Self-care means doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. There are so many lessons that have spun out of the past year of my life but none more critical (mostly initiated out of survival) than taking care of myself.
As someone who’s been going to counseling for a while now, my (ridiculously amazing) counselor regularly asks me how I am caring for myself. If I give some weird answer or beat around the bush she will say, “What are you doing just for YOU?”
[Completely beside the point but I still can't get behind the term 'self-care,' yet I don't know what else to call it... Maybe ministering to myself yet I don't like the religious bent... come to think of it, I really like the term Caring for Myself so I'll go with that...]
For the first 3 years of our marriage I was constantly inundated and obsessed with the idea that I’m the ‘helper’ of my husband… his needs and wants and desires should be above my own, right? I became so engrossed in this idea of marriage and being one that I lost sight of caring for myself and of my individuality to a certain extent… And as the flight attendant reminds passengers before every flight: “Secure your own mask first before securing the mask of those around you.” I had lost sight of myself – of loving myself, being compassionate towards myself and of caring for myself. (We’ll touch on marriage later, I think there’s definitely a healthy way to be a helper…)
One of the most basic commandments of the Bible is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” It was pointed out to me that too often I miss the hardest part of this verse: we have to love ourselves FIRST before we love our neighbors. And after talking with some friends we agreed that a more modern view of this verse is “Love yourself like you love your neighbor.” Because a lot of the time we treat our neighbor with more love, compassion, empathy and all around thoughtfulness than we do for ourselves.
So what exactly is caring for myself? It’s doing my best for what’s healthy for me TODAY and then being compassionate with myself if I fall short of my (usually ridiculous and high) standards. It’s asking what do I need to do to take care of myself and then setting that plan in place.
For me that’s included: healthy eating, exercising to be healthy but also to get rid of some aggression, reading, BATHS – I have loved taking bubble baths, huge journaling sessions to clear my head and wipe my emotional slate clean, having Bible verses around my office and in my car, lots of funny phone conversations and laughs with my girl friends, episodes of Downton Abbey because there’s something about all things British that really just soothes my soul.
If you’ve gotten this far in the blog post, I’m impressed and thank you for being on this journey with me. Hopefully you’re learning a lot too and I hope you’ll take the time to think about how you can begin to care for yourself too.
What does caring for yourself mean to you?