Self-Care: Friend or Foe?

 A survivor dreams of the ocean. A thriver makes it happen.

A survivor dreams of the ocean. A thriver makes it happen.

Self-care is a topic near and dear to my heart. We have been both bitter enemies and close friends. Self-care has hunted me down to make me pay attention. After a long and humbling battle with prioritizing self-care, I have witnessed its profound effect. Self-care allows me to grow into a thriving and joyful person.

Here is a mash-up of self-care explanations found on the internet: “Self-care is a series of activities promoting the well-being of the body, mind, emotions and spirit. It’s purpose is to practice wellness activities to boost mood and reduce stress.”

Stress, among the leading causes of death in America, has become our go-to response when we are afraid or unsure of how to deal with someone or something. We go to doctors for prescriptions, seek therapy for relief, and even prefer to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs and poor choices. When the rhythm of stress has reached fever-pitched blaring, it's time to shut it down. Tune in instead to the gentle harmony of self-care.

Isn’t it time we:

  • Lift ourselves out of survival mode and devote our efforts to thriving?
  • Refuse to let stress dominate our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits?
  • Reclaim our stories and shape them to what matters most?
  • Listen for signals of our inner voice so we can make better choices?
  • Empower ourselves to cope with stress and life’s curveballs by using healthy and appropriate coping tools?

Put another way, if self-care were an employees' union, we would never put up with the abuse that stress dishes out on a regular basis. We would strike on the streets, sign petitions and march up to our bosses shouting, "Enough's enough. We deserve better treatment. We require more perks to protect ourselves and our families." Learn about workplace stress.

Here's a breakdown of self-care through the eyes of a life survivor versus the lens of a thriver. Survivors go through the motions of day-to-day living. Thrivers seek growth, possibilities and success. After you read through the list, which voice do you hear most these days?

Body

Survivor: “The idea of exercising stresses me out. I prefer to be a stressed out person than go out in public and workout. Plus I don’t have time to go to the gym.”

Thriver: “Moving my body everyday makes a big difference in how flexible it is. I believe working out will strengthen my body in healthy ways for years to come. Exercise will prevent my body from taking hard hits when illness comes along.”

Mind

Survivor: “My brain has so many open tabs. I don’t know how to close them. I cannot calm down. Self-care is selfish. I can't possibly care for myself when others demand my time and energy. Lately, it's hard to sleep because my thoughts have nowhere to go.”

Thriver: “My thoughts come and go. If a thought bothers me for more than 24 hours, I need to figure out what it will take to think about it another way. I won’t let my thoughts block me from resting and enjoying myself. Self-care gives me the break I need to gain strength and feel good”

Emotions

Survivor: “My emotions look like a tornado. They are wild and out-of-control because I don’t know how to deal with pressure. I don’t know how to process new information. After the storm subsides I remain exhausted.

I feel guilty if I put myself first. How can I take a few minutes to wind down when my family needs my full attention?”

Thriver: “I take time to relax. I find activities which make me feel good.  I share my emotions and don’t keep them bottled up. Exploding emotions are throttled. I focus instead on staying emotionally fit for myself and others.  Self-care fuels love and compassion toward myself and in my relationships.“

Spirit

Survivor: “My spirit has lost its bounce. Stress has taken over my body, mind and emotions - blinding me to how to care for my spiritual needs. What’s the use? I'm not in touch with what my soul longs for and desires.

Thriver: “My spirit connects to peace, love and joy. I center myself around principles and live according to my mission and values. Life rewards me with wonder, appreciation and harmony. I choose to radiate this amazing energy with the world.”