Self-Care: It Takes A Village...of ONE!
I know. You’re busy. School is tough. Your teachers are mean. Your friends are loud. And your parents just don’t or can’t understand. I get it, but I don’t think you do yet. While you’re busy taking care of and worry about everyone else, you’ve been neglecting the most important person in your life. Yourself! Find the time to take care of yourself can be difficult, but it is a necessity. If you don’t, it won’t be long before you’re down, out and too done to care about anything or anyone else.
Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. It just makes you feel good and reminds you that you too are a very important person.
Self-care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self-care is treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
Many African cultures pointed to a connection between body, mind, and spirit and recognized that each composed a part of the whole. We now know that along with the physical, spiritual, and mental body, we also have to promote health emotional bodies, too. Your health is dependent on all four facets, as opposed to just one of the four. The physical body is affected by our emotions, our thoughts direct how we feel, and our energy level sways our mind and our thoughts.
The Spiritual Body
The spiritual body is your connection to energy. For some, this may be more closely tied to religion and for others spirituality. For others, it could have more to do with the atoms in the body or the quantum energy that science refers to. Whichever way you choose to view the source of your energy is perfect.
Energy trickles down from the spiritual body, from God, the Source, or the universe and is the first to enter the mental body. To fully access the spiritual aspect of your being, maintain a daily practice that keeps this connection open. If a blockage occurs, energy and information are unable to flow freely from the spiritual body down through the mental, emotional, and physical bodies. This is why a daily spiritual, religious or health practice is so important to maintain this open connection. To be in a state of harmony between each of the layers of our being, we need to develop our intuition and spirituality as much as we do our mind and emotions to create a solid physical foundation.
Practice Meditation Daily. Learn to work with energy (through practices such as Huna, Reiki, chi gong, and Chakra) as a way to keep the energy channels open. Study consciousness, religion, or philosophy. Pray.
The best meditation technique is the one that works for you. You can sit quietly and close your eyes (or leave them open) and gently chant or focus on your breathing. Eastern tradition often focuses on the word "Ommmmm." Jewish meditation can use the word "Shema" from Hebrew prayer. Christians may meditate on Christ or a Bible verse. Muslims might use a phrase from the Koran. What you say or do or don’t do is less important than your focus, which can help clear your mind. Many of us have found that prayer can help us feel more relaxed and connected to our soul – and thus our spirituality. There are as many sources of prayers as there are people – and you can create your own prayers. Take it one minute at a time, literally. Start with one minute of meditation regularly.
The Mental Body
On a surface level, the mental body is your thoughts. On a deeper level, it is the domain of your beliefs, desires, values, and goals. Beliefs are opinions and convictions that we hold as being true without having immediate proof. Values represent what we hold internally as most important in an area of life. Values and beliefs can come from thoughts that were formed very early in childhood. (Who wants to start a good ole nature vs nurture debate? 🤔)
We all have desires to achieve or acquire something in our lives, which is why we set goals and intentions to help us get where we want to go. Some surface-level thoughts, which may create goals or desires, direct our mental focus from moment to moment. This is how our logical, linear minds learn and operate, and it is one of the aspects of ourselves that is most familiar to us.
As energy comes down from the spiritual into the mental body, if you are operating primarily from the mind, there will be a disconnection in the flow. This exists a lot in our society today—the mind being the predominant force—and this imbalance can keep us stuck in a perpetual state of thinking, strategizing, plotting, and doing, doing, doing. An open spiritual connection enables us to access higher levels of energy, which the mental body can effectively utilize to make balanced, wise choices that unfold more potential for us and everyone else involved.
Set Goals. Get a coach or mentor to keep you focused on your goals. Practice daily recapitulation or reviewing your day from start to finish each evening just before falling asleep. Continue your education by reading books, gettin’ L.I.T. or taking advantage of leadership opportunities. Eliminate stressors in your life including the organic ones.
The Emotional Body
Our emotional body is comprised of all your past, present, and future emotional experiences. It is the aspect of us that houses emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt, resentment, jealousy, and shame. Whenever we have an experience, it generates feelings that are associated with past similar experiences, and we develop a label to identify the emotion. Emotions and memories are categorized and stored, and they influence how we respond to experiences in the moment.
