these days and for good reason. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and our “new normal”, everyone has had to endure an enormous paradigm shift. Our personal lives, careers, and virtually every aspect of our existence have changed. This is obviously a daunting prospect during the best of times, but add in a dash of economic trouble and a soupçon of political upheaval, and the world, for lack of a better word, has gone bonkers. And don’t forget, especially if you care for others, you need to maintain your own wellness before you can help with theirs.
That said, fear not dear reader. As JFK said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” As many challenges as we have all faced in the last few years, we have also proven our ability yet again to adapt. We have found that it is not only possible but sometimes preferable to do things remotely. How many people do you know now that work at least part-time from home, allowing them to spend more time with their families? Have you attended virtual classes or conferences that otherwise would have necessitated travel and huge expenses? Have platforms like Zoom made connection with loved ones easier and more frequent? Opportunities to make lasting life changes for the better are available.
One of the biggest positive outcomes is that more people are paying attention to their mental, physical, and emotional health. Those stuck in their homes took the time to clean, organize, declutter, redecorate, and build new personal practices that they now had the time to do. A study published in 2022 found that in general, those who practiced mindfulness had fewer negative impacts on their sleep and mood. There were even some initial positive environmental results. The one that struck me was that after only a month of shutdown, the Himalayas were visible to parts of India for the first time in over 30 years. The effect on air pollution was that fast! That result can be replicated in our own lives with a little planning and commitment.
A cursory Google search for self-care gives countless results from different schools of thought on what components should be included. In general, the aspects that one is directed to focus on include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, and professional. Some of these can be combined in different ways, but this is a good breakdown and is fairly self-explanatory. Physical attributes can be addressed with things like exercise and healthy eating. One’s environment can be improved with the aforementioned cleaning, redecorating, etc. How then might you tend to the emotional, mental, and spiritual facets of your being and how do they differ? Maybe a better way to think of these particular attributes is as feelings, intellect, and connection to the divine or universal energy.
Tweaking the Feels
Our emotional selves are the parts of us that experience feelings. Happiness, love, sadness, and anger are all examples. To work on our various moods, we need to do activities that put us in the state we are looking to inhabit. For instance, if we are sad and want to be happy, we can watch a favorite funny movie, play with a child or pet, or buy ourselves something that always makes us feel better, like flowers. If we are angry, we need to focus on something calming. Breathing exercises, or just stepping away from the situation at hand are both great remedies.
Using the Grey Matter
To take care of ourselves intellectually, we need mental stimulation. Read a good book. Watch a documentary movie or series. Do something creative or that challenges your thinking. Conversely, if your mind is already over-stimulated, clear it out by meditating, journaling, or getting outside for a calming walk. Keeping a good intellectual balance can help us to reduce stress in our lives. It can also help us to keep regular and healthy sleep patterns.
Spiritual health is a very personal thing. Each of us, regardless of what religion we may ascribe to or none at all, takes a personal and usually very private path to our concept of the Divine. Some may say it is a journey that never ends. Some consider it their life’s pursuit to become ever closer to the energy of the sacred. To foster spiritual growth, we need to turn to our core motives, values, and beliefs. Connecting with a group of like-minded people can be a great way to do this. Conversely, if you are more of a solitary practitioner, setting up a sacred space in your home or yard, beginning a mindfulness practice, or just visiting a place that you find inspiring will help to set you on the road to wisdom.
Achieving Inner Harmony
Keeping a balance in life is so very important. Getting into nature, eating healthy foods, practicing gratitude, setting personal boundaries, or just remembering to play now and then are integral to maintaining our physical and mental health. Remember to occasionally unplug too! Put the cell phone, tablet, laptop, and any other electronics in another room and keep the TV off. Have meaningful face-to-face conversations with friends and loved ones. Connection is key, be it to your mind, body, or the people and things around you. With a little time and effort in these practices, you too will clear the smog so you can see your personal mountaintops again.