My emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being have been under assault. And just as I rise to brush myself off, I am under assault again, enduring blow after blow after blow after blow. I would like to retreat, but my work is engagement. So how do I stay engaged? How do I protect my emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being while continually feeling under assault?
I have to surrender to the universal truth that I have not only a right but an obligation to self-care. To be fully present for my work and the people whose lives I touch, it is my duty to take care of myself. I cannot pour from an empty cup, and I am the only one who can keep my cup full. If I fail to keep my cup full, I have nothing to give to my work and the world.
With this realization, I have had to make an intentional commitment to my own self-care. And so must you. My self-care is focused on:
- Protecting my spirit.
- Nurturing my spirit.
- Embracing joy.
One thing I do to protect my spirit is that I neither start nor end my day with the news. Starting my day with the news sets me up for negativity, despair, low energy, and feeling defeated and powerless. Doing so at night sets me up to dream about the stories I consumed. I am committed to staying informed and can choose how and when I consume news stories. Instead of watching the news, I have decided to read the news. I stopped watching the news because the images flashing across the screen were seared into my brain forever. I cannot unsee them.
To make matters worse, news programs jump from horror to horror to light and silly. I suppose they don’t want to completely weigh us down with negativity, fear, and panic, so they sprinkle in a bit of humor and light. I find this random, unexpected change to be like strobe lights. One minute it’s lighthearted and silly; the next minute you see dead bodies on the ground. And right after the horrors of invasion, the news may jump to Will Smith in a tuxedo. It leaves me feeling confused and unsure of how to react to any of it. This strange pairing of stories both minimizes the horrors of a country being invaded and people being killed while elevating the significance of poor behavior at an awards show. It is difficult to have appropriate feelings about any given story.
This constant barrage of mismatched stories was somehow presented as if they were of equal importance. But I know that cannot possibly be true. The brain needs time to process information. The strobe lights had me disoriented, so I turned them off and replaced them with the newspaper. Now I read news from reputable sources. It allows me to better understand and digest what is happening in the world while having the freedom to not read about things I truly don’t care about, like celebrity updates. I get to choose, process, and interpret for myself and not feel the dizzying effects of strobe lights.
To nurture my spirit, I take silent walks in the morning. No talking, no music, no podcast. Just quiet. I particularly enjoy pre-dawn and dawn. It is cool and quiet, and the birds are chirping. I see other early morning walkers, and we greet one another with pleasant hellos and “have a nice walk” or “have a great day.” I return feeling productive, accomplished, empowered, centered, rejuvenated, calm, and ready to joyfully engage with the day.
To embrace joy, I find things that make me smile or laugh. For instance, Stanley Tucci’s “Search for Italy” brings me joy. I love the scenery, the food, the wine, the storytelling, and Stanley’s personality. It invokes memories of my trips to Italy and excitement about future trips. It simply makes me smile—a big smile. It makes my heart light. It is the last show I watch before shutting down for the night. It puts me in a pleasant mood.
So I rise to an early morning walk that sets me up for a good day, read the news that is important to me mid-day, and wind down with the joy of Stanley Tucci for a good night’s sleep.
Your actual choices may be completely different, but self-care is about intentionally:
- Establishing rules that protect your spirit.
- Practicing routines that nurture your spirit.
- Embracing joy.
The word intentional is important. Protecting your spirit, nurturing your spirit, and embracing joy are not haphazard, random, or accidental. It is on purpose, deliberate, and with intention. I am going to make a controversial statement. Guilty pleasures do not count. Why? The name implies the problem. If they are guilty pleasures, then you feel guilty when you engage. You feel like you should not have spent your time that way. You feel unproductive and shameful. Guilty pleasures may be more about distracting yourself from assaults on your spirit rather than nurturing your spirit. Distraction is not the same as nurturing. So 90 minutes on TikTok as a distraction does not count…unless you grant yourself the grace. If it brings you joy, do it, and don’t call it a guilty pleasure. Claim it. Own it. Intentional engagement for self-care is not the same as a guilty pleasure. Stanley Tucci is not a guilty pleasure of mine. I feel no guilt or shame about it. I don’t think of it as unproductive or wasteful. It is intentional.
Surrender to the universal truth that you have a right and an obligation to self-care. Self-care is not a selfish act. It is an act that honors you and your purpose on this planet. To serve your purpose, pour into your work and the people whose lives you touch, your own cup must be full. To fill and keep your cup full, intentionally protect and nurture your spirit and embrace joy.