Self-care is multifaceted. There are many ways to meet our needs—and different approaches will resonate with different people. After all, self-care is personal. What feels like self-care to one person may feel like the opposite to another person. Our needs may be universal—the need for sleep, rest, food, connection, love—but how we choose to meet them is individual.
With the start of a new year, it’s a great time to reflect on how you’d like to care for yourself. It’s a great time to reflect on what’s changed, what you need more (and less) of, and how you’d like to tend to your biggest—and smallest—needs. As such, below are six ways to think of self-care, which might resonate with you—or hopefully spark other ideas.
Picture your perfect day. In his latest book A Mindful Day: 365 Ways to Live Life with Peace, Clarity and an Open Heart author David Dillard Wright, Ph.D, suggests meditating on what the perfect day looks like for you. Actually envision the details. What surrounds you? What are you doing? What are you seeing and smelling? What are you hearing? What are you tasting? Who are you with? How are you feeling?
Then, he writes, “When you open your eyes, take a few concrete steps to bring your life into greater alignment with your vision.” Try to do this regularly, because your perfect day may change, depending on your current mood, likes, dislikes and needs. If you’re envisioning a sense of calm and peace, you might respond to that by listening to a guided meditation, or making your bedroom into a sanctuary. You might respond to it by sipping your favorite tea and reading scripture. You might respond by deleting something from your to-do list, or taking the next day off from work.
Think of your needs in categories. Right now, identify your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Then identify how you’ll meet them. For instance, maybe your body is feeling achy, so you’ll schedule a soothing massage and practice yoga several times this week. Maybe you’re feeling stuck and uninspired, so you’ll take a walk on a new trail and take along your journal. Maybe you’ll check out a new exhibit at the museum and browse your local library (because just being surrounded by books often inspires your ideas).
Think about adding and subtracting. What would you like to add to your life? Maybe it’s more quality time with your spouse or best friend. Maybe it’s more time alone. What would you like to subtract from your life? Maybe it’s a bunch of books and objects and clothes that make you feel overwhelmed and bad about yourself. Maybe it’s people who thrive on gossip and diet talk, which you prefer to replace with activities that genuinely support you (and others). Maybe it’s alcohol, because you deserve to wake up with a clear head and heart.
Focus on creating. You are a creator, whether you feel creative or not. What do you want to create in 2018? You can get as specific or as abstract as you like. Simply start brainstorming words that come to mind. Maybe you want to create magic or ease. Maybe you want to create art—such as painting self-portraits or penning poetry about a difficult time. Maybe you want to create a business. Maybe you want to create something, anything for the fun of it.
Consider where you’ve been struggling. Consider how you can navigate these struggles in a way that is respectful of your emotions and yourself. That is, turn to behaviors that are based in self-compassion, patience and understanding, and turn away from behaviors that are dismissive of your pain and based in self-destruction.
Consider how you’d want a loved one to treat themselves. Would you want your loved one to do what you’re currently doing? To treat themselves in the same way? If not, think about how you’d want your loved one to treat themselves—and how you could do the same for yourself. What activities would you like to engage in? How would you speak to yourself and think of yourself?
There’s a range of ways we can think about self-care. The key is to focus on what genuinely meets your personal needs—instead of focusing on what you should or shouldn’t be doing: I should be exercising four times a week. I should be drinking green drinks. I should be eating more protein. I shouldn’t just walk; it’s not enough. I shouldn’t need more sleep. Six hours is plenty!
Focus on understanding yourself. Discover what inspires and energizes you. Discover what soothes and heals you. Discover what you enjoy, and what speaks to your heart. Listen to yourself. And then engage in actions and habits that sustain and support you. Because that’s the foundation of compassionate self-care. And you deserve both. The compassion. And the care.