You don’t have to have a career or profession in the health care or service industry to be a care provider. Sit back and take a look at the world around you. Who in your life are you currently supporting or providing care for because they require a little extra help, compassion and love? I bet you will come up with at least two people or one animal that you are a care provider for. At some point in our lives, we are all care providers for other people but when do we acknowledge being care providers for ourselves? What are the things we do to take care of ourselves?
There are four pillars of self-care: physical, emotional, social and spiritual. We may focus more effort on the pillars that appeal more to us, however, when we are focusing on self care, it is important to create a balance between all four pillars. This will allow you to feel truly restored and capable of caring for others because we all know that we can’t pour from an empty cup! Serving others well starts with self care.
The Four Pillars of Self Care
Physical: sleep, stretching, walking, physical release/activity, eating healthy food and rest
Emotional: stress management, forgiveness, compassion and kindness
Social: setting boundaries, knowing who your support system is, positive social relationships (in person or on social media), communication, asking for help and time with other humans/animals
Spiritual: time alone, connection to a ‘higher power’, being in nature, having a sacred space, journaling
If you look at the pillars and the associated activities, do not feel overwhelmed that you have to engage in everything. Choose one activity from each pillar to start. Perhaps you feel drawn to physical activity, showing compassion, spending time with animals and being in nature. As long as you can include one activity from each pillar, you will be better prepared to provide self care. As your self-care habits strengthen and become a regular part of your daily routine, start by adding one more activity, from one pillar at a time. Eventually, the effort you invest in self care will create positive compounding interest and you will feel the benefits extending outward to those you care for.
On a final note, self compassion is so important. If you are tired, rest. If you are sad, observe how your sadness feels. If you want time alone, take alone time. Be compassionate to the state you are and choose a healthy activity to honour that state. Tonight I chose to book a massage for myself so I can honour my feeling of wanting to be alone and wanting something that is just for me (and because my neck is killing me from all the stress). My fatigue is more emotional and mental than physical today, so, I will also plan for a brisk walk in order to enjoy nature, fresh air and expend some physical energy with fingers crossed that no other ‘life’ distractions interrupt my ‘alone time’ . These are two self care strategies that work for me. What works best for you?
~ Michelle Smith, RMT