Many people tend to forget that they deserving of care, especially from themselves. In an effort to help more people take care of themselves better, here are 9 tips for mindful self care.
Tip 1: Be Gentle With Yourself.
“There is nothing more important on your spiritual path than developing gentleness to oneself.”~ Pema Chödrön
You deserve to treat yourself with tenderness, love, and care. Pummeling yourself with thoughts of “I’m a terrible person,” “I don’t deserve to be happy,” “I am a loser,” and the like are psychological abuse. Nobody deserves to be treated that way, especially by themselves.
Give yourself a break. You’re human, you’re imperfect, and you are wonderful. Tell yourself that.
Tip 2: Remember That You Are Good Enough.
As long as you are doing the best that you are able, you are doing enough. Some days, you can do all of the things, but other days, you should remember that you are doing the best that you can, regardless of how far you miss expectations. Nobody can be giving 110% all day, every day.
This is especially important for people who have chronic conditions or disabilities. As long as you are putting your best effort out there, nobody can reasonably expect you to do more.
Tip 3: Take Back Your Time.
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, Twitter, or just about any social media platform, you’ve probably realized that they are often hives of negativity. I know that when I put all of my social media in time-out a while back for a week or so, I felt less stressed and less anxious.
I felt more peaceful and able to be in the moment, whether it was reading, writing, or spending time with someone. Sometimes you need to step back from the crazy pace and immediateness of online and step out into the real world.
Tip 4: Move Your Body.
This is good for both your mind and your body. If it is reasonable, go to the gym for a workout. If you don’t have access or time to go to the gym, take a stroll around the block, or around a natural setting like a park of forest preserve. If that’s not possible, stand up and do some stretching right where you are.
Why is this helpful? It allows you to reconnect with your physical self, and even shut off the noise in your head. One of these days, I will have the opportunity to learn tai-chi, and I will jump at it because I’m not as young and spry as I used to be. Its gentle on the body but still great exercise, both physically and mentally.
Tip 5: Let Your Thoughts Out.
Journaling is something that is making a comeback these days. Decades ago, it was the norm for young females to write in a diary. Not so much for young males, though, which is a shame. These days, it’s in vogue for people of all walks of life to write a daily journal.
This can be as simple as writing one sentence in the morning to set your intention for the rest of the day. Some people keep a gratitude journal, where they write something that they are grateful for. This can build out into a greater practice of gratitude, but we’ll revisit that some other time.
Tip 6: Remember To Breathe
For something that we do every minute that we’re alive, most people give no thought to how they breathe. Mindful breathing is something that has gone mainstream enough that even the New York Times has written articles about it.
Becoming aware of your breath is one extremely effective way to bring levels of anxiety down to a reasonable level. In fact, when someone is having a panic attack to the point that they are gasping for breath, mindful breathing can make things so much better.
So, how do we do mindful breathing? It’s pretty simple: Take a deep (-ish… Not too deep, because you want to be comfortable), with controlled effort. Pay attention to how the air feels as it enters your body and fills your lungs. Pause briefly. Breathe out to a count of five. Repeat 4-5 times. That’s it!
Tip 7: Ask For Help
Despite the common thought, asking for help is not weakness. Simon & Garfunkel wrote a song back in the 60s that kind of stuck a pin in that balloon:
Humans are social creatures and we do very poorly when in isolation. We are also far from perfect and none of us have all of the answers to any particular topic or situation… That’s what we have medical professionals, mechanics, teachers, plumbers, electricians, et cetera, ad nauseam for.
Tip 8: Make Something.
Allow your creativity to flow. Bake something, cook something, draw something, sculpt something, garden, even color something. It doesn’t matter what you make, the important part is to create something.
If you’ve ever had kids, you know how proud they are when they draw something and share it with you. Or when they bring home “camp crafts” like pasta art, or something made out of clay. It doesn’t matter how imperfect or unsophisticated the result, the beauty is in the effort and joy of sharing.
Try to recapture that joy and share it with someone.
Tip 9: Learn How To Practice Compassion.
I’ve saved the toughest and most “out there” one for last, but I think this is an amazing practice. Tonglen is a Tibetan Buddhist practice that can be done by anyone, regardless of whether you are a Tibetan Buddhist or not. Tonglen is, in short, sharing a desire for peace and comfort with the world in some way.
I have included here some resources that discuss tonglen as explained by Tibetan Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön. First, a web page that talks about the process of tonglen. Then a short instruction talk by her about actually performing tonglen. Lastly, a long teaching that she has given about compassion and a number of Tibetan practices for compassion, for yourself, for others, and the world.