The Seven Keys Of Self Care

If you are just beginning your self care journey or are wanting to find ways to make your practice more meaningful, the SEVEN KEYS OF SELF CARE should be quite helpful.

KEY ONE: Self Care is a state of mind
I could ask 20 people what SC is and I’d get 20 different answers, some pretty on point and some that maybe need some gentle steering. Some see self care as taking care of the body, others feel like its about pampering, or caring for spiritual needs or taking time-outs.  On the other side, some people think self care is frivolous at best and selfish at worst. Self care could be expressed in all of these ways but below all of these different ideas about it, SELF CARE IS A STATE OF MIND. It is about implementing practices that nourish your body, mind and soul.

Any activity, with intention, can become a practice of self care.  My new favorite mini practice is when I’m stopped at a red light. When I first started really paying attention to my thoughts, I’d notice myself thinking, when approaching an intersection, “If that light turns red, I’m gonna be pissed.” If it turned red, sure enough, I’d be pissed.  I just mindlessly set myself up to have that reaction. NOW, when I approach an intersection, I think “I wonder what’s gonna happen?” If the light turns red, I’ve just been gifted a few moments to RELAX...a few moments to seek out something beautiful. A few moments to offer myself my loving attention.  What a gift!

KEY TWO: .Self Care is a practice that takes practice.  
It is also a practice that isn’t a one size fits all deal.  If you are just beginning your self care journey, start where you are.  Fit it into YOUR life using things that bring YOU joy. One of my favorite built in self care practices is bath time.  It’s something I’m doing already but I’m also creating a moment of quiet relaxation for myself. I make a cup of tea. I light a pretty smelling candle, maybe do a bath bomb.  I’m using an everyday task to give all of my senses something lovely to engage with. I’m mindful of not engaging my chatter brain and reeling in my focus out of the past or future to that moment that I’m in.  If the idea of taking a bath seems gross, then check that off the list. If the idea of doing nothing conflicts with your values of needing to be productive, find a way, in the beginning, that doesn’t conflict with your current sensibilities.  If it stretches you too far out of your comfort zone or sets off triggers, start smaller. It’s okay to take baby steps. Be gentle with yourself. Insert one small practice into your routine and get comfortable with that, then take another step.  There is a great deal of value getting out of your comfort zone. I personally am a fan, but when it comes to creating a self care practice, gentleness is important. Your comfort zone will still get bigger without you trying to punch through it.

KEY THREE: Self Care is about nourishing your soul, not fulfilling an expectation
 If you are using the phrase “If I only” or any similar phrase, your self care practice may need tweaking. If you were only good at meditating, If you could only hold that yoga pose better, if you only liked getting up at dark thirty to work out, then that isn’t true self care, it’s meeting an expectation of what you think self care SHOULD be or what you SHOULD be doing as part of a self care practice.

It’s okay to do what you think you SHOULD be doing, but don’t make it a part of your self care practice.  I know people who would rather be eating bacon instead of oatmeal - because they NEED to but that isn’t a self care routine, it’s healthcare routine.

When I want to incorporate a new self care practice into my routine, I filter it through the following questions: Does this bring me joy?  Does this cause no harm or undue stress to myself or others? Does this nourish my body, mind or soul? If the answer is NO to any one of these, then rework your practice in a way that checks all of these boxes.  You can also run things that you already do - or used to do - through these filters to find out if it fits as a self care practice. If the answer is YES to all three questions, SURPRISE, it’s self care!

KEY FOUR: Self Care is making your emotional needs a priority
This means DO NOT PUT SELF CARE OFF UNTIL YOU HAVE TIME. If you cut yourself, even if you don’t have a first aid kit handy, you are probably going to wash it off and cover it with the nearest tissue until you can properly tend to it. If you don’t, it’s likely going to get infected. It’s the same thing with our emotional well-being. If you keep putting off tending to your emotional needs until you have time to fit it in, it will start seeping into other areas of your life, compounding the problem. It’s good to have an ‘emergency self care practice’ in your pocket for occasions like this. You may not be able to offer yourself a grand gesture, but you can take a moment for yourself.  The ‘emergency self care tool’ that I created for myself is called The CALM practice. I can do anywhere as long as I can take at least one uninterrupted minute.
  • I give myself some CARE in that moment - sometimes I can only take a few deep and nourishing breaths
  • I ALLOW myself to feel how I am feeling without judging it or trying to fix anything.
  • I offer LOVE to the part of me that is feeling this way - like I would for my child when he’s feeling sad or scared or frustrated
  • And I keep my focus on this MOMENT - realizing that this problem isn’t actively existing in my space at that moment

