Through the years, I have fought hard for my health. I've had messy moments with bends in the road. Sometimes, it included giant potholes, like getting diagnosed with Complex PTSD last year.
When I reflect on my recovery process, it has required daily self-care. According to Dictionary.com, self-care is “Care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.” From my experience, self-care is actively engaging in the activities that may help us to gain or maintain optimal wellness; to enhance our body, emotions, and spiritual health.
In simpler terms, it's doing what we can do with what we have on a consistent basis to improve our entire being. This proactive approach can place us in a better position to heal. It doesn't mean that there is a final destination to healing. I believe that healing is more like an onion. Layer upon layer, we may encounter new things that we must work through.
How I got from there to here wasn't one particular method to help me along the healing path. Rather, it was multiple therapeutic, self-care strategies, which proved highly beneficial. My overall condition improved from being disabled and homebound to becoming healthier and independent.
This doesn't mean that I'm cured of fibromyalgia, C-PTSD, or trauma. It means that despite my challenges, I've gained better insight to lead a higher quality of life. More so, I actively sought practical life-style changes to improve my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Each one was like finding a missing piece of a puzzle.
In a nutshell, self-care is an empowering expression of self-love. Despite our failings and
weaknesses, we learn to love ourselves and view ourselves as worthy. We care about our well-being. We love ourselves in such a positive way that we flourish. Do you know what it looks like to love yourself?
During my darkest and gloomiest moments, self-love was not easy. It wasn't automatic. Shame came easier for me, especially since I had suffered trauma. I've learned the hard way that healing from abuse and sexual assaults takes time. I've had to build awareness, and understand that it's not my shame to carry. By caring for myself and practicing self-love, it means that I embrace my self-worth.
Here's what I've learned about self-care and self-love:
- Loving ourselves means taking good care of our body, mind, and soul.
- Caring for ourselves is not selfish.
- Self-care and self-love require being true to ourselves.
- By being true to oneself, we create healthy boundaries.
- We let go of people-pleasing.
- Listen to our body's signal to eat, sleep, reduce stress, & be still.
- Follow our gut intuition.
- No rehashing past mistakes, experiences, or regrets that can hinder our progress.
- Take responsibility for our own thoughts, behaviors, words, and actions.
- Pray for wisdom, discernment, and guidance.
- Release toxic people from our lives.
- Refuse to seek permission or approval to be our authentic selves.
- Give our body the nurturing, nutrition, rest, exercise, and comfort it needs.
- Be honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses.
- Take time to grow personally, professionally, and spiritually.
- Allow ourselves to feel what we feel without berating ourselves or feeling guilty.
- Strive for self-improvement, yet accept ourselves right where we are now.
- To speak the truth.
- To have courage and confidence as we seek new horizons.
Consciously, we choose to give ourselves the gift of love and care. To respect ourselves. To have gratitude for the precious life we're blessed with, including the good, the bad, and the downright painful moments. It's an enriching process of self-growth that can lead to acceptance.
We may not like how we look or feel right now, but we can come to terms with it. We may despise our physical pain, emotional meltdowns, C-PTSD, or horrible triggers from trauma, yet we go beyond the superficial to love and care for ourselves fully.
Regardless of our season in life, we may find ourselves carrying burdens. Extra stress. Broken relationships. Past abuse. Betrayal. Disappointments. Depression. Illness. Grief. Losses. The list is endless. Any which we look at it, carrying heavy burdens, especially over a lengthy period of time, can take a toll on us. To move forward to healing, it will entail self-care and self-love.
Before I explain practical steps about self-care, let's first cover the basics of what it is not. Self-care is not:
- Intoxication with alcohol
- Indulging in street drugs
- Abusing pharmaceutical medicine
- Self-harm or injury
- Binging and purging
- Reckless overspending
- Destructive behaviors or lifestyles
- Neglecting health and safety
Self-care is a set of practices that help you feel nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Self-care is taking time to refresh, renew, and recharge in a manner that is meaningful to you.
