The expression “self-care” is likely people think they understand but when nailed down for a definition they would need to think about it for a while. And were you to ask that very same person what they do on a regular basis that qualifies as self-care, they would probably find themselves at a complete loss for words.
Self-care comes in three distinct, but each equally important, parts. Self-care involves the physical body, mental state and spiritual state. Now do not worry about this becoming some sort of religious treatise, but I assure you, you will hear none of that in this.
PHYSICAL SELF-CARE – This concept is by far the easiest of the three to explain. I cannot imagine any adult have doubts as to its meaning but I am going to bring up a few points all the same. In this area everything starts with your primary care physician. You do have a primary care physician don’t you? If you find yourself answering “no” to that question then get one, today if possible but tomorrow at the latest. Then make an “as soon as possible” appointment for a physical. You may think you are in perfect health but until you hear those words for someone whose job it is to make such judgements; you simply do not know! I cannot emphasize this enough to women in particular. You have breasts which, whether you like it or not, can become cancerous. This is where the advice of a physician is crucial. They will do an in-office exam of your breasts for you plus will teach you how to do a self-exam. Also, and even as a man I know this to be uncomfortable, you need a pelvic exam on a regular basis. Again, cancer is the concern but the good news in both cases those cancers have a high degree of cure. But along with the usual listening to your lungs and heart, looking in your eyes and ears, they do blood and urine tests looking for things with a higher degree of difficulty of discovery. Get a dentist too while you are at it!
Ah, but that is not everything. Our bodies want us to eat good healthy food. Most of us have some degree of difficulty in identifying what our particular body is craving and which is also healthy. My body craves chocolate but I know except in moderation, it simply is neither necessary nor healthy.
And finally there is exercise. This tends to be the least popular of physical care and yet it is equally important to all the others. What is regular exercise. I believe the general rule is 3 days a week of ½ hour of cardio level exercise. That means your heart beats fast and you work up a sweat. If that seems more than you care to do then I suggest one hour of walking 4 days a week.
MENTAL HEALTH SELF CARE — This may be the scariest of the three but I will attempt here to make it less so, a lot less. This is not a test to find out if you are crazy, just the opposite, it is an exercise in insuring mental acuity. That simply means you do thinks which require you to exercise your brain. Reading, crossword puzzles, even video games require a high degree of focus which helps keep the brain sharp. But it also helps forestall, if not stop completely, any chance of depression, a listless feeling, and other things contrary to good mental health; things which lead to a feeling of dullness in the brain.
It is my belief that 75% or more of all people suffer through a period on mental illness. I am not a medical or psychological professional, however, experience leads me to believe I am probably right. The good news is that most mental conditions encountered by people are temporary and easily dealt with. However, and this is the big one, left untreated a simple problem can easily turn into something extremely serious. One thing I know for certain: there is no shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in this country. These are to “go to” people for when you encounter one of the many mental illness any human can experience. I think the ones which most people experience, if not all people, are depression and trauma. We all think we know what depression is and we are probably right. But at such times it never hurts to get an unbiased look-see at the situation. This is not to say that your best friend cannot help you all the way through a depression, but should (s)he not be able to see you through it, the responsible thing to do is to seek out the professional.
Trauma, fortunately, is the rarer of the two conditions. But what is “trauma.” “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.” (http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/).
Unfortunately, many people find themselves having to suffer through one or more of the above mentioned circumstances. In such cases professional help is a necessity. If you are one of those people and have not sought out help because you are afraid of what people will think, stop it! Anything you do which promotes any portion of your health in a good way is always a good thing. In truth, it is none of anybody’s business what measures you are taking to stay healthy and shame on them should they have the temerity to criticize you for doing so. You have to put your well-being ahead of what anyone thinks.
SPIRITUAL HEALTH SELF CARE – It is my belief that spirituality is either the most misunderstood or not at all understood of the three. Spiritual health is necessarily tied to mental health because lacking good mental health makes spiritual health almost impossible. And yet, a person who keeps himself in excellent spiritual health finds that somehow, almost by magic, physical and mental health seem to take care of themselves.
Spiritual health is a state of mind which is practiced on a daily basis. For example, I love to say to people, “Do you know how I know it is going to be a good day today?” And of course they say “no.” “Because I woke up,” I respond. Then I suggest they consider the alternative, it is that day that I do not wake up because I have died. I may be on my death bed but upon waking up that morning I know it is going to be a good day because I woke up. Simply put, I am grateful for every day I am alive.
But that is just the beginning of my day. I have committed to myself to do my level best to never judge another person, regardless of their bad deeds, their irresponsible behavior, their immaturity. There are a lot of people who anger me, that is to be expected. I hate their deeds but I have come to believe that it is either they are very much the narcissist or have a lacking of self-worth. But I have the power to keep myself clear of their foolishness. I will be all right regardless of what they do.
I believe that you cannot be to kind to a person. I like to be a person’s cheerleader. I like encouraging them. I like reassuring them that they are doing the right thing. But most of all, I like telling that regardless the circumstance, they are not alone, there is always someone willing to stand by them and help as much as reasonably possible.
I was at the supermarket today and the woman at the cash register asked me how my day was going. The way she asked me made me feel like this was something the supermarket had commanded her to do. I responded that I was having a fabulous day and asked her with a big smile how her day was going. She instantly knew my question was genuine and she smiled. Mission complete. And that cost me nothing at all.
Healthy spirituality to me means knowing when to speak and when to remain quiet. It means being someone other people can rely upon. It means being 100% honest. It means being helpful even when it might mean my having to go out of my way.
Spirituality to me means that when it is rainy and windy and causing me discomfort, it is the same for everyone else. It means that when I get bad news for my doctor my next question is: “So what are we going to do about this?” It means that I have come to the realization that the universe is moving inexorably in a particular direction and that I can either fight it and lose, or going along with it and win. It means acceptance of my life and everything going on around me always helps me get past the difficult with the least amount of pain.
Spirituality means I take complete responsibility for all of my actions and have no problem admitting to such when it is called for.
Spirituality means I am grateful for all that I have and do not feel I need anything more for continued happiness.
All this things make up the complete package of self-care, at least as far as I can tell. Who knows, maybe there is more but I am certain that if I keep to the above, which I do, I am guaranteed the greatest amount of happiness possible.