As much as you may hear about “self-care,” most people do not truly understand what it means, or the importance of it.
Self-care means to take care of oneself, to acknowledge your needs, to check in with your mind and your body.
On autopilot mode, we tend to live too deeply in our heads and ignore our bodies. We let our thoughts take over and control us. The mind is easily manipulated but the body is strong, wise, and has a lot to say. There is so much tension and achy-ness in our bodies that we would rather ignore it and pretend it’s not there rather than address it. So we need to make a conscious effort to listen to our bodies and learn what we need.
Here is how it goes — something bothers you in your mind so you push it away and force yourself not to think about it. When you push it away, it does not magically disappear but instead travels to your body. For example, you are scrubbing harder when you clean, your jaw is clenching when you sit still, your shoulders are squeezed too far upright as you walk — and you do not notice this as it happen. Then the accumulation of tension builds up to the point where your body is screaming at you and now you finally notice, but by now it’s too late.
You can live more in your body by:
- Exercising more, participating in more physical labor-related tasks. Do not spend your whole day sitting down.
- Feel your breathing by repeating “inhale” in your head as you inhale and “exhale” in your head as you exhale.
- Drop your shoulders as you walk but keep your chest held high
- Spend a moment thinking about a specific body part, ex your stomach. Simply bringing awareness to a body part helps you live in your body.
**Living in your body is one of the many ways to practice “grounding,” which causes you to feel more present and relieve anxiety.**
Another reason we choose to “live in our heads” instead of “living in our bodies” is because it makes us feel like we are more in control. For the most part, we get to choose what we think. Although we do not have complete control over our thoughts, it is easy for us to distort them by simply changing our environment — picking a show or song you know will give you positive thoughts, talking to a person who typically feeds you positive thoughts, participating in acts that give you positive thoughts, or even using your own will-power to force positive thoughts.
Living in your body makes you feel out of control. Although there are ways for you to distort your body — lifestyle changes, medication, piercings and tattoos, apparel, surgery, etc — for the most part, we are slaves to our DNA. So it makes sense that living in your body is an uncomfortable thing, and why so many of us choose to avoid it. However — it is extremely dangerous to ignore your body, so make an effort to listen before the damage is done.
And so, checking in with your body can be done by simply making an effort to “live in your body” a bit more. (Still, do not go to extremes and live 100% in your body without ever checking in with your mind.)
There is a great difference between living so deeply in your mind vs. checking in with your mind. To “live in your mind” means to associate yourself with your mind completely. You attach yourself to every thought, every feeling, every emotion, and claim it as yours without ever letting it naturally pass by. To “check in with your mind” means to step back and look at the bigger picture. It means examining your mind with a detached perspective. Take a moment to see your mind as separate from your own true self — only then can you see things from a higher perspective.
The best technique to detach yourself from your mind is to let go of judgement. Otherwise, you will not let yourself see what you need to see. Remove the filters that “protect you” from uncomfortable thoughts so that way you can learn and find a deeper understanding.
By detaching yourself from your mind a little less, and leaning into your body a little more, your scale of awareness becomes balanced out and you experience better harmony in your life. You are no longer stuck on one side of the scale, dealing with imbalance. It is not a matter of battling between your mind and your body, it is a matter of finding balance.
This is the basics of self-care — awareness of body and mind. There are nearly an infinite amount of ways to specifically practice self-care, which I will get into later. But this is where it all starts: awareness.