Self-care is a critical component for living a healthy life full of joy and fulfillment. Unfortunately, we often feel like we are just too busy to be mindful of all parts of ourselves. Practicing self-care is practicing self-love. I’ve found that living intentionally in the following 7 areas will often lead us to living a life that we love and to loving the person that we are.
How am I caring for my physical body?
We all know it. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will make us feel better. But for some reason we still don’t do it. It’s as if the intellectual center of our brain (our cerebral cortex, orchestrated by our frontal lobes) is in a dramatic battle with our emotional center (our limbic system). Both of these parts of the brain think that they are helping us, but the tension that they create is often enough to keep us stagnant. Learning to manage this internal tension can help free us from the blocks within our own body.
It’s also important to keep in mind that physical self-care is not just about diet and exercise. It is also about being mindful of anything that interacts with or touches our body. Any toxin, any chemical, any person…
How am I allowing space to process my feelings?
Sometimes we just try to power through it. Often we think that putting something on a shelf for a while, so that we don’t have to deal with it now, will be helpful.
This is a trick.
Our mind will trick us into believing that it is healthier to avoid harsh realities in life. Interestingly, sometimes it seems to work! We can temporarily free ourselves from dealing with complex feelings by simply distracting ourselves (think Netflix, video games, or whatever we use to “check out”). However, a funny thing starts to happen- the feeling starts to come out in ways that we didn’t expect. Maybe you lash out at your partner, or you get overly angry during a meeting. It will eventually come out, it’s just a matter of how it comes out. Living more intentionally and finding someone like a therapist or counselor to work with regularly can help us to live more intentionally and learn to process our emotions in a healthy way.
How am I continuing to challenge my mind intellectually and creatively?
Depending on your day job, many of us can walk through a lot of life mindlessly and uninspired. After doing the same thing for a long time, our tasks move from our conscious (where we have to think about it and process the pros and cons of decisions) to our unconscious (where it becomes a habitual mindless activity). Caring for our intellectual self keeps our mind fresh and our life inspired. What is something creative that you used to love to do but just don’t have time for anymore? Do it today! Process how you feel before and after doing it.
How am I cultivating my closest relationships?
In life, we have 3 sets of friendships: Primary relationships, Secondary relationships, and Tertiary relationships. Primary relationships are those that are closest to us. These are the people who truly know us. If I asked one of these people about you, they would be able to tell me a bit about your insecurities, the things that you care most about, and some of the most impactful things that you have been through. Most of us only have a few primary relationships, and it is important to cultivate them. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to maintain relationships. But these are the people who we know are worth keeping in our lives. Relational self-care is an active process. If we aren’t intentional about cultivating these relationships, they will inevitably fade.
How am I spending time with community (outside of my immediate family/circle)?
But what about those Secondary and Tertiary relationships? Secondary relationships are the people in our lives who we spend time with regularly. They’re our friends, we go out on the weekends with them, we enjoy each spending time with them, but maybe they’re not quite as close as our Primary relationships.Â Tertiary relationships are those on the periphery. These are our Facebook friends that we don’t see often but still enjoy keeping in touch with.
Social self-care is all about the extent to which we feel connected and invested in a community (beyond our closest friends and family). When we feel connected and engaged, we feel like we have more meaning and purpose in life. This brings us to the next area of self-care…
How am I managing the ongoing search for purpose and meaning?
I’m not talking about religion. Religion can be part of this, but that’s not my focus here. I’m referring to our internal sense of self and what we bring to the world. Do I feel like I am connectedÂ with the deepest parts of myself? Am I aware of how I’m living, feeling, and being in the present moment? What do I want to contribute to the world? Our Spiritual self is the part of ourself that asks the deepest questions. Maybe I’ve been hiding from who I truly am for too long…
What methods am I using to cope with suffering?
As we journey through life, we all suffer. Suffering is a part of living and an important part of growing. We all may suffer in different ways, and it is important to find healthy mechanisms for coping with suffering. Though suffering is often unavoidable, we can work to employ mindful coping methods that help us emerge from the suffering a more hopeful and aware human. We may walk through life with a limp, but we are still walking and we’re going to carry on.
Are you interested in beginning therapy? Do you have questions? Contact Tim
About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.