“Take care of yourself” is a phrase we bandy about a great deal. But how much meaning we imply when saying it is another matter. It’s often just casually added as a pleasantry when saying goodbye to someone to which the recipient more than likely responds saying: “you too!”
However, every now and again, someone will say it to you with real meaning because they want you to be more mindful of your needs, requirements and/or health. And most of us will have been on the receiving end of that implication at some point in our lives either once or several times. Which begs the question: how much do you (and several other million people in this world) actually manage to really take care of yourself? I’m asking because it’s something that a lot of us simply don’t do very well.
We take our selves for granted. We think we’ll be OK and we’ll get through another round of burning the candle at both ends, a punishing work schedule, drinking too much, eating too much, eating the wrong foods for our constitution, getting stressed, shouldering heavy responsibilities etc., etc., etc., without too much damage being done. We’re so used to living in our bodies and having them work for us that we think they’re going to be able to do that for ever. However, years of neglect will eventually take its toll and it may be that it’s only when the body gets ill or our mobility lessens that we start thinking we ought to be more careful about how we treat ourselves.
But the time to do it is NOW!
Some people think that taking care of themselves means paying attention to their appearance and so they take time making sure they’re well- groomed and wearing nice clothes. Their attention might also extend to spending a bit of time in the gym, or playing sports to keep in shape. And yes, to a degree, this is indeed taking care of you. But in truth, there’s more to it than that. Of course your physical body needs care, but so does your mental, emotional and spiritual body. You could look fabulous, be fit and have a lean and enviable physique, but if your emotions are all over the place, you’re not taking care of yourself. Why? Because you also need be mindful of any emotional wounds you’re carrying around which may well have resulted in having a stack of limiting beliefs, and, like as not, believing that you’re not good enough.
The best way to take care of yourself is to grow the ability of being able to love yourself. But here’s the rub: many of us were taught that it’s selfish to do this. As a result, how often do we sacrifice our own needs and go through life missing out on opportunities over the years that might have boosted our self-esteem, improved our ability to love ourselves and learn who we really are? Some of us were taught the Christian ethic of “Love thy neighbour as thyself” – and believe me, that’s a wonderful way to treat others. But what if you don’t love yourself? How much love can you truly give to your neighbour then?
In her latest book “What if this is Heaven?” Anita Moorjani addresses this problem, amongst others. She says: ‘It’s impossible to truly love others unless we learn to love ourselves unconditionally first. The myth that loving ourselves is selfish is the complete opposite of what we need to believe in order to live our lives fully and joyfully.’ She also says: ‘Self-love is not just about giving yourself praise and telling yourself how awesome you are. It’s about loving the real you, the human you – the person who has feet of clay, who comes undone under criticism, who sometimes fails and disappoints others. It’s about making a commitment to yourself that you will stick by yourself – even if no-one else does!’
The bottom line of taking care of yourself is about learning to love yourself more. In the book, Anita writes about ways to help you in this respect. She also gives a list of ways to spot when we’re getting it right :
- ‘It’s when (you) allow (yourself) to make choices that feel like fun and that bring (you) joy and pleasure, instead of constantly worrying about what others are going to think
- ‘When (you) stop feeling guilty when (your) life is going well or when (you’re) living a life of joy
- ‘When the voice of (your) self-critic is no longer the loudest voice in (your) head
- ‘When (you) stop deflecting compliments others give (you) and instead respond with genuine gratitude
- ‘When what (you) do for others (you) do freely and joyfully instead of out of a sense of obligation or guilt or because (you) feel manipulated
- ‘When (you) recognise that (you) have the right to be happy, even if the people around (you) are not in a good place or are not themselves happy’.
These are all very worthwhile aspects to reflect upon.
Whilst talking about the need to give ourselves more love and care, it’s also important to talk about caring for others. Many of us find it easier to do this than to look after ourselves. Are you one of these people? If so, why do you think that might be? Maybe you feel you don’t deserve to give yourself that kind of love and attention? Or maybe you just forget? It’s worth taking a bit of time to look and see what might be preventing you from giving yourself the same consideration.
And what about those of us who are acting as primary carers for others? It’s estimated that there are over 7 million unpaid carers in the UK. Looking after a sick or disabled friend/partner/spouse/relative is an onerous task which can be very tiring and anyone involved in doing this will know how exhausting it can be. It’s therefore even more important for the carer to take good care of themselves! Remember, if you allow yourself to get burnt out with all the caring, who’s going to take your place?
William Bloom, who is one of my teachers, has set up a wonderful website for such people http://everyonecares.com Here you will find 15 short videos which will explain techniques you can use to improve your energy and wellness and which will then spill over into care for others, (though actually, they’re all good methods of self-care whatever your situation is!). The techniques are simple to do but highly effective and can certainly make a big difference in terms of giving yourself the support and care you need. Why not have a look and try some of them? Also, do please pass the information on to others you know who may be interested.
To re-iterate: Taking care of yourself is not only important for your health – it has a very beneficial knock-on effect. For if you have more of a sense of well-being, then everything else in your life is likely to be far less of a problem. Ultimately, it boils down to learning how to love yourself. And when you get better at doing that, you can begin to change your whole world.
As it says in that commercial – you’re worth it!!