It’s easy to get overwhelmed at all the suffering, tragedy, and ugliness in our world. Turn on any news channel, and you’ll be depressed in ten minutes. What if I told you that there’s a simple way to change our world for the better on both the micro and macro levels? Well, there is.
Most people are inherently good. They want to do the right thing and help their fellow humans along this journey we all call life. What happens, though, is that we get overwhelmed, stressed-out, and over-worked. Best case scenario is that this happens from time to time; worst case is it’s our typical way of living.
Having a rough go periodically is entirely normal and to be expected. Living in a never-ending state of high-stress and strife, though, is not. What’s the reason that some people are constantly tightly wound, and others are able to cope with life with more ease and grace? It’s due largely to good self-care.
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: taking care of your health and well being in a conscious and intentional way. It’s making time to decompress, time to relax, time to recharge your metaphorical batteries. It’s about taking care of your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
You may say, “But I’m too busy for that!” Well, you need to make room in your life for yourself. Living a life that’s constantly and exclusively about producing, achieving, and doing can be exhausting and, in fact, quickly lead to burnout.
Psychotherapist Sarah McKelvey points out in a piece on Psych Central, “Our lives are organized culturally with an emphasis in the first third of our lives on education, the second around career and family development, and the last third for leisure.” Unfortunately, this simplistic but largely unconsciously segmentation of our lives leads to the mentality of ‘go, do, achieve’ until we fall over… at least until we’re retired. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that humans don't do well in a constant grind. Self-care revitalizes us and brings us back to our best selves.
Now, although self-care may look different for each individual, there is a persistent myth out there that it’s all about spending money or luxury. While a massage or vacation could be great self-care for one person, for another those things could have little to no impact. Let’s take each arena of self-care and go through some good examples of how to incorporate more into your routine.
Physical self-care is all about taking care of your body and physical health. Things like exercising, dancing, walking, spending time creating a healthy meal plan for the week, or even napping (within reason!) would all be wonderful ways to manage your physical self-care. Yes, this is the category where massages and mani/pedis, if those things are important to you, would fit.
Emotional and mental self-care would be well demonstrated through meditation, gratitude practices, reading, taking a class to learn to do something like painting, cooking or a new language. Spending quality time with friends and family is the most common form of emotional self-care.
Spiritual self-care is something that would apply to anyone with a belief system and includes actions like going to church/temple/synagogue or deepening your understanding through additional study or service.
A well-balanced self-care routine should include all three areas fairly regularly.
At this point, you may be asking, “So, how does that relate to changing our world?”
Remember, most people want to do the right thing. Like I mentioned earlier, humans are inherently good and want the best for their fellow man. When we’re making the conscious effort to include self-care into our daily lives, we more readily can accept the challenges that life throws at us, we can give more freely, and we become more benevolent on the whole.
“When we are not taking care of ourselves, we end up in a cycle of deprivation in which the activities of our day deplete our energetic and emotional reserves,” according to Dr. McKelvey
You may have heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” meaning that you can’t give to others what you don’t have- time, energy, patience, support, love, etc. Self-care is simply the way you refill your cup.
How many issues, problems, and instances of ugly behavior are simply a product of someone operating from a place of exhaustion, stress, and overwhelm? Although there’s no realistic way to quantify it, I think we can all agree that our world would be much better off without rash decisions, cold actions, and selfish mentalities. Taking care of number one often leads to bigger problems in society down the line.
Imagine a world where most people were more caring towards each other, more generous with their time and energy, more mindful of their impact on one another, and more centered in their own worth.
Does that sound like a world you’d like to live in?
It does to me.