The last post focused on the physical aspects of self-care: sleep, exercise, nutrition, and health care. But we aren’t machines that can be kept in peak running condition with a well-designed maintenance program. Self-care must encompass the non-physical as well.
Relaxation: It is very important to find something – an activity, a place, a practice – that relaxes you. When things get tough, you’ll know there’s something you can do to give your mind and spirit a break. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Maybe you take a walk or sit in the rocking chair on your porch or pray or a rosary or take a yoga class or knit for an hour. Everyone needs those brief mental vacations. If you want to give a stressed friend a break, give her the opportunity to indulge in her relaxation outlet. Take her turn at carpool so she can go for a walk instead. Bring her dinner so she can spend an hour after work just sitting still. Give a couple a night of peace in their own home by inviting the kids over for a sleepover.
Mental Health: In recent years, we’ve seen great progress on removing the stigma regarding mental illness. Hopefully, that makes it easier for folks to be screened for illnesses like depression, anxiety, etc. and to get the treatment needed, including pharmaceuticals and therapy. If you are dealing with what you think might be a mental illness, please contact your primary care physician. You wouldn’t walk around with a broken arm (I hope!), so why walk around with untreated mental illness? If your insurance doesn’t cover mental health care, please contact local agencies for mental health to see what other resources might be available. I know that having a regular check-in with my therapist has made a world of difference.
Intellectual: Once we finish school, it’s easy to let our learning muscles atrophy, spending our non-working hours binge-watching programs and reading nothing longer than a tweet. But being a life-long learner is a great way to add more joy to life and to slow cognitive aging. There are lots of things you can do. Read regularly, magazines, newspapers or books, fiction or non-fiction. Read ebooks. Listen to audiobooks while you run or commute. Learn something new. Take a class to learn a craft or a language or just to increase your general knowledge. If you are looking for relatively low-cost ways to learn, check out your public library, your county recreation department, and local museums. If you are fortunate enough to live near a college or university, they may offer free lectures that are open to the public.
Relationship: As human beings, we are not meant to go this life alone. We are meant to be connected to others and to the ultimate. Over the last several decades, we’ve seen a real shift in society. People are far less likely to join things, from churches to local service groups to social clubs. We don’t make commitments to others or give of ourselves to help our communities, especially those in need. We treat religious organizations like service centers that we patronize as customers instead of communities to which we belong. Caring for ourselves means entering into relationships – with a circle of friends, with a community, with whatever higher power we embrace. Often, it is this aspect of our lives that brings the most meaning.