This week’s featured journal has this complete tool, along with journal prompts, in the back section of the book so you can have this tool at your fingertips.  I’ve also created a video with more information about this practice, a quick centering activity and journal prompts. Check out the journal in the Joy Spring Journal’s Amazon Shop

KEY FIVE: Self Care includes asking yourself what you ACTUALLY need
It’s good to have some established practices available, but actually asking yourself what you need in that moment may offer some surprising results.  The way I do this is with dual handed journaling. I’ve got more information here, but in a nutshell, this method offers more direct access to your feelings without being filtered through  mental censors that tends to edit the message to fit into the life structure that you’ve established. As an example, I wanted to do something for myself after a stressful day. When I asked myself what I wanted to do, the word I heard in my mind was water.  I assumed that a hot bath was what I needed. It is one of my go-to practices but it didn’t feel quite right. but when I went to my journal for clarification, the answer from my non dominant hand said, Not a bath, YOU NEED WATER. Your body is dehydrated and feeling anxious because you are not giving it water.

If you try this, you may get a response that you weren’t expecting, but if you can say yes - if it checks off all the boxes that I listed a few moments ago, then go for it.  When you know what You need, the next step is...

KEY SIX: Self Care includes letting others know what you need
When starting a new practice that may have an effect on the people around you, It’s a good idea to let them know what you are planning and asking for assistance, if it is needed. It’s okay to ask for help. You’d be surprised how willing most people are to say YES. The people that love you want to see you happy so, if keeping the kiddo away from the bathroom door while you take a soak, means a happier mommy, then Starting small and taking baby steps also applies to others, if your practice will have an affect on them.  By starting small, it will give others the time to see the positive results of your practice and, if your results have a positive effect on those that are assisting you, then you will likely have loyal supporters

KEY SEVEN: Self Care is sharing the fruits of your practice with others
This can mean a few things, but most importantly it means sharing the rewards of your self care practice with those who are supporting your journey.  I could mean including a loved one in one of your practices. It could mean offering your support in someone else’s self care journey, It can mean sharing your good mood with others by letting someone go ahead of you in line, compliment a stranger on something you notice about them.  Pay for the next person’s order, drop a dollar on the ground. Sharing can also be a helpful self care practice when you are needing a boost. Have you noticed that if you are in a sour mood and you are expressing that out into the world, it tends to express that back to you, creating a negative feedback loop?  Kindness is the same way. When you share kindness, it sets up a feedback loop that is nourishing, not only to you, but to the environment you are engaging with. I may never know how a kind gesture is spreading but I imagine it setting off a cascade of kindness or positively changes the trajectory of another person’s day and that little moment of daydreaming has become a powerful moment of self care.

Onto MY favorite part!  This week’s activity was developed using dual handed journaling, which is a key element of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts method.  This method involves writing out the following questions with your dominant and allowing the answers to come through your non dominant hand, which offers a more direct route to your emotional body.

To get your non dominant hand on board with this activity, try out the Warm Up Activity video

If you don’t yet have a self care practice in mind, write down this first question:

What can I do to offer myself some self care?

Now answer it with your non dominant hand

Then you can filter the answer through the following three questions or you can use the questions on an existing  practice that you feel could use some tweaking

Again, write out the questions with your dominant hand then respond with your non dominant hand.

Will this bring me joy?
Will this cause no harm or undue stress to myself or others?  
Will this nourish my body, mind or soul?

If any of these questions results in a NO, then respond to the NO by writing out the following question with your dominant hand:

What can I do instead?  

Then respond with your non dominant hand.

If you are entirely new to the concept of dual handed journaling, it may be helpful to work through the CALM activity video here to get comfortable with the concept.  

I hope you found this information helpful.  Feel free to share with anyone you think would benefit from the SEVEN KEYS OF SELF CARE.


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