Most of us would never consider neglecting our children or pets. That would be cruel. We also know what happens when we neglect important relationships. They wither and fade away. Neglect our car, it malfunctions and dies. Neglect our schoolwork or jobs, our performance suffers and we fall behind. But, what about neglecting ourselves? Many of us do that every day without a second thought.
Taking care of ourselves doesn’t just mean making sure our basic needs are met, although that is essential. If you could offer more than just the basic needs for your child, wouldn’t you? Most of us would enthusiastically answer “yes” to this question because we know that providing a nurturing and enriching environment is beneficial to a child’s long-term well-being. However, even though many of us can provide more than the basic needs for ourselves, we don’t.
Good self-care means providing a nurturing and enriching environment for ourselves once our basic needs have been met. It includes setting ourselves up for success rather than just catching most things on the fly. This gives us the space to take better care of our bodies and minds and further our physical, mental and emotional development.
For example, practicing good sleep habits and nutrition means more than just getting enough food and shut-eye. Really taking care of ourselves means planning for contingencies, paying attention to quality, and being consistent. Some additional aspects of good self-care include: fostering relationships that provide us with love and affiliation, pursuing self-actualization (setting reasonable goals and pursuing our potential), and finding meaning (discovering what motivates and inspires us, exploring faith).
There is an aspect of self-care that goes beyond things like nutrition and sleep, meaning and self-actualization. It involves treating ourselves with compassion and this is often the very thing we neglect the most. Compassionate self-care involves the following approach to ourselves:
- mindfulness and non-judgment – paying attention to thoughts and feelings, noticing when you are suffering, and resisting the urge to judge
- curiosity and openness – having a sense of wonder about yourself and observing without making assumptions, letting the truth unfold
- kindness – treating yourself with love and caring, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt
- balance and fairness – not getting carried away by emotions, being free from bias, and seeing all sides
- patience – allowing yourself time to ponder and resisting the urge to react
- tolerance and acceptance – understanding that some things are not under your full control and being able to live in harmony with these things
- inclusion – accepting that you are part of the larger human experience and that everything is interdependent
If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, please visit Dr. Kristen Neff’s website which offers a number of short videos discussing the topic as well as a self-compassion test and exercises for developing self-compassion. You can also visit the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website which offers additional resources and training.
Please also visit our local resource list for more information and resources regarding a variety of wellness concerns in the Kansas City metro area.