Greetings from Pyxis Counselling Services! The "short" month has gone by quickly, even with an extra day. I trust that all is well and that you have noticed signs of spring amidst the remainder of winter. I have moved into my new office at 509 - 2525 Willow St. in Vancouver, and have enjoyed the process of creating what I hope is a warm and peaceful atmosphere in the space. The article this month is about self-care, a topic that I thought deserved a bit of clarification as I find myself talking about it with clients and reflecting on it in my own life.
5 Elements of Self-Care (Besides Clipping Toenails...)
1. The Day to Day Habits -
Because our physical and mental health are intertwined and affect one another, a large segment of self-care is caring well for our physical selves. This includes the ongoing eating, sleeping and grooming rituals as well as things like going to the dentist, doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, and other health professionals when needed. One way to consider this is to think about how we care for our pets. We wouldn't deprive them of food or proper exercise, or make them stay up til 2:00a.m. watching YouTube videos and then make them work a 12 hour day the next day. I'm being silly of course but you understand what I mean.
2. Tuning Into Self-Talk -
"Self-talk" is something we all do. It's that running commentary that we have going on in our heads (sometimes out loud) about ourselves and others. Interestingly, the things we say to ourselves can often be quite negative. "Wow, that was really stupid, I can't believe I just said/did that". "Well, I managed to make a total mess of that situation - again." And so on. Part of self-care is having self-compassion. Taking a bullying tone with ourselves might seem to work at times, but just as with bullying others, over time the impact will be harmful and disempowering. We'll feel a lot better with some encouraging and gracious words to ourselves.
3. Letting Others In -
As much as we like to think we have it all under control on our own, the reality is we need other people. We need others for encouragement, support, love, compassion, perspective, and helping to lift heavy things. Part of any good self-care strategy is asking for help in whatever form that takes. It goes both ways of course, as we are part of other people's lives and can offer this care to them.
4. Ask Yourself - What's the Point? -
Our motivation to care for ourselves is connected to our sense of purpose. What's the point of looking after ourselves if we don't have a sense of why we are here and doing what we're doing? This could open up a Big Life Question like "Why am I here on this planet?", but it could also just be a check in with ourselves as to what direction we want to go in. If I look at what I'm doing today, does this reflect what is important to me?
5. Keeping Things Alive and Lively
This is connected to self-care similarly to number 4, in that we need more than just a daily routine to feel alive. This part of self-care is about having fun, trying new things, going on an adventure (this can be anything from travelling to a foreign country to trying a new breakfast cereal), anything that helps us avoid living life on auto-pilot. Of course we need to have some sense of routine and structure, as the opposite would be chaos, but I know in my own life that too much "same old, same old" creates a sense of boredom and apathy.
Isn't focusing so much on "self" kind of... you know... selfish?
The potential for selfishness is always there, particularly in a culture that focuses on the individual more than the collective. But self-care in the true sense benefits everyone, as no one is really better off if we are burnt out, depressed, and stressed because of not looking after ourselves. The safety instructions given on a plane where we are told to put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others is an apt metaphor for life. If I'm not able to breathe, how can I focus on helping someone else? Selfishness is looking after our own interests with no regard for others, whereas self-care is about loving, respecting and valuing ourselves, because none of us deserve any less.
As always, I invite your thoughts, questions or feedback on what I've written, and I also invite you to use the "forward to a friend" option at the bottom of the page to send this article to others in your life. I look forward to connecting with you again next month.