Evan Wilson – Textures . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“I do believe that the single most important thing I could ever share with you with regard to maximizing the health, harmony, and happiness in your life can be summed up in just two words: Love yourself.” Mike Dooley
What does the term ‘Self-Care’ mean?
Self-care is taking time to give ourselves the continued attention we need to keep us healthy in mind and body.
This will be different for different people- there is no definitive manual for self care, though there are obvious basic principles such as maintaining good hygiene, regular exercise and healthy food.
Self-care is something we all need to regularly be aware of, assess, maintain, and, sometimes, rethink.
It is often easy to slip into ways of being that are not conducive to self-care, especially during a pandemic.
We need to create a world, inside and out, that will help maintain our self-care.
Giving ourselves the acceptance and freedom to really be ourselves, to have what we need to feel good about who we are, is an essential part of self-care.
Our life belongs to us, no-one else, and we need to feel in control of who we have chosen to be.
“When the individual is in conflict within himself he must inevitably create conflict without, and only he can bring about peace within himself and so in the world, for he is the world.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
Below are 3 important tips to help us care for ourselves. They are illustrated by some beautiful artworks.
Looking at and appreciating such art is, in itself, a way of caring for ourselves.
1. Looking After Our Mental Health: Developing Inner Peace.
Many people talk about ‘loving yourself’ and being compassionate towards the self. What might this mean?
Developing a gentle inner voice.
Richard Tuschman – Pale Light . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“But this revolutionary act of treating ourselves tenderly can begin to undo the aversive messages of a lifetime.” Tara Brach
Inside us all, is an inner voice which reflects our attitude to ourselves and the world. We talk to ourselves inwardly much of the time.
Ways of thinking about ourselves and the world developed in childhood, and it is important to examine these so that we can treat ourselves in a way that recognises and meets our inner needs.
This involves self awareness, forgiving our own mistakes and having a voice inside us that is gentle, not harsh. We all talk inwardly to ourselves and we need to be aware of the tone and content of this ‘talk.’
What messages does our inner voice we give to us?
Sometimes, especially if we have been badly treated as children, we may unconsciously repeat harsh attitudes towards ourselves.
Our internal dialogue might be strict and parental, instead of loving and protective, urging us to ignore our real needs for warmth, kindness and the need to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves.
Francis Picabia – Vision. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Sometimes, we might speak to ourselves in a way we would not dream of doing to others.
“Compassion is not complete if it does not include oneself.” Allan Lokos
“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” Maxwell Maltz
“Once you are incapable of loving yourself, you will never be able to love anybody. That is an absolute truth, there are no exceptions to it. You can love others only if you are able to love yourself.”
Having therapy when necessary
“But I know that trying to black out my past with oblivion will just damage my future. I made the decision to stop running from my fears, and to walk slowly and deliberately towards self-nurture, self-respect, and better mental and physical health.” Jack Monroe
As we have seen in previous posts, having therapy can be an experience which improves our mental health, our relationships and our lives in general.
Allowing ourselves to engage in psychotherapy is certainly a way in which we can care for and protect ourselves.
2 Looking After Our Physical Health
Alfred Stevens – The Bath [1873-74]
“Go for long walks, indulge in hot baths, Question your assumptions, be kind to yourself, live for the moment, loosen up, scream, curse the world, count your blessings, Just let go, Just be.”
Caring for our physical health involves, amongst other things, getting sufficient sleep, avoiding drugs and limiting alcohol, having exercise and relaxation, and attending to our personal hygiene, medical needs and diet.
Tamara de Lempicka – Sleeper (Kizette) Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Reisha Perlmutter – Moon Flower . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Our physical wellbeing also affects our mental state; the two are inextricably linked. Taking a walk in the fresh air, for example, boosts our health on all levels.
Emil Nolde – Summer Afternoon Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
If there is sunshine, or when we can walk in the countryside or by the sea, we often feel better physically and emotionally. This is all highly relevant to self-care.
Emil Nolde – A Fresh Day at the Seaside Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Creating Comfortable Surroundings.
Cocooning ourselves in as peaceful and comforting surroundings as possible is important, especially during the pandemic, when we will need to be at home more than is usual.
“You may not have chosen your surroundings, but you can choose to find life in them.” Morgan Harper Nichols
“You are free to move around the room, to paint the walls a new colour, and declare there is more to you.” Morgan Harper Nichols
We need to try and create a space for ourselves that feels as safe and warm as is possible, which may vary considerably, according to our circumstances.
It is important to be aware of the painful fact that, for some people, for a variety of reasons, this might not be possible.
For others, safety and quietness may be found in a peaceful corner, a workshop or shed in the garden, or a favourite room.
Wassily Kandinsky. Interior: My Dining Room. 1909. Wikimedia Commons.
Stanhope Alexander Forbes – The Welder’s Shop Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Nourishing Ourselves: food, culture, entertainment .
Our bodies, minds and souls need feeding and nourishment. We need to allow ourselves all kinds of treats, without being over-indulgent.
Whether this is surfing the internet, watching Netflix (and chilling), sampling our favourite food and wine, listening to music, reading, writing, painting, or whatever else we enjoy doing, it is crucial that we allow ourselves to be nourished in body and soul.
Joke Frima – The Winter Palace . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Pablo Picasso – Cakes (Les gâteaux)  Gandalf’s Gallery, Flickr.
3. Having Love In One’s Life And A Satisfying Occupation
“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” Sigmund Freud.
Work: Freud claimed that both love and work are central to our well-being. Work gives us a sense of value and a vision and purpose in life.
Whether we have an all-consuming hobby, or whether we work from inside or outside our home, part or full-time, we need some absorbing work as part of our self-care.
We also need to remember, when we are working, to allow ourselves time-out and some rest and leisure.
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” Alan Cohen
Love: Loving a partner or spouse, a child, a parent or other family member, a friend, or a favourite animal, brings warmth and satisfaction into our lives.
Loving others is a way of caring for ourselves, as we receive so much back from this.
“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.” Pablo Neruda
“Both the giving and receiving of love is encoded within our deepest physiology and is all-important. This must not be taken for granted. Its expressions in our life – or lack and denial thereof – contribute substantially to our ultimate personal success, satisfaction, and quality of life.” Connie Kerbs. “Invent your world. Surround yourself with people, colour, sounds, and work that nourish you.” Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy “What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!” Victor Hugo
As part of the process of caring for ourselves, in good times and bad, loving others can be a great comfort and consolation.
“Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” Karl A. Menninger
Lawrence Alma-Tadema – Japanese Peonies. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” Buddha