The Neglected Art of Self Love: Remember to Take Care of Yourself!

It’s that time of year again, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. If you are like me, and I think many of us in today’s fast-paced world are, you are probably overwhelmingly busy, running around all day long doing things for other people. Amidst the craziness of tending to others’ needs, we often forget to take care of ourselves.

To make things worse, nowadays, in addition to the everyday stress many of us normally live with, there are the added tensions brought about by a precarious world. My anxiety level shoots up when I open the newspaper in the morning, and every time I listen to the news. Judging by the increasing number of newspaper articles about self-soothing and relaxation, I’ll make a wild bet that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So, with the Holiday of Love upon us, I wanted to re-state the obvious and remind everyone that loving others has to start with loving oneself. Safety regulations on airplanes stress that you should put an oxygen mask on yourself before tending to other people. The same goes for Tikkun O’lam, Hebrew for “Fixing the World.” There is great want all about us, as well as much that requires mending in the world. But in order to meet those needs and do the fixing, we all must practice the art of self love first.

There are as many methods of self-caring as there are individuals, but here I will note only the most basic, obvious ones, which also happen to be the things that work for me. You might be practicing some or all already, which is great. But if not, perhaps you’d like to consider trying some. Who knows, these might help you, too:

  1. Get enough sleep. I know too many people who don’t have time to sleep and who are constantly sleep-deprived. These people might get more done in the short run, but in the long run they will end up paying a heavy toll. We need sleep, and when we don’t get enough of it we simply don’t function well. Sleep enough and you will be a lot more efficient when awake. You will also see improvements in your mood, health, and general well-being.

  1. Eat well. We keep hearing this over and over, to the point of rolling our eyes when hearing it once more. Yet, I have intelligent, educated friends who still skip meals to save time. Healthy eating, just like sleep, is a basic human need. You all know the drill: food should be nutritious, fresh, colorful, balanced, minimally-processed and organic when possible. You might save a few minutes by skipping a meal, but the long-term damages will be a lot costlier.
  1. Exercise. That’s a hard one, I admit, for it requires a lot of self discipline, at least for some of us. It’s easy to forgo exercise, but study after study proves just how important it is to keep moving. Exercise improves everything from mood to weight to health to life span. Make sure to find time to move, at least a few times a week. And if you have time constraints, research shows that even a one-minute-a-day intense workout can improve fitness.
  1. Pause. Take a few moments each day to stop running about and just be with yourself and relax. Sip a cup of coffee. Stare out the window. Breath. Clear your mind for a few still moments.
  1. Be mindful. David Gelles wrote an entire series of mindfulness articles in the New York Times lately. What he is trying to say, I think, is that we should all take the time to be present in the here and now, concentrate on what we are doing (rather than on what we did, what we should have done, what we will do next, or what we should be doing next), and simply, genuinely live the moment. If you think about it, the present is all we really have, and is the only thing we can actually control. The past is over, and despite our constant, long and elaborate plans for the future, no one really knows what the day will bring.
  1. Spend time with people you care about. Humans evolved to be social creatures. Spending time with others does wonders to our well-being, improves health and even makes us live longer. Find time to hang out with your family. Make a conscious effort to meet a friend. This, after all, is what life is all about.
  1. Hug. Yes, you read that right. Give and get a hug every day, the more the better! There is clear data that proves that touching other people is good for you. Necessary even. And if you can’t find anyone to hug, cuddling with a pet is the next best thing.

Hope handmade fabric card

  1. Smile. The simple act of smiling, it turns out, has many benefits. It reduces stress, improves mood and makes you more productive, to name some. It is, in fact, so beneficial, that even fake smiling helps! And if you smile at a stranger, you get the added bonus of bringing a ray of sunshine into someone else’s day. If that’s not a small step towards fixing the world, what is?
  1. Spend time in nature. Being outdoors, exposed to the sun and around plants has numerous gains. It definitely soothes the soul, so carve a piece of your day to be outside. This includes gardening, walking, hiking, or any other outdoors activity. Even just sitting outside exposes you to sunlight, which will do wonders to your mood.

And finally, if things get really bad,

  1. Disconnect! It’s OK to take time off from news or social media if that is what will save your sanity. Turn off the TV. Put the newspaper away. Don’t browse social media. Give yourself the permission and time to heal and recuperate.

Always remember that self care is important! And whatever you do, never lose hope! There is much goodness in you, in the people around you and in the world. So when things get overwhelming, think positive and keep on hoping! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Hope handmade textile card

 

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