The Art of Self-Care
The Art of Self-Care
by Allison & Callan Welder
Many of us spend a fair portion of our day thinking about and caring for others. You may work in the health care profession where it is literally your job to care for others. Perhaps you manage employees in your work environment or have a partner, children or parent that you care for. This is a noble and necessary part of life as a human. It can be very rewarding to help others and be of service. Thank you to those who keep us fed, clothed, healthy and safe—in essence, EVERYONE. Now that you have helped others, who takes care of you?
You have to make it a priority to care for yourself too! Carving out a few minutes of each day to clear your head and body of the demands, distractions and chatter of daily life leads to greater health and harmony. When your body and mind are in harmony, you can give and serve more effectively. Imagine yourself like a deep well, a reservoir of resources. Each time you offer your services to someone or lend a helping hand you dip into the well and share some of your energy. Someone in balanced relationships with self and others has the ability to refill their reservoir by prioritizing their need for replenishment. If you are out of balance, you may feel constantly drained, depleted and dry. Self-care covers a range of practices that help you learn what refills your tank.
There are 8 principles of self-care outlined by Chinese medicine, in the order of importance: 1. Meditation/Mindfulness, 2. Movement Arts, 3. Diet, 4. Massage, 5. Cosmology, 6. Feng Shui, 7. Chinese Herbs 8. Acupuncture.
Interestingly, the most important principle is meditation. Other descriptions include mindfulness, prayer and progressive relaxation. Quieting the mind and learning to relax from daily stress is paramount. An old saying goes, “If you want to know what your thoughts were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to know what your body will look like tomorrow, look at your thoughts today.” If you are constantly obsessing about everything outside of yourself, it is like a steady leak in the well with no restorative input. Chiseling out a couple minutes during your day to sit quietly or walk while focusing on your breath is similar to opening a replenishing fountain that adds to your reservoir.
Movement arts include activities like yoga, Nia, tai chi, qigong, and Pilates. The term movement art refers to a form of exercise that harmonizes the mind, body and spirit. These practices encourage circulation and literally make your joints, muscles and connective tissue more juicy and less like dried out jerky. In order to be considered self-care, choose activities that are sustainable and fun—something that you commit to long term and allow for results to develop over time rather than expecting immediate results. Pairing mindfulness and movement enhances awareness so that the body and mind are aligned on your path of self-care.
It is important to eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water. Diet can be included into your self-care regime by slowing down when you eat and enjoying the process of preparing your meals. Try to chew your food well and bless it with gratitude as you consume and metabolize. Select a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to accompany whole grains and protein. Eat from your garden, visit the local farmer’s markets and buy what is in season. Make food your medicine.
There are several ways to incorporate massage into your life if you haven’t already. Madison County has plenty of talented massage therapists in Hot Springs, Marshall and Mars Hill—make an appointment and enjoy! You can treat yourself by adding a mini-massage after bathing, giving yourself a foot rub is a simple and easy way to start. Spending some time massaging a loved one’s shoulders or feet is good medicine too. Therapeutic touch is soothing to the nervous system and invigorates muscles and connective tissue so that you feel more fluid and flexible.
Cosmology is a very broad topic that can be interpreted many different ways. It doesn’t matter if you associate with one religion or none at all, cosmology is a connection to nature, seasons, time and the greater expanse of the cosmos. Spending some time reflecting on your unique relationship to these broad concepts is another way to feel a part of something worth caring for.
Feng Shui is similar to cosmology but it relates to the smaller picture of your personal space. How do you feel in your home, your car, your office? Making time to orient yourself with the objects that fill your life and establish a space that feels comfortable and clean can have an immense effect on your state of mind and wellbeing. Try it… clean out a cluttered closet or drawer, reorganize your desk or rearrange your living room.
If you practice these principles and sculpt them into nourishing activities then there is less need for the final two guidelines of herbs and acupuncture or, in western terms, medication and doctors. Our bodies are designed to heal. The above suggestions are a blueprint for guiding the body into harmonious resonance with the richness of life. The need to be treated by someone else drops dramatically when you practice self-care. Luckily, Chinese herbs and acupuncture are easy to access (even in Madison County) and our county has one of the best affordable health care systems in western North Carolina. This is not intended to steer you away from receiving care from these systems but instead it is an empowering set of practices that can only improve your state of being between visits.
Take care of yourself first and embody an overflowing reservoir of healing potential. If you allow your well to run dry, everyone suffers. Self-care is a form of selfishness but for all the right reasons—when the well is full, everyone benefits!
Magictown Movement Studio, on the island in Marshall, has weekly classes in yoga, Nia, tai chi, qigong, Pilates and meditation. Marshall Acupuncture and Herb Clinic, also located in downtown Marshall, offers herbal consultations and acupuncture treatments by appointment. Visit these websites for more information www.magictownstudio.com and www.marshallacupunctureclinic.com.