Everyone is basically aware that “self-care” is important – and that we are all more responsible than anyone else for taking care of ourselves.
Nonetheless, between the various stresses, preoccupations, and obligations of everyday life, it can be very difficult to actually keep this reality front and centre of awareness, and to act on it appropriately.
For many people, the idea of “self-care” is already a pretty vague and poorly defined thing that seems to have something to do with aromatherapy candles and spa days, and which may seem significantly detached from everyday life.
In order to actually make self-care a meaningful reality in your own life, you need to have some practical steps that you can act on, to escape the usual pitfalls and to move towards a more uplifting version of your life.
Check out these five things you can do to start taking better care of yourself today.
Acknowledge any pains, frustrations, and worries you may have – and take the first step in addressing them
First things first; everyone has certain pains, frustrations, worries, and hangups that weigh heavily on them to varying degrees. If those issues are constantly ignored and pushed to the back of the mind, they are likely to remain painful and troubling, without any real resolution ever occurring.
While it’s not necessarily the case that all your personal troubles, pains, and frustrations can be neatly “fixed,” it is almost always the case that there will be things you can do to at least acknowledge what’s bothering you, and to take the first steps in addressing those things.
If nothing else, you will frequently be able to find a greater degree of peace if you acknowledge and face the things that are troubling you, in a controlled and balanced way.
Sometimes, particular problems may actually be a lot easier to address than you might have assumed. Something like chronic foot and ankle pain, for example, might be resolved by a pedorthist appointment and a change in footwear.
Either way, you need to face up to what’s bothering you before you can effectively deal with it.
Find regular moments for silence and reflection
The famous Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge has various world records under his belt, and his feats include adventures such as a solo trek across Antarctica to the South Pole.
Although his life story seems to be anything other than an exercise in quiet and calm living, he has written on the importance of “silence” in his life – and, more broadly, how he believes that the absence of “silence” is one of the great malaises of the modern world.
In his book, “Silence In the Age of Noise,” Kagge argues that regular moments of silence and reflection – away from social media newsfeeds, TVs, smartphones, and perpetual distraction – are essential for true health and well-being, and proper self-knowledge.
This isn’t a call to turn your back on the world and to retreat to a cave somewhere in the mountains. But it is a call to find regular moments of silence and reflection in your everyday life, so that you can come to know yourself better, can work through your own internal questions and hangups, and can learn how better to separate the true “you” from the noise that we are all surrounded by on a regular basis.
Let go of the need to constantly be busy, and “productive”
The ability to be hard-working and productive is, of course, important for success, achievement, and well-being across various dimensions of life.
All the same, though, the writer Celeste Headlee makes a compelling and impassioned case in her book “Do Nothing,” that much stress, uncertainty and loss of meaning occurs these days due to the “cult of productivity” and the belief that every minute of the day needs to be treated like work and assigned a dollar value.
Startlingly, Headlee outlines how – for example – modern Americans work more hours a week on average than mediaeval European serfs did.
There is psychological research to show that this extreme emphasis on “busyness” is very detrimental to overall well-being, and even (paradoxically) results in reduced productivity in the office.
To take proper and effective care of yourself, realise that you don’t actually need to be constantly busy and productive. In fact, you should specifically aim not to always be busy and productive.
Balance is essential, and leisure time that is set aside purely for fun and relaxation is not a sin, a waste, or a moral failure.
Take steps to follow your heart in the pursuit of what you find meaningful
We all have to deal with chores and obligations that we don’t necessarily find very meaningful, just in order to keep things ticking along, to keep the bills paid, and to prevent the structure of our lives from unravelling.
Nonetheless, if your life is entirely driven by purely pragmatic concerns and actions, and seems entirely devoid of meaningful activities, you are certainly short-changing yourself in terms of your overall well-being, to say the very least.
Wherever you can – in ways both small and large – try to listen to that little voice inside you that directs your attention towards things that you find meaningful. Wherever the opportunity arises, take steps to follow your heart down those meaningful paths, so that you can actually enjoy regular bouts of excitement and enthusiasm when getting out of bed in the morning – rather than just a sense of resignation.
Practice the art of truly experiencing and appreciating what’s right in front of you in each instant
One interesting idea put forward in the book “The Molecule of More,” is that the systems in our brains which mediate happiness are entirely different from the systems in our brain which mediate craving and the desire for “more.”
If you are in the habit of always viewing happiness as a goal to be reached further down the line after you’ve reached a particular milestone in life, or have got that next promotion at work, or have both that new outfit, it’s likely that happiness will seem always out of your reach.
True happiness is about really noticing, experiencing, and appreciating what is right in front of you in the here and now. It’s about taking the time to savour the sunrise and sunset. It’s about really enjoying the taste of your meal, or cherishing the time spent with someone close to you.
If you’re constantly busy and rushed off your feet, it can be difficult to slow down and “smell the roses.” But the more you can practice this skill, the richer life will be.