Radical self care as a personal philosophy
I am trying hard to implement a new personal philosophy of radical self care.
I grew up from an early age with unhealthy ideals about personal sacrifice. I was taught that I had to pay attention to the needs of others first, and prioritize others first.
This attitude has not helped me either in my personal life or in my professional life. And I find myself constantly stressed out and bereft of energy.
So I am trying another way.
What does radical self care mean? This is what it means to me.
(i) I am making my needs a priority over the needs of others. I am trying to get over the bad habit of killing myself for other people, whatever the context.
There is nothing healthy at all about sacrificing mental or physical well being for someone else.
Radical self-care teaches that it's ok to prioritize your needs first. This is not being selfish; this is being rational. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't give to others.
If you feel like you are giving someone or some thing way more attention than it is giving back to you, that is an important warning signal.
If you feel sick, rest.
If you feel tired, take a break.
Turn off your phone and your email for a few hours. Don't let constant aggravation take over your life.
And if something or someone is just constantly draining you, you need to think about ways to mellow it out, or to cut it off entirely.
(ii) I am focusing on healing myself -- physically, mentally and spiritually. Many people are fortunate enough to make it through life without significant trauma.
But there are others for whom trauma and suffering has played a significant role.
There are people today who walk around with open spiritual wounds, having been hurt by a past pain, and not having the ability to heal it because of the pressures of modern life.
It is easier said than done, but if you are hurt or in trauma, you absolutely do need to prioritize self healing.
Physical pains are easy enough to recognize, but even then it can be difficult to give yourself permission to rest and lay in bed until you are totally well.
And when you are mentally or emotionally hurt, you have to give yourself permission to take time off and to digest those emotions, like a heavy meal. Even if it takes a few days, or weeks.
If you are spiritually suffering from a deep and painful trauma, you have to take time to find a deeper purpose to better understand that suffering, otherwise, the suffering will drive you to despair.
Taking time to heal is tough. It is also tough because in a hyper-capitalist economy, if you don't work, you don't earn a wage. Just do what you can.
(iii) If I am in doubt about what to do, I err on the side of self care. As part of my daily routine, if I'm not sure what type of decision to make, the deciding factor is what will be good for me in terms of my own self care and self healing.
This has become an important yardstick for me in making decisions.
If it's 6 p.m. and I'm feeling drowsy and tired, and I'm deciding whether to keep working on a project or to take a nap, I end up taking a nap.
If I have to decide how to spend an evening, and one choice is more stressful than the other, I go with the less stressful choice.
This is, of course, a balance. Stress is a part of life, and to get anything done in life you have to put in effort and deal with some stress.
But part of maturity is knowing the right balance, and knowing when you're out of sync with what is healthy and sustainable.
And being productive and energized about one's labors is also a part of self-care. We draw tremendous amounts of dignity from our work. So if the balance is upset in the other direction, we'll know that soon enough, too.