Think of yourself as having two parts: One part is a child in need of nurturing; the other is a parent who has the privilege of caring for that child. It’s a privilege to take seriously. And one way we take that privilege seriously is to practice self-care on a deeper level.
We also can think of self-care as having layers. One layer, perhaps the first layer, may include pampering: bubble baths, manicures, pedicures and spa days. The other layers, layers two and three and 23, address caring for our souls, hearts and spirits. That’s really self-care on a deeper level. It’s how we honor ourselves at our core, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Below are nine ways we can compassionately care and parent ourselves on those deeper levels.
- Accept all your feelings—even the feelings that seem inappropriate or wrong or awful. Get curious about them, without criticizing yourself. Why am I sad every Sunday? Why am I so angry right now? Why am I anxious? What do I feel when I’m anxious? What are my emotions trying to tell me? What do they want me to know?
Write your answers in your journal. Remember you don’t have to like how you’re feeling. But it’s important to accept it, instead of fighting and resisting, as in: These are my feelings. I may be upset that I’m anxious. But I also can honor that this is my reality, my truth, right now. I also respect that I want it to be different. And I’ll sit here and feel into it all.
- Make and keep your doctor’s appointments. Most people don’t like going to the doctor. Which is completely understandable. But think of this as a loving way to care for your health. Think of this, again, as a parent protecting and prioritizing their child’s well-being.
- Respect and reconnect to your imagination. Any time we talk about our imagination, we tend to think it’s frivolous and silly and unimportant. But for many of us connecting to our imagination makes us come alive. So draw, paint, sing, read children’s books, take nature walks, go to a science museum and think about what you want to invent. Think about what sounds fun and interesting to you, and do that.
- Get rid of the things that are weighing you down, everything from clothes that don’t fit to books you never plan on reading (e.g., weight-loss related) to gym equipment you don’t use (maybe you want to try dance classes, instead?). Think about what’s bothering you in your home, and consider donating, tossing or recycling it.
- Ask for what you need. Find a way to meet your need. Maybe you need some alone time after you get home from work, so you kindly ask your spouse to give you 30 minutes by yourself to decompress. Maybe you need a housecleaning service, so you and your partner figure out a way to fit it into the budget. Maybe you need to know that you’re not the only one struggling with depression or anxiety, so you join a face-to-face support group or one online.
- Identify what stresses you out. What triggers your overwhelm? What makes you feel frazzled and drained and weary? Maybe it’s certain people. Maybe it’s your workaholic ways. How can you navigate your personal stressors so you don’t get into a frenzied state? How can you reduce your stress? How might you eliminate some of it?
- Think about what nourishes you spiritually. Is it attending church or synagogue? Is it prayer? Is it Sunday school? Is it reading the Torah daily? Is it writing letters to God? Maybe your spiritual nourishment has nothing to do with God or religion. Maybe it’s about reconnecting to nature, and creating rituals that root you to the earth and to yourself. Maybe it’s volunteering your time for organizations that mean the world to you.
- Adjust your self-care practice to your natural tendencies. Maybe you’re a highly sensitive person, who needs space, silence and a lot of art in your life. Maybe you’re an extrovert who thrives when throughout the week you have many social outings planned. Think about who you are. Think about when you feel most energized and excited. Think about when you feel most like yourself.
- Rethink how you do things. Often we hang on to our routines because they’re, well, routine. We cling to the familiar because it’s become automatic, and comforting. But we might be missing something that can truly support us. Does your morning and evening routine nourish you? Are you happy with your current schedule? Do you like how you spend your weekends? Where can making changes have a significant impact on how you feel?
It may seem silly to think of ourselves as two parts, and maybe it is. And maybe it’s also exciting and empowering: Because you have the power to give yourself what you need. You have the power to make adjustments. You have the power to honor your natural tendencies, and to protect them. And, as any parent knows all-too well, while that comes with responsibility, it also is an incredible privilege.