By: Paige S. Spangler, BFA, MS, LCPC Elliott Counseling Group
The term self-care is talked of often in the mental health field. Working in an emotional and caring-based industry can be exhausting and there can be a high incidence of professional burnout. In this work, when we are lucky, we have professors and/or other professionals who mention the need to define a list of self-care activities. They do this, ideally, to help us prepare for the difficult and draining work we will do. People typically respond with tasks such as exercising, eating better, etc. The problem with setting up this concept this way is that it seems to focus on the external experience and misses the underlying motivation. We can go through the motions of caring for ourselves, but if our intention is off base then are we really getting any care at all? For example, if I exercise because I hate my body vs. exercising because I care about myself, is the outcome truly the same?'
I think the term "self-care" needs to be updated because the term can be mistakenly applied to external experiences and therefore end up being more superfluous. Let's call it "spirit-care" instead. The word "spirit" comes from the Latin word "spiritus" which literally means "breath". By changing the focus to our spirit (and even more simply our breath". I think this gets below the surface and looks at the deeper core or essence of our being. Here are some ways to rethink how we care for ourselves with a focus on whole-spiritedness:
Focus your attention on enjoyable experiences and let it soak in like a sponge. Think of it like a wine tasting or chocolate tasting in the way that you use all senses, take it slow, let the flavor linger, describe it in detail, and sit with the experience.
Ground yourself in the moment by using your breath. Do one thing at a time. It helps to narrate an experience as you are having it. Practice for the sake of practice (without expectations of results).
Focus your intentions towards caring for your spirit as if your spirit is your best friend. Break away from the concept that we have to deplete our energy and then restore it repetitively; instead continuously nourish your spirit.
Think of how our culture tears people down so they don't feel pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, etc. and see the act of spirit-care as a rebellion against this. Loving your spirit and having gratitude for each moment is a great act of rebellion.
The act of full breathing is healing; knowing this and placing attention on it can keep you present in the here and now.
Trees have been on this planet long before us. They have figured out ways to survive by storing resources during harsh conditions and by creating root networks with other trees. Sit in a forest or near a tree and admire it. It can nourish you both emotionally and physically.