Self-care is a popular term these days. But what is self-care anyway? I recently enjoyed a lively discussion on my personal Facebook page about what self-care is and isn’t. Here’s what I wrote:
Self-care is building the foundation for a life we don’t need to escape from. Click To Tweet
A detox bath is nice, but real self-care is getting your sh!t together to a point where you don’t have to drown your real life in bubbles and wine. We need to feel healthy enough that we’re not dependent on coffee to get through the day and bourbon to get through the night. Our financial goals should include getting to the point where we don’t panic when our car breaks down or AC goes out. It’s essential to identify the unhealthy people in our lives and set boundaries with them. Finally, we must commit to personal growth in a way that encourages us to fulfill our potential while enjoying life to the fullest. We owe it to ourselves and our families to create this life.
Self-care is building the foundation for a life we don’t need to escape from. That means taking care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Once a basic level of health is achieved, we need to build healthy, trustworthy, and supportive relationships. At the same time, we’ll want to create a sense of financial security―a little cushion so that when something goes wrong, all hell doesn’t break loose. And finally, a lifetime commitment to personal growth so we can offer our best to ourselves and our loved ones.
While we’re all at different stages and there’s no one–size–fits–all approach, for most of us, it starts with health. I think the ultimate goal is to feel good in our bodies. But when we’re starting out, we just need to feel good enough to move forward. For some that may mean focusing on physical health, for others, it might be emotional or spiritual. No matter where you are, I think you’ll benefit from the practice I’m about to share.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve heard about the benefits of journaling. The oldest example of a journal that I’m aware of is To Myself, now known as Meditations, by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Which, by the way, is an excellent read.
While I don’t have a formal journaling practice, I’m a proficient note taker. Between my blog, newsletter, and other projects, I write thousands of words each week. I often feel like I have a public journal. That said, I was recently reminded how powerful journaling for my own benefit can be.
Getting Stuck in My Head
By nature, I’m an anxious person. I wouldn’t say I’m negative, but it doesn’t take much for me to take my worry too far. For example, one night I felt a zit on the back of my neck. It took me about thirty seconds to go from zit to a brain tumor. As an adult, I’ve learned to manage these thoughts and can usually let go pretty quickly.
I’m not perfect though. If it happens to be something I’m passionate about, I can get stuck running circles around it. Then I find myself in full on panic mode. For instance, I’ve been dealing with a nagging sports injury for a couple of months. Many people suggested that I take a few days off and let it rest. With high hopes, I did as instructed.
On the fourth day, I decided to test out my freshly rested body. To my disappointment, there wasn’t much improvement. My mind went from, yup, it still hurts, to this:
I’ll never hike again. Our whole vacation will be ruined, all because I started running. How stupid. I just should have stuck with what I was doing. Why did I have to push myself so hard? I shouldn’t have listened to Jer. I shouldn’t have listened to myself. I should never have tried this. I knew I would fail. I have twenty state parks to visit and I won’t be able to hike any them. My goals are ruined. My life is ruined. I can’t believe I did this to myself. God, I’m so stupid. How could I do this?
Like the good Minnesotan I am, I just held it inside and let it fester. I ruminated on it for a good twenty-four hours. I was in full on panic mode which wasn’t helping me or my healing. Here’s what I should have done instead.
How writing can help!
When I write my thoughts, whether I plan to share them or not, I’m trying to communicate a story. There’s an intro, my struggle, a resolution, and an end. When I’m ruminating in my head I forget the last two pieces, the resolution, and the end. I get stuck in a cycle of panic.
Writing also helps flesh out ideas and connect the dots. It helps me inspect my problems from a different perspective. Writing feels like I’m having a conversation, making it a useful way to get things out that you can’t say face to face. Writing is useful in so many ways.Writing helps flesh out ideas and connect the dots. It helps me inspect my problems from a different perspective. Click To Tweet
Not a fan of writing?
First and foremost, be assured that no one needs to read this but you. A lot of anxiety about writing is simply worrying about proper spelling and grammar. This doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who sees it.
Don’t be afraid to try other technologies. Try a speech to text application. Use a voice recorder or make a video.
Reading and writing are my most therapeutic forms of communication. It may be something else for you. That’s cool. You have my permission to do what works best for you.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
There’s no one–size–fits–all solution here. You could simply buy a blank journal and write down what you’re feeling each day. You could do a web search for daily journaling formats.
One format I like is:
- List three things that you’re grateful for.
- Create an affirmation for the day.
- Write down the most important thing you need to accomplish today.
- List the top three things that happened or you accomplished the previous day.
- Write down your top key learning.
If you’re looking for more in-depth writing practices, check out these exercises:
Writing your thoughts down is a wonderful way to find clarity and declutter your mind. It will help you to decrease stress and increase mental function. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.Writing your thoughts down is a wonderful way to find clarity and declutter your mind. It will help you to decrease stress and increase mental function. You owe it to yourself to give it a try. Click To Tweet
What tips do you have for journaling?
Share in the comments below.