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We have all heard the catch phrases “Self-care isn’t selfish.” Or “Self-care is not an expense, it’s an investment.” Then why is it so difficult for many of us to practice it? The reasons are varied. A lack of time. Being too busy. Not having the needed resources. Or maybe we feel that we don’t deserve it; that we’re being selfish.

Reframing Self-Care as Radical Self-Love

What if we reframed these thoughts and looked at self-care as a gift? A gift to ourselves and those who love us. What if we viewed self-care as a revolutionary; a radical act of self-love? In this self-care practice, what if, when magnified and multiplied, it served to transform and heal our communities? 

The World Health Organization defines self-care as: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health states, “Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.”

Trauma’s Effects on the Body and Mind

Our environment is replete with significant stressors from a myriad of sources. Things like post pandemic mental & physical traumas or toxic work environments. Stressors can take the form of increased isolation or financial constraints. Maybe it’s the increase in violence in schools and against marginalized communities. For some, it’s the lack of meaningful connections or increased political divisiveness. Over time, our brain’s ability to process these stressors can become impaired. 

In Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score, he highlights that traumatic stress is at the root of neuroscience. Traumatic stress is associated with functional and chemical changes in the emotional part of the brain—the limbic area and brain stem. He posits that trauma interferes with the brain circuits that involve focusing, flexibility, and being able to stay in emotional control. A constant sense of danger and helplessness promotes the continuous secretion of stress hormones. These hormones wreaks havoc on the immune system and the functioning of the body’s organs. 

Why is Self-Care Revolutionary?

Why is self-care a revolutionary act? Because the practice can literally save our lives. Healthy individuals create healthy communities. The re-emphasis on self-care is critical to improving and sustaining our collective health outcomes. So what can we do? First, we can take stock of our individual self-care assets. At Crossnore, we are guided by our Sanctuary Model principles. One is Emotional Intelligence, and it is outlined as follows:

We commit to being aware of how we show up in shared spaces. We affirm our feelings and those of others as valid and will acknowledge our emotions during times of forward progress and challenge. We will take care of ourselves and ask for help. We will accept accountability for our actions and our expression of emotions as well as their impact on others. 

Ideas for Self-Care

  • Move your body. Movement is medicine. Just 30 minutes of movement every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up. Make sure to choose an activity that aligns with your interests.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. 
  • Make sleep a priority. Sleep can be impacted by stress, menopause, and other factors. Adjust your schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough consistent sleep. Try for at least 7 hours a night!
  • Explore a relaxing activity. Try relaxation or wellness programs or apps. These may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy, such as journaling.
  • Set healthy boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. 
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. You can list these in your head, out loud, or on paper.
  • Practice Emotional Intelligence. Ask for help when you need it. Reach out to your friends and family. Utilize community mental health resources for your overall well being.

The practice of self-care affirms our awareness of ourselves. This has a direct impact on how we show up for others. The practice heightens our ability to understand and regulate our emotions. If we re-frame our thoughts, self-care can be foundational to our mental, spiritual, and physical health. It is the building block upon which we serve ourselves, our family, and our communities.