Self-Care Practices: From the Inside Out

Because there is nobody else like you in the world, your self-care is your unique imprint that only you intimately know and build over time. Anything worth doing takes time to practice and cultivate, and self-care is no different. So, take a deep breath, maybe get a warm drink and sit in your cozy lounge chair to take measure of YOUR self-care. What we take measure of, we can appreciate and grow. You may want to get a pen and paper to reflect on the questions below. As you reflect on your self-care journey, I will share with you my evolving journey to self-care practices in the hopes to support and inspire you. 

Why do you value self-care practices?

I value my self-care practices because I inherently matter. I matter because I am the only person who can be me. Who I am, my gifts, desires, dreams and visions all matter because I matter. I learned over time to differentiate between self-worth and self-esteem, the latter is based on what I do or what others think of me, all of which is externally driven. I practice self-care because I feel energized, rested, healthy and connected to myself afterwards. 

What do your self-care practices look like?

My self-care practices involve physical, mental, emotional, and social routines. Physically, I pay attention to the amount of sleep I get, having regular healthy meals and being physically active. Mentally, I maintain a mindfulness-self compassion meditation practice and a gratitude journal. Emotionally, I practice good boundary setting, saying no, asking for help when I need it, staying true to my values and spending time doing things I enjoy. Socially, distanced of course, I spend time with people whose company and friendship I value. 

What messages from others have you gotten about self-care practices? 

I used to think that self-care is selfish and self-indulgent. I also used to think that it was a temporary thing to do rather than a practice to maintain and cultivate. I used to think that there was a right way to do it, and so wouldn’t practice self-care “because I didn’t give it the right amount of time.” I also used to approach self-care practice as something “I deserved if I worked hard enough for it.” I used to think that self-care practices were set in stone and were not dynamic. 

How has your self-care practice evolved over time?

I have learned over time to give myself permission to let my self-care practices adapt, change, and grow. I have noticed that my needs vary depending on the season of the year, how my physical health is and the daily demands of life, work and relationships. Each life experience has shaped who I am becoming. I have learned to honor my growth and so reassess what I need from my self-care practices and what I want them to look like. I have certainly had to adapt them during this challenging time for all of us. 

When are you least likely to practice self-care? 

I noticed that I forgo my self-care practices when I am taking care of others’ needs, and when I have external demands on my time from others and from work. I also noticed that I don’t maintain my self-care practices when I place demands and expectations of myself, when I let myself believe my negative beliefs of myself and when I set poor boundaries. 

When do you know that you need to practice self-care? Do you notice physical or emotional changes without doing self-care?

I notice that I haven’t been practicing self-care enough, or need to adjust it, when I feel easily overwhelmed, become emotionally reactive and don’t have the bandwidth to handle curve balls that life throws at me. I also notice it when I start to be harder on myself and blame myself and show less compassion towards myself and others. I tend to lose my sense of curiosity and adventure and overall feel that I have less physical energy. 

Do you keep a certain schedule or rituals for self-care? If not, why not?

I learned that I need to maintain an adaptable routine. The keywords being consistency, flexibility, and gentleness towards myself with less self-judgement. There are times when I have more time to do more self-care. There are other times where I recognize that I need to do more self-care practices depending on life-circumstances. I used to be rigid about my self-care, and that created more stress and self-judgement. It is an evolving dance

Who or what inspires you to practice self-care? Why?

My patients inspire me to maintain my self-care practices. When I witness how they are able to cultivate over time their self-care practices and how well they feel and grow, it reminds me to listen to myself and my needs. Also, my friends, who are my source of accountability, remind me to return to my self-care practices. 

What do you like most about your self-care practices?

I like how I feel, think, and connect to myself and others when practicing them. I also notice that I am able to be and live as a better version of myself. I notice that I am able to pause before reacting to people, places and situations, and act in a way more consistent with my goals, values and visions. I also tend to have less of a need to consume in general, whether it be food, media or buying things. 

What are some of your challenges around self-care practices? 

I notice that comparing my self-care practices to what others do for their self-care practices discourages me. Self-judgement about if I am practicing enough or practicing the right way diminish the joy I receive from practicing self-care. When I perceive that I have less time, then I practice less self-care. When I lose sight and connection to my values, I also value less my self-care. 

How would you like to grow your self-care practices?

I would like to build more of my self-practices within a community, as it is easy to believe that I am alone and isolated, especially during this challenging time. I look forward to the personal growth in the face of current challenges to adapt my self-care practices. Curiosity and a sense of adventure are key ingredients to the process. 

By Dr. Abu Ata

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