I think the first time that the phrase “Self Care” blipped into my radar was during the time I began to reach out and join various support groups on Facebook as I struggled unknowingly with the onset of Postpartum Psychosis and raising my special needs children.
The posts that I was seeing at the time came across as pampering the self – going to spas, getting their nails done, make overs, long bubble baths, etc. It wasn’t long that I developed the impression that the phrase was just an excuse to spoil yourself. I couldn’t help wondering where the idea came from and what the original intent had been.
Over time, with the help of therapy and homeschooling Scholar Owl, I have a better understanding of what self care really means.
Self Care is taking a life-long proactive approach in fostering the three-dimensional wellness of your being.
The Three Dimensions of Our Being
- Body (Soma)
- Mind (Psyche)
- Soul (Pneuma)
These three components make up the whole of a person. In order to be well, all three need to be attended to and taken care of. If one part is unwell or neglected, the other two tend to also suffer and decline. One simply cannot be without the others.
Nothing about who we are exists in a vacuum.
Taking Care of the Body
We need to attend to the needs of the physical body. This includes a balance of rest and activity, finding a good primary care provider we trust, proper nutrition and hydration, adequate shelter and clothing, appropriate hygiene, taking our meds as prescribed, and generally just performing the activities of daily living.
It means doing whatever is necessary to make sure our physical bodies remain healthy.
It means accepting whatever accommodations are needed to achieve good physical health. It means managing whatever chronic ailments we may have.
I think out of the these three parts, the needs of the body is the easiest for us to understand on an instinctive level.
Taking Care of the Mind
It’s here that I want to make the distinction between the physical brain and the thought/emotional processes that shape our identity in this context.
The brain is a physical organ and, like any other organ in the body, can suffer from a variety of ailments. Taking care of this falls under taking care of the body.
The mind is comprised of our thoughts and emotions. In many ways, it is the mind that makes us who we are. Even with two perfectly healthy brains perceiving the same event, those two people will have different thoughts and feelings about it. They may be similar, but there will be differences. This is true even with identical twins.
There is a direct connection between the wellness of the brain and the wellness of the mind.
Taking care of the mind includes staying mentally and emotionally active, connected, and aware. For the sake of both the brain and the mind, it also means addressing and attending to mental health concerns.
Taking Care of the Soul
The soul is harder for me to define since, to me, it is deeply interwoven with the mind. The line between the two can be vague.
Any time I think of the soul and what it is, I recall how individual cells of the heart when placed into a petri dish together will synch and pulse in unison. This happens even if the cells come from different hearts.
I realize this is a biochemical phenomenon at a cellular level, but research has also found that people can and will synchronize their heart beats with others around them. This happens when we merely witness events or while listening to music. It happens whenever we interact with each other.
I suspect it’s part of the reason that there’s a saying floating around that every human being needs a minimum of three hugs each day to be well. When we give someone a real hug, we synchronize heart beats.
What this means to me is that perhaps the soul is the energy that powers the body and mind. So without the soul, without that energy, the body and mind cease to function. We die.
So to make sure our soul remains well, we need to focus on bringing positive energy into our lives.
I believe this is why music works so well on a therapeutic level and how it’s able to be a universal language. Grounding (connecting ourselves to the electromagnetic energy of the earth) has shown to be highly beneficial to people. Religions and cultures around the world provide people with connections to one another on an intrinsic level.
We need to surround ourselves with whatever is positive, uplifting, and supportive. If we don’t, all we have left to synch with is the negative.
Self Care is not Spoiling Yourself
Self care is doing whatever is necessary for you to stay well. If it doesn’t make you feel better, then it isn’t self care. I no longer judge or make assumptions about other people’s self care. My self care isn’t going to look like your self care because we don’t have the exact same needs in life.
Getting my nails done beyond basic trimming and cleaning isn’t self care because I feel like it’s a frivolous waste of money on a nail biter that typically doesn’t care about fashion. It plagues me with guilt for spending money that could have been better spent elsewhere.
Listening to a wide variety of music and sharing it with others is self care for me. Keeping my mood tracker is self care. Recognizing when I need to slow down and get that sleep is self care. Avoiding allergens and migraine triggers is self care. Establishing and holding good boundaries in my relationships is self care. Making sure my food is both healthy and appealing – and not just something to fuel the tank – is self care.
There are some areas of my self care that I have been neglecting. Going to the dentist to get my dental work done is one of them. Re-establishing health coverage is another. There are members in my family that feel I lack a social circle.
What does self care mean to you? What does it look like for you? Which aspects of it are easier for you to follow through on, and which ones are the hardest?