As energy flows down from the mental body into the emotional body, it can bump into stored baggage from the past and create some turbulence. Stored baggage can come from past fears, which can project into the future and cause anxiety. Or, it can come from experiencing a lot of anger or resentment toward someone, which can cause anger or resentment later in life when the same thing happens with a different person. You may even develop a belief that all people are this way.
When there is excess baggage, thoughts from the mental body will generate emotional stress that trickle down and affect the physical body. A person with overwhelming stress will, at some point, experience physical symptoms because of the mind-body connection. It has been proven that negative emotions can harm the body and happiness is linked to overall physical well-being.
This is why it is imperative to develop emotional intelligence (more on this coming soon) and to adopt practices to have a more positive outlook on life, both mentally and emotionally. When our thoughts are more optimistic, our emotional states will be more positive, and when our emotional states are balanced, our physical bodies will be healthier.
Self-Reflect. Journal about your experiences and how they made you feel. This could be as easy as using the Notes App on your phone. Practice forgiveness towards yourself and other people. Deepen your connection with others. Spend time being grateful for the gifts and opportunities that you receive. Gratitude is not a seasonal activity. Gratitude is a daily muscle that we can work on building all year long. Keep a log dedicated to gratitude. Write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for each day. Challenge yourself every so often to do 20 or 30.
The Physical Body
Your physical body is the reflection and total sum of all aspects of who you are. It is a barometer that indicates how things are going in all areas, and it also provides the musculoskeletal structure and vital tissues and organs that carry you through this life.
Hitting the gym 🏋🏾♀️ and healthy eating are typically what comes to mind when most people think about physical health. However, your exercise of choice isn’t the only thing to consider when striving for good physical health. We all know people who have clean eating habits and are physically fit, but who carry excessive mental and emotional stress, which can wear on their health. While it may not be immediately recognizable, chronic stress takes a tremendous toll on the physical body. Stress (👈🏾 post coming soon) occurs when our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs are not being met. Stress triggers the fight-flight response, which is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into our DNA. It is how our physiology prepares to respond to potentially life-threatening events. When this response is triggered repeatedly it creates wear and tear on the physical body.
Health is much more than just the absence of disease. True health comes when we’re able to create harmony between each of the four bodies. Our physical body is our foundation in this life. It is what everything else is built upon. But, it is equally important to exercise each of the other three bodies on a regular basis to maintain harmony. We need to establish our own individual health, fitness, and wellness regimens.
Move your body. Practice strengthening, lengthening and balancing. Prepare the freshest and most organic meals as often as you can. Stay within your budget. Pre-plan for healthy away-from-home-snacks. Get plenty of restful sleep. Spend time in nature 🌲. There’s something about being outside that lifts your spirits. But spending more time in nature does more than just improve your mood - it can actually change your brain, improve its function and also strengthen your body. 🐢
There are few lifestyle practices more damaging than a sedentary lifestyle. Even if you go to a school that has you chained to a desk for most of the day, it’s important to get up and get moving. Take five minutes to walk around, stretch, and loosen up.
You should also aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day. If 30 minutes feels overwhelming, try breaking it up into two 15-minute sessions or even three 10-minute sessions. The more you move, the better you’ll feel - and the healthier you’ll be.
Little and Often Wins the Day. With a little bit of attention to your own self-care, the fog will lift. You’ll feel more connected to yourself and the world around you. You’ll delight in small pleasures, and nothing will seem quite as difficult as it did before. Like that car, you must keep yourself tuned up to make sure that you don’t need a complete overhaul. Incorporating a few of these tiny self-care ideas in your day will help keep you in tune. Which one will you try first?
Now, if you found this helpful, like this post and most importantly, leave a comment! I want to know how you felt about this. Did you understand it? Did you learn some new self-care tips? Did you learn something new? What would you like to see next in this series? Either way, don't forget to subscribe for updates on the latest posts, opportunities and scholarships!