Thursday, April 27, 2006

Self Care Musings

The other day I was asked to be a guest speaker at an Al Anon speaker meeting. I chose the topic of self-care, because to me, it is the source of so much power and healing in the world and in our lives. In uncharacteristic fashion, I decided to prepare for the meeting. What is fun about that is I now have notes. From which I can craft this blog posting. Yay.

So the main thing I noticed is that there are layers of self-care.

Firstly, there are the basics. The keeping yourself alive and safe. This is like watching for cars when you cross the road. Or not getting yourself into a situation where you are getting shot at. In my books it even includes washing, though that is not about keeping alive and safe, but it is about that important basic maintenance.

Then there is the H.A.L.T. That when you are hungry, or angry, or lonely, or tired, you stop what you are doing and take care of those things. Doing this requires self-awareness. It needs you to be noticing the signals your body is giving you. It includes reaching out to friends, taking a nap, getting your anger expressed and out in healthy, non-destructive ways.

Next we have what I like to call the Development layer. Here there is a deepening of knowing yourselves and what you like, and not just what keeps you safe, but what really feeds you and nurtures you (Hello Maslow!). This includes doing the things that are fun. The whole “choose joy” place that I keep coming back to. It also encompasses “unproductive time”, that down time where you relax, you don’t come from should or ought, but just see where your body and heart guides you. From this place you experiment with (and hopefully learn) when to push yourself and when to be gentle. Because much of the “journeying” in the life journey is about the back and forth of those two things. This layer also includes the space of discipline. Where you do the things that are good for you, or will serve you in the long run, even if they are not enjoyable now. Things like exercising. And not just eating, but eating right. Stretching yourself, challenging yourself live here too. As does finding the right friends, the ones that really see and honour you, the ones the value and appreciate who you are. And then, asking for what you need and want from them. Which doesn’t necessarily mean you get it, but just the asking for it, that is a form of self-care.

Finally, the Protective layer. And this has two parts. The protecting from yourself and protecting from others. This is where you set boundaries.

In terms of yourself: this is the not abandoning yourself, the not bailing on yourself, the not neglecting yourself. It involves not depriving yourself or pushing yourself too hard and not being mean to yourself. This is where you learn to trust yourself. Trust your instinct, trust what you know. And listen to yourself. And respect yourself. Even if you have learned otherwise in life. In this layer, you unlearn that.

In terms of with others: this includes saying no. And walking away from relationships that don’t work. It requires that you be clear within yourself and you stand in your own authority, and speak from there. It involves not letting yourself get stepped on, but speaking up for yourself instead. Related to boundaries with yourself, this is when you have to put those internal boundaries into action out in the world. An important piece of this though is to learn to do that with love. Which isn’t easy, and seems to need to be learned over time. Including learning where the line between being “mean” to others and mean to yourself intersects. It is messy. And it is process. And it can be learned.

In fact, here is the good news; all of them can be learned. Part of the learning is to notice when you need to do which self care. And you will get that by listening to yourself. Listening to yourself is the key. To all of it. Because there aren’t rules about this stuff. No recipe, or formula, or guidebook. That never seems to work. What does make it work is fundamentally believing that you are responsible for making yourself happy. And acting on that belief.

Self-care is not difficult. You need to ask yourself, and ask your Higher Power, “What do I need to do today to take loving and responsible care of myself?” The challenge is trusting the answer and then having the courage to follow through.


At 5:05 AM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

These are all excellent points and indeed, we are always on the ever-changing learning curve for each one of them. It's a constant evolution as we grow older and have more experiences involving the health of our bodies, minds, and spirits.
I'm sure you would be a great one to share with this group as well as Coping With Cancer groups. Have you done many of these? Do you have a question and answer period afterwards? Seems you would be very open and helpful to these people as you have come so far along the journey with regard to your points in this blog. Travel on, Signy!

At 10:34 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

I don't know what a Coping with Cancer group is. Unless that is your great name for folks who spontaniously get together and create magical discussions around the idea of dealing with cancer and all that that entails.

Is it something other than that? And if so, please fill me in so I can go play too!

At 7:12 AM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Don't really know if it exists, if not, it should. Maybe you'll start the first chapter! You are well qualified and in a good place on your journey do have such positive impact.


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