What is self-care? How does that look? I imagine that for each person it will look different, and for various moments and needs, it will be different as well. For example, a few forms of self-care might include movement or stillness; basking in the sun; walking in nature; stretching (yoga, tai chi, or other) meditation; resting; enjoying a cup of hot tea in a comfy chair… Self-care might also include healthy ways to be in community: calling a friend; playing with a pet; spending time with a loved one; or other nourishing activities.
One of the foundational keys to self-care is time with little or no distractions, to be alone or in community without the distractions of our quick-paced lives. ‘But I’m so busy,’ we say, ‘how will I make time?’ … Making it do-able is the best we can do. Creating time in do-able increments. Can you feel your breath and the spaciousness in hearing the word ‘do-able’? Self-care is not to be treated as another chore or daily task. It is, however, a spiritual task taken up in service of health, wellness, and a greater mystery than we can imagine.
How is self-care related to stress-reduction? Stress-reduction is much sought after these days. To reduce stress you need to care for your self, and to care for your self you need to reduce stress. They are intertwined. To manage and reduce stress, one must be willing to care for himself or herself first. Many of us are often taught it is more noble to put others first, rather than yourself. In certain cases, this is an important learning tool for being in the world, society, as well as learning common respect for all. Unfortunately, it can swing to an extreme, where we try to always put others first; eventually our cup becomes empty, and we continue to try to give and don’t understand why we feel tired and depleted. Unbeknownst to us, or possibly known, we are giving from a deficit. This never goes well…
Self-care includes the ways in which you fill your cup. What joys in your life fill your cup? What relaxation techniques help you to feel full again?
How can we create giving opportunities that go well for the giver and the receiver? What might it be like to give from your fullness and not be depleted?, and how might that be for the receiver?
In this day and age, we often attempt to de-stress by having time alone but sitting in front of a screen—TV, computer, iPad, Nook, cell phone, video game. While these may fit into the category of fun and leisure, they are not truly self-care. The light from the screens causes our eyes and brain to speed up. This over-stimulates the nervous system causing it to go into hyperactivity. This overstimulation shifts our body into the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares us for fight/ flight/ freeze. Our goal in self-care is to slow down, to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest, digestion, the endocrine glands (which secrete hormones) and other important bodily functions. These systems can only activate, function, and harmonize when the body is at rest.
Slowing down can also give us the space and time needed for inner reflection, discovery of our deeper needs, and exploring how those deeper needs may or may not be met in the near future. Removing demands on yourself and others is an act of self-care, and will also amazingly result in stress-reduction.
If you want to learn more about Stress-Reduction and Self-care, we invite you to join us on Nov 17th at 9am thru 12pm. We will be offering meditation, yoga and an open discussion on the different ways we can slow down to tend and care for the Self.
In warm regards,
~Janet and John Wepner