How to Care for your Mental, Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional Self

The Urban Monk

There’s hardly a class in how to drink from the well of infinity.

We’ve talked before about how the idea of caring for yourself is only recent (in our part of the world, anyway), and because it’s new, lots of people think they’re caring for themselves when they’re actually soothing themselves.

Ever reached the end of your rope and thought to yourself, “I need to get up and go for a walk”?

That’s self-care.

But most of the time… our reactionary impulse when we notice we’re upset or off-balance (if we even notice) is to self-soothe.

Mental

Think about mental self-care as installing a de-fog machine.

Try reading a nonfiction book for 15 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter how much you read, as long as you stick to 15 minutes (or longer) and make sure you really understand what you’re reading.

Declutter your space. By organizing your visual experience, you’re encouraging your mental experience to fall in line.

Clear your head by journaling. Plenty of studies indicate that journaling has a positive effect on not just mental, but overall health.

Fulfill practical, core aspects of your life that require attention — like creating a budget for your finances, studying for a certification that will advance your career, or taking inventory of your clothing so you can make space in your closet.

Spiritual

No two people experience spirituality in the same way.

If you’re a religious person, and you’re feeling out of touch and isolated, contact your spiritual director. Your priest, rabbi, imam, sheik, or whatever your denomination calls a religious leader. Go to confession. Attend a service. Pray.

If you’re not a religious person, you still have spiritual needs (whether or not you realize that’s what they are.)

Go to a counseling session. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Commune with yourself in the woods — no technology, just you and the verdant living world.

If you can afford to and your schedule allows, go on a spiritual retreat!

Physical

This is an easy one, and it’s something most people in the Western world are familiar with.

Stand up. Hinge at the waist. Try a few quick exercises. Take a walk. Take a run.

Stretch your legs. Stretch your arms. Exercise — even yoga or pilates.

At the very least, engage in your physical world. Touch something cool. Touch something warm. Run your hand against the bark on a tree. Lie in wet grass.

Take a nap! Maybe you are just tired!

Emotional

Emotional self-care is probably the most diverse across the board. But essentially, this is the kind of care you need when you feel embroiled, frustrated, disconnected, or need reflection time.

If you play an instrument, play it. If you don’t play an instrument, play whatever’s around you — drum on the pots and pans, harmonica with a blade of grass.

Be creative. Paint your flower pots. Dye your bedroom curtains with a natural dye. Color in a coloring book.

Focus on positivity — write down on a notepad five things that happened today that made you smile, or would have if you weren’t feeling so low. Practice positive self-talk.

See a therapist! Practice stream-of-consciousness venting with a close friend. Unravel your thoughts about a complicated emotional event through journaling your reflections. Educate yourself on trauma.

There are as many ways to perform self-care as there are personality types.

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NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of whole.tv.

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