For those who haven't heard the phrase, it's probably self-explanatory, but I'll elaborate just in case. Self-care is anything you do to care for yourself, or as my good friends Tommy and Donna so elegantly put it:
I think that in my religious culture of Mormonism, a lot of value is placed on selflessness. While I'm not so sure I love that word, I do love a slightly modified version, charity. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, motivates us to love, not to judge others, and to serve and give our resources, time, and talents. Selflessness means putting others before yourself. I believe there is a time and place for selflessness but I also believe that true charity should apply itself fully to every living being, yourself included.
So in April, I focused on taking care of myself. I intended to do all kinds of amazing things to care for "the whole me." You know, physical (exercise, eat well, sleep well, etc), psychological (study new things, take breaks, breath deeply, etc), and spiritual (pray more sincerely, study the scriptures, meditate, and be more mindful).
Here's what I learned: While I completely believe that pushing yourself to achieve goals is one form of self-care, I think the best starting point is just DOING THINGS YOU WANT TO DO that are easy to do and require no motivation, because you are naturally motivated.
- Wash my hands in warm water: It turns out that my hands are almost always cold. Rather than just turn on the faucet and take whatever I get (usually freezing cold water) I recently discovered that turning the faucet to warm and even waiting a minute for the water to warm up MAKES ME FEEL HAPPY!!! And, somehow, simple as it is, it makes me feel like I'm "treating myself" to a luxurious moment every time I wash my hands. This has become one of my favorite new forms of "self-care" and I have shared it with many of my clients.
- Be outside: Without even consciously making this a goal, I somehow started spending at least SOME time outside every day. I found this to be surprisingly refreshing. Even on a cold or rainy day, a quick walk outside makes a world of difference to my mood.
- Time to think: I have so many thoughts inside of me, it's unreal! Those that I most love to think are the optimistic ones relating to interests I'd like to develop, kind things that I could do, places I dream of visiting, and on and on and on.
- Diet Coke: What can I say? I love me a good Diet Coke. There's something about drinking pop that feels like I am "treating myself." Also, Diet Coke is a relatively harmless way to do it.
- Mindfulness: This one surprised me a bit. I downloaded a mindfulness app on my phone. It is a gong that goes of randomly throughout the day and reminds me to be present in that moment. (Meaning to experience it fully). I found that it was a little challenging for me to be mindful on command, but it did make me more generally mindful throughout the day. One interesting side effect was that I naturally, and with no intentional effort on my part, began to eat better. Being mindful of the signals my body gave me helped me realize that after eating a large serving of whatever, I was actually no longer hungry and didn't even want a second helping. It also helped me notice that certain foods really and truly make my body feel worse and other foods do the opposite. It was no earth-shattering difference, but it was perceptible. Which probably shouldn't have, but DID surprise me.
- Prayer: An individual in my religious congregation made a statement in Primary (little kids' Sunday School) that has really stuck with me. It started with something like, "I need you to all show me how you can be reverent and listen..." followed by a self-correcting statement not entirely directed to the kids: "not that it's always about reverence." Or something to that effect. I thought it was funny at the time, but there was also something very profound about it. Sometimes in my faith, we act like "it's always all about reverence." Meaning we should sit down nicely with our arms folded and respectfully listen, to invite the Spirit of the Lord. (Or at least that's the image reverence is often simplified to when we teach the concept to our children). As I pondered this statement, I decided that it really isn't always about reverence. Sometimes it's about LOUD, EXCITING, DANCING FOR JOY PRAISE!!! And sometimes it's about authenticity and being honest, which for me often includes humor which some find to be irreverent. I have begun to allow my prayers to "not always be about reverence." When I'm doing it right, I feel more free to be authentic in my prayers. That means if I'm feeling goofy, I may joke around with God. If I'm angry, I may express that in whatever way feels right, if I'm sad, I may cry, joyous or grateful I may praise...whatever the case may be. I have found this kind of prayer to give me a more intimate sense of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Full disclosure: I wrote most of this post on June 12, 2015, months after I completed this goal and months after my most recent efforts to continue my "Perfect Year." See how cool not obsessing about perfection is? Because I'm willing to be "imperfectly perfect" I can just pick up where I left off without beating myself up over several missed months. Ta-da!!!