Based on the fact that we each have our own likes and dislikes as well as unique personalities, self-care may differ from person to person. For example, an introvert may desire to be alone and still for self-care whereas an extrovert may want to be in a social environment and active during self-care.
This is what self-care and self-love look like in my healing journey:
- Journaling - In search of peace, I journaled. It was freeing to release all of my hurt, frustrations, and emotions. Journaling gave me the opportunity to vent, cry, and analyze the bumpy road I traveled. Expressing my inner thoughts and feelings were a godsend. With pen to paper, I ranted about my harrowing trials. It felt good to let go of negative energy. I poured out my heart on paper. I wrote my deepest dreams and aspirations. Most importantly, journaling provided positive benefits by reducing stress, clarifying thoughts, effectively solving problems, exploring my strengths, and praying. Journaling became a blissful sanctuary. A safe place to be real. No pressure or worry about being harshly judged. It brought calm to my storm. New insight. Peace of mind. Personal growth. This amazing form of self-care and love awakened my inner voice.
- Gratitude – In effort to improve my outlook on life, I started compiling a list of things that I was grateful for. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude begins with counting our blessings. Gratitude is expressing thanks for special blessings we receive. When life gets hectic and we feel overwhelmed, we can take a moment to focus on the people or situations we are most grateful for. When we have an attitude of gratitude other things will fall by the wayside. The more we are grateful for what we have, the more we can live fully in the present. When we live in the present moment, the greater we build stepping stones for a brighter future. Being thankful helps us to take into account all of the positive in our lives. It gives us a whole new perspective.
- Soothing Sounds - During long nights when I have insomnia, I dim the lights and listen to music, which promoted relaxation. One CD combines flowing, ethereal music with soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shore. Closing my eyes, I am magically transported to a tropical island where I could envision sea gulls flying overhead, feel the warm sun radiating on my skin, and picture myself walking barefoot on the beach. A cool breeze ruffles through my hair as I kneel down to pick up a beautiful sea shell. As I listen to it's tranquil sound of ocean waves, blissful peace gently washes over me. Other musical options included soothing soundtracks of calming atmospheres, strings, piano, and guitar. For stress relief, some people enjoy nature music with the soft pitter-patter of raindrops, birds singing in the distance, or flowing waterfalls. While your preference may vary, choose a style of soothing sounds that resonates within your own spirit.
- Tranquility & Aromatherapy – Sometimes when I feel sad, anxious, or restless, I create a relaxing environment by lighting candles or diffusing pure essential oils to encourage solitude. My favorite scents for aromatherapy are Balance essential oil (grounding), Bergamot essential oil (calming & uplifting), and Wild Orange (joy & peace). If my fibromyalgia or herniated discs are flaring, I soak in a hot bathtub filled with Epsom salts and a few drops of Lavender essential oil. Sometimes, I light scented candles around the tub to simply relish in the tranquil atmosphere. In my experience, this form of self-care makes a world of difference; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Clean Nutrition – Along my wellness journey, it became clear that I needed to clean up my diet to improve my moods, memory, and physical health. I learned about specific foods and drinks that could help me to decrease my inflammation, digestive issues, and pain. I've gained wisdom, knowledge, and insight into the truth about genetically modified organisms (GMO), artificial sweeteners, processed foods, gluten, and how it overall affects how I function daily. For me, self-care meant loving myself enough to bravely say, “No”, to the harmful ingredients that were hindering my progress. It opened up the doorway to say, “Yes”, to whole, pure, organic nutrition, which greatly increases my quality of life.
When you take good care of yourself, you are in a better position to take better care of others. While there are only a certain number of hours in each day and you may have many responsibilities, it's important that you carve out special time to focus on your self-
In case you have forgotten or need a gentle reminder: Your healing journey is important. Your life is worth it. You are worth it!
The main purpose of self-care and self-love is to nurture yourself. To build awareness of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. To advocate for vibrant health. Self-care and self-love is not merely existing on earth or barely surviving. It is intentionally taking the best care of yourself in order to transform your health to fully thrive.