BE With Your Self-Care Needs
By Lisa Templeton, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
(With excerpts from Letting It Be: Mindful Lessons Toward Acceptance - Dr. Lisa's book to be published this April)
Only you can care for yourself – no one else can address your internal, emotional, physical, and spiritual world except you. We leave ourselves in a very vulnerable position if we are waiting for someone else to care for us. The truth is that we can’t change anybody but ourselves.
Unfortunately, these bodies that we walk around with from our birth until our death can be a lot of maintenance. There is much mindful awareness needed to properly care for this temple and the spirit that lies within. Each person is a bit different in what he/she needs and the best ways to nurture ourselves. What might be very helpful to one person, may not be helpful to another. For example, a walk can help clear my head and gain perspective on any situation. In talking with others, I’ve found that walking can bring up more anxiety and stress being alone with themselves in their own head, overthinking situations. Perhaps a focused task like listening to music or watching a show would help. A glass of wine might relax one person, and serve to give another heartburn.
Take to task your thoughts and emotions and how you feel when you do something. Our emotions are there to be a guide to us on what our self-care needs are in each moment. Identifying our emotions will aid us in moving into expression of emotion, which will ultimately allow for release of these emotions. In turn, we are nurturing our emotions with our self-care behaviors.
For most, but not all, sharing our emotions can be a helpful self-care tool, although that in itself comes with a lot of vulnerabilities and fears. It can be difficult to even identify what emotions are going on within, much less speak it to someone else. Still, holding our emotions inside can lead to a lot of distress. Once we understand what we are feeling, we can work to express it. Again, nobody else can do this for you but yourself.
We must use our social supports to guide us as we continue to connect and relate with others. Share without expectations – the point of sharing is for ourselves, not for others. Perhaps your friend or family can help and/or support or perhaps not. The least we can do is ask and when sharing, try to be specific and clear about what you really want. Be aware of your mind, body, and thoughts relating to your need. If you do have an expectation, be aware of it and be clear with yourself that sharing your feeling is for you, not for anyone else.
Repressed or denied emotions will inevitably affect us overtime; hence, I like to use the metaphor of an invisible fisherman’s coat that we each wear everyday with many, many pockets. Imagine if each feeling that we push away gets loaded into one of those pockets. Overtime, the coat becomes heavy and it’s difficult to maneuver in life. It’s time to lose the coat entirely. Yet, the act of cleaning out each coat pocket and feeling through and working with our feelings can be a difficult task. It’s daunting, but if you work to stay mindfully aware of your emotions and have intent to work with them differently, your experience will naturally begin to change. It is worth it to bring about a sense of peace and calm in our lives that allows us to gravitate more toward surrender, and ultimately, to acceptance.
Slowing Down and Being
I hear so many people talking about how everything is moving so quickly and they have no time to slow down. What I hear is that they have a need for harmony, well-being, and stillness – how can one meet this need, especially when it doesn’t seem as though there are enough hours in the day as it is. Harmony and stillness can only be sought in being, not doing. When we practice being with many components of our experience (i.e., our thoughts, our body, engaging our observer, and our breath), harmony and stillness finds us.
If you find that you just can’t slow down and shut your mind down - listen to it, observe what it is saying, track it, and change your perspective. Distract it – say a mantra to yourself over and over, “May I be happy, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be safe.” You could clean out a drawer, sing a song, take a hot bath, a cold shower, or have a cup of tea. There are many behaviors we can engage in to calm ourselves. You need to stay aware of what behaviors feel calming to you and then find time to do it.
In our busy culture, we must take the time for ourselves. This is not something we wait for to be given to us. We must communicate, ask our loved ones, and work to find support within ourselves and others around us. You cannot expect your spouse to announce you have the night off if she/he doesn’t even know you need it. Doesn’t everybody need it every now and again? Stay assertive and loving when asking for help in fulfilling your need. Do your best to state your need and do what makes you feel alive, stimulated, and blissful. If you are struggling to ask for help, inquire within to find out why. You are the expert on yourself – no one else.
Staying mindful of our mind and our body, we must use it or we will surely lose it. Exercise both your mind and your body daily if you can – really move around and really sit still. They are a beautiful balance with each other. There can be a negative connotation with the word “exercise” relating to going to the gym, doing standard movements, etc. Perhaps you move in the way you enjoy - perhaps dancing might be your thing.
There can also be a negative connotation with the word “meditation” possibly relating to thinking that one needs to “clear the mind entirely” to succeed. Neither exercise needs to be perfect, nor practiced for a very long period of time. Each day, working the mind for 10 minutes and the body for 20-30 minutes can have wonderful nurturing effects. Even just five minutes or taking several 30 second breaks throughout your day can be helpful. Just as you may meditate the mind, exercise the body and vice versa. Take a dose of natural hormones to help release emotions and gain perspective.
As many of you might know, I am a musician. Music has provided a foundation for my personal and spiritual journey that has been absolutely priceless. I was not always a musician though – not until I was 25 years old did I even pick up a guitar. I played some keyboard as a teenager, but never thought to really put form to any of my practices. Once I picked up the guitar, the songs started to come. These were composed of many poems I had written over my teenage years expressing thoughts, emotions, and my perceptions of life. This was incredibly beneficial for me both personally and professionally. I used my words and songs to express myself. That was a huge need I had that I didn’t even realize I had at the time – it just felt really good (and still does). Working through difficult aspects of my life, music was there to support me. I do hope that my music will continue to support me and provide nurturance to others as I continue to write.
The point is to find forms of release that provide guidance and creative expression for our brain. Perhaps you might find painting, poetry, and/or pottery helpful to you – even if you’ve never tried it before. Identify your releases and the way to express yourself. Maybe it’s cooking or clothing design or interior design. You might enjoy drumming and finding a rhythm and something to bang on when you get home from work. To release is to create and we are most powerful when we are creating for ourselves in our life.
Be sure to pamper yourself when you can. Take a bath, sit and watch your favorite TV show, drink a glass of wine, take a walk, draw a picture, get a massage, or a manicure/pedicure. Do what makes you happy and remember to do it in moderation. If I take a bath every night, the pleasure of it may not be as stimulating. Change up the ways that you pamper yourself. Work to develop your list of pampering behaviors and “give yourself flowers” so to speak (or even literally!).
When you are addressing your own needs and loving yourself in a way that nurtures and cares for yourself, you are providing yourself with a foundation of tools to do better at managing your life. You are worth it! Don't ever let anyone else tell you different, particularly yourself!