Self care can take the form of a nourishing and stress relieving bath. Or perhaps self care right now is a commitment to show up at the gym three times a week. Sometimes self care is having that really tough conversation with yourself or, harder still, with your loved one.
Each of these scenarios requires you to pull on foundational self care skills that very few of us have actually been taught. These are the 5 steps to authentic self care: Loving kindness, self reflection, emotional responsibility, cultivating purpose and taking time.
Each person has to go through their own version of a learning experience to master these foundational self care skills. Today I'm introducing these concepts and weaving them together to help you build a foundation that the rest of your self care routine can comfortably expand from.
No. 1 Act From A Place of Loving Kindness
Acting from this place of unconditional compassion is foundational to self care. Without it, the risk of becoming dogmatic in approaching self care increases the possibility of unintentionally creating more pain, harm and blocks than care.
When I think of care, I think of nurturance, maintenance, listening, understanding, hope & action. These words, and many more, can be applied to any activity in our lives. I encourage folks to try on this perspective and notice how your body, mind, soul and environment respond.
No. 2 Reflect Honestly
Become your own best friend and advocate by spending time reflecting — what felt good, what didn't, what's working, what isn't? This isn't a time to criticize and berate yourself for missed opportunities or mistakes. With the lens of Loving Kindness, you will be able to notice those missed opportunities and mistakes, give yourself the space to love and accept yourself regardless and resolve to always do your best moving forward.
During these reflections, start to notice how much you really are accomplishing. Start to connect the dots between actions, words and thoughts. This trio is like a feedback loop that we can adjust with a little bit of attention and reflection to create a life that we are excited to live.
No. 3 Take Emotional Responsibility
I remember the moment I learned this one. I was sitting in the fumes of anger at a situation, and my friend Prema lovingly led me to the question: "What am I angry at myself about right now?" It didn't make much sense sitting there in the midst of the fiery emotion. Over time, it sank in. And I heard more friends and teachers speak on this.
Emotional responsibility is a big step. It takes all of the blame for everything — I mean everything — off of the external environment and places it square in your hands.
Start small. I would recommend starting to practice on emotions that you feel don't carry a lot of power for you. Everyone is different in this regard. Here are a couple examples off the cuff:
Instead of saying, "That person cut me off!!!" when you're driving. Find the power in saying, "I'm not in that big of a hurry. That person has their own life experiences that they're living out. I'll let them live out their story and in this moment, I am choosing to keep my thoughts, words and actions focused on my personal experience." Any emotional residue — anger, resentment, worry, fear — see if you can allow that to exist, acknowledge what it feels like, then take a cleansing breath and move on with your drive.
Instead of saying, "She made me feel ashamed of myself." Find the power in saying, "I carry shame within me because of various life experiences, so when I hear words like >insert trigger< my internal emotions are stirred." And with this comes a period of loving reflection to acknowledge the emotion, feel it in your body, experience what arises. Then take a cleansing breath, remind yourself that you are so loved and move forward filled with a little more compassion.
Emotional responsibility is a journey. Take your time. Find support when you need it.
No. 4 Cultivate Your Purpose
Cultivating your purpose is part of authentic self care because your purpose is your True North. Without it, you're floating through life aimlessly and perhaps feeling a bit confused or stuck. When you determine your purpose — your "why" — you are able to choose self care actions that take you in the direction of your dreams.
Your day to day self care routine reflects your purpose. Your decisions reflect your purpose. Your daily habits, actions, beliefs and intentions reflect your purpose.
Is your purpose to live a healthy and vibrant life? Then your self care routine might include working out five days a week, eating organic whole foods, drinking lots of pure water and spending time meditating everyday to relieve stress and increase your connection to life force (called prana by the yogis). With these self care components tied to your purpose, in addition to the foundational aspects of authentic self care, you would surely be living your purpose.
If your "why" is to raise a family, your self care routine might include the same components, but to a different degree. And, you would include some other components like spending time with your partner, cultivating a strong bond with your children, checking in their your financial planner or getting to know your children's teachers and coaches.
Another example of a "why" might be to be a millionaire. These 5 Steps to Authentic Self Care still apply. In fact, they might be imperative to your success. Again, your day to day self care routine reflects your purpose. With your purpose as your True North, you will know that part of your self care will be to check in on your investments, create valuable services and show up as the million dollar version of yourself every single day.
No. 5 Take Your Time
The mind travels at a speed so fast that sometimes we experience impatience with our growth. Integrating self care into our lives takes time. Living a life that feels as good inside as it looks outside takes time.
You are exactly where you are supposed to be right Now. All of the events leading up to this moment — the thoughts, the words, the actions — led you to this exact expression of life. Accepting this, now you can implement all of the steps we've gone through today, remember to relax, have fun and take as much time as you need to fully embody self care, and ultimately embody your truest expression of yourself.