Self-care is not a luxury. Period.
Taking care of your health is not optional if you want a better quality of life. Self-care is not only mandatory, it is crucial to your survival. If you neglect any aspect of your well-being, you will suffer. The term disease is defined as "a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people." Therefore, cultivating habits that nurture a higher quality of life or more positive disposition are necessary for optimal health. Self-care practices are not selfish or lavish. If you truly care about someone, you would encourage them to take care of themselves. In order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. The Buddha once said "if your compassion does not include yourself, then it is incomplete."
Do not wait for something to go wrong or for symptoms to appear before you decide to start taking care of yourself. Self-care needs to be enjoyable and consistent in order to be effective. Think of it as pleasant preventative measures, rather than unfortunate damage control. Your self-care routine is as important as personal hygiene. Hygiene doesn't last, that is why it is recommended that you do it daily. In Ayurveda (the oldest Medical Science in the world), these daily practices are called dinacharya. Dinacharya is a daily routine that includes all of your personal hygiene, movement and exercise activities, medical and wellness needs, as well as spiritual practices that are curated according to your individual constitution and personal goals.
At the root of all disease and pain is the lack of self-love. Think about that for a second. At some point in our lives we inevitably experienced some kind of physical or emotional trauma that forever altered the trajectory of our lives. The result of that trauma is inevitably some form of negative emotion or behavioral pattern such as fear, guilt, lack of forgiveness, blame, or even self-loathing. All of those negative emotions can be traced back to how we ultimately view and feel about ourselves. Can you honestly look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you love everything about your body and who you are in this point in time? If you can, then you have definitely done the necessary work in order to accomplish self-love. I am not talking about vanity or ego. I am speaking specifically about the critical foundation of self-respect, self-esteem, and self-empowerment that can only be built upon self-love.
The beauty of Dinacharya, or a regular routine of consistently taking care of yourself in body, mind, and soul, will ultimately result in cultivating self-love. Even if that is not the original intention, it is a by-product of your efforts that is at the core of whatever goal or intention you do have. When you love yourself enough to care for your health and happiness, self-care practices become an enjoyable and integral part of your everyday lifestyle.
Start small, work with what you have.
Self-care does not have to cost a fortune or be difficult to acquire. You are the only one who can define what self-care means to you. Every single person has a unique inherent constitution and personality, so everyone's needs are going to be different. In order to know what it is that you need, you will first need to know yourself, your body, and what exactly it is that you want to achieve. In order to do this, you will have to practice Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It can be as simple as pausing for a few moments to close your eyes and check in with what is presently going on in your body right now in this moment. We live such hectic daily lives, that we rarely slow down enough to notice that something is wrong until our bodies are screaming at us and force us to take a break. For instance, how many times have you forgotten to eat breakfast or looked down and wondered where that bruise came from?
In order to prevent problems or get one under control, you first have to examine and evaluate your current circumstances and lifestyle. Then you will know where to begin and what needs to be done in order to correct it or achieve your goal. Start with what you have on hand and go from there. For example, if you suffer from anxiety first take the time to analyze what makes you anxious. Identify your triggers and how you react to them. Then implement some mindfulness techniques to help you control those reactions. Eliminate lifestyle habits that contribute to the imbalance (such as coffee or caffeine), then start working on the mental habits and thought patterns that contribute to the problem. This might look like daily meditations or art therapy to help you relax.
Here are some suggestions or activities to inspire your own Self-care Routine:
So you see, the possibilities are endless. This list will undoubtedly continue to grow, and I would love to hear your suggestions! What are some of your favorite ways to practice Self-care?