• Taking Care of Yourself

    This is the first of three articles in a self-care blog series from the Mindful Counseling Center.

    “How we care for ourselves gives our brain messages that shape our self-worth. So we must care for ourselves in every way, every day.” – Sam Owen, Author (as cited at goodreads.com)

    You are worth the excellent care you can give yourself, really and truly.

    A well-cared-for you, one in which the positives in life are nourished alongside of coping with life’s struggles, nurtures not only you but also the world around you. It’s a win-win all around.

    No doubt, we are living through times of significant stress and upheaval. These factors can contribute to increased stress-related illnesses, personal struggle and difficulty finding meaning and joy in every-day life. Yet … this unsettling fact in no way means you must simply endure an anguished life.

    You have a choice—every day, every moment—about how your life is lived, even in hard times. You can stay in default mode, perhaps languishing in misery … or you can choose over and over again to be mindful about your self-care. Being mindful in this context means that you are, consciously and with great intention, striving to cultivate a better, more balanced way of being for yourself. 

    Caring for yourself by letting the positives in and being nurtured by them doesn’t ignore or erase the struggles in your life. Rather, making room for and nourishing the positives in your life can offer some relief from the hardships you face, so that you can grasp inner peace.    

    Admittedly, purposefully caring for yourself takes thought, planning and effort. It requires looking within yourself to determine how to best foster what is positive in your life, and then creating routines that allow you to feel OK and even contented on a regular basis, rather than eternally stressed out.

    “Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go IS attainable, and you are worth the effort. ” – Deborah Day (as cited at wellbeing.gmu.edu)

    How Do I Cultivate Self-Care?

    (Drawn in part from MindPeace, 2020)

    Cultivating care of yourself necessitates that you make self-care a priority, no matter what is going on around you.

    It is significant to note that the “radical” idea of being able to care for oneself, of having the time and adequate resources to do so, was born out of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its demand for respect for the basic human rights for those being oppressed in society (A Guide to Practicing Self-Care with Mindfulness-Mindful). 

    “Caring for myself is an act of survival.” ― Audre Lorde (as cited at goodreads.com)

    Self-care can be thought of as the activities and routines you practice regularly to benefit all aspects of your well-being.

    Self-care speaks to the need to manage and prevent stress, exhaustion, burnout and apathy in yourself. A few examples of self-care strategies:

    • Tapping into your curiosity by learning something new or giving yourself an opportunity to “stretch” in new ways (e.g., by attending a class, seeking out therapy, reading a book or listening to a podcast)
    • Doing contemplative activities such a focusing on breathing (e.g., to calm you), or sitting on a bench or blanket looking out over water or a mountain vista (e.g., to feel the awe inspired by nature)
    • Mindfully moving your body (e.g., stretching after waking up or taking a walk)
    • Expressing your creativity (e.g., by taking photographs or journaling or dancing)
    • Giving yourself time to enjoy your morning cup of coffee or tea, as a start to the new day
    • Reflecting on what you are grateful for in your life as part of your night-time sleep routine
    • Giving yourself permission to relax and have fun, whether alone or in the company of supportive people in your life and pets (e.g., by going to a movie, watching a show at home, playing a game, showering attention on your partner, your children, your pets, etc., attending a symphony or play, or going out or ordering in from a favorite restaurant)

    The best way to take care of yourself is to create self-care routines that are based on what works best for YOU, what YOU believe is most reasonable and what YOU are most likely to maintain.

    It easy to get caught up in the chaos of the day and neglect your own needs. Yet, not caring for yourself compromises your ability to function properly. Remind yourself that it is NOT selfish to take care of yourself! (Adapted from The Healing Trust, 2019)

    “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Parker Palmer (as cited at goodread.com)

    Mindfully caring for yourself, all the time but especially in challenging situations, is often a goal in counseling and wellness efforts. The Mindful Counseling Center can assist you in taking concrete steps towards mental well-being, in a way that fit your needs and hopes. Contact us today at 609-377-5859. 

    Article by Kristin Littel. Article content was adapted in part from West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, Self-Care module (which Littel contributed to and edited). It was also inspired by a 10% Happier meditation by J. Lingo, Growing the Good


    MindPeace (2020). Self-care guide. Cincinnati: Junior League of Cincinnati.

    The Healing Trust. (2019). Self-care planning guide for individuals: A guide to creating a day of self-care. Nashville, TN: Author. 

    Related Blogs: The Case for Self-CareStepping into Self-Care