Why You Shouldn't Neglect Physical Self-Care

You matter and your happiness matters. Image: Thinkstock.

Whatever self-care you choose, own it.

Everyone should practice self-care, but many don’t know how. Discussion around self-care is often ambiguous and confusing.

It’s easy to get caught up in your thoughts, letting them run an endless cycle in your brain and cause insomnia, anxiety, and a myriad of other problems.

Take everything personally and think the worst of any situation? Overwhelmed with your job or at school? Say self-deprecating things about yourself, or think the same of other people?

If you can relate to any of this, it’s a sure sign you need to take better care of yourself, because happiness and healing truly comes from within.

Luckily, within the self-care realm, there are three different subsets: emotional, spiritual, and physical self-care. I believe the latter is what’s most important, because it’s the easiest thing to do; however, the first two are also imperative for your mental health. You can slather lotion all over your body and massage pressure points easier than you can pray and get a response from the divine.

Many times, self-care needs to be manifested at random times or during emergencies when you’re dealing with an unprecedented crisis. Examples of emotional self-care include writing down your feelings, using coloring books, or belting it out in the shower. Emotional self-care is often related to creativity, but if you’re dealing with that block (as many artists do), it can be hard to put into practice.

I think spiritual self-care is the hardest to accomplish in times of crisis, because not everyone is spiritual or religious.

The easiest way to use spiritual self-care is by meditating. Meditation does not apply to any one religion (and can be done by atheists and agnostics alike), nor does it interfere with other religious beliefs. When you meditate, you’re focusing on your breath and nothing else — but it’s not always easy. Even for Buddhist monks and seasoned yogis, it’s still hard.

As a yoga teacher, I use meditation at the end of my classes to help students unwind, even if going to a yoga class is the first thing they do all morning.

The most important thing to remember during meditation is to make sure you’re relaxed before you even begin. When you’re physically uncomfortable, your muscles will hold in tension, and the strain from your physical body can be distracting when you’re trying to tap into your spiritual body. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed on top of the other or hold your fingers in a certain way. Meditation can be done sitting on a chair or even walking aimlessly in a confined space. Close your eyes and begin to listen to the sound of your breath.

Be gentle with yourself.

Not everyone can meditate on command, and it is challenging, but truly helpful.

Physical self-care is the act of using your physical body, which can range from massaging yourself with lotion to drinking more water and eating mindfully. When we eat foods that are unprocessed and mostly homemade, it’s an act of self-love. It’s telling our bodies we care, and that our inner mechanisms and intricacies are valid. (Of course, this is isn't always an option, for many complicated reasons.)

Movement is also helpful and extremely easy because it can be done anywhere. Practicing gentle yoga or even going out for a run is simple. Even if you hate exercising, most people can do a few stretches at a cafe or when on the train. If you have more time, YouTube has a compendium of free classes, whether you want to try Pilates, barre, or even Zumba!

It’s easy to get caught up in what is “right” and “wrong” when you’re starting anything new, but as long as you’re feeling good in your body and not over-exerting yourself, that’s all that matters.

Another way of using physical self-care is by honing your sexuality.

Sexuality and being comfortable in one’s skin doesn’t have to be purely sexual. It can be as simple as looking at your body naked in front of the mirror and saying positive affirmations, such as “I am beautiful” and “I am worthy.”

If all of society stopped reading tabloids and comparing themselves to others — especially celebrities who get paid to look a certain way — it might possibly be what saves humanity from the hate that fuels insecurities, wars, and other worldly atrocities.

Whatever self-care you choose, own it, because you matter and your happiness matters.

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