Image: A teddy bear with a stethoscope pressed to its chest. (Pexels.com)
I’m re-committing to self-care today. In a very wigged-out world we have to do what we can to maintain ourselves. I thought I’d share my list with you, in case you’ve been feeling ragged and need some care.
A note: We all have our limits and our challenges. Your self care will have to be personalized for your situation. Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else!
By the way, all of these things are mitzvot. They fall under the headings of “caring for the body,” “preserving life,” prayer, and moderation in appetites of all kinds. The list is in no particular order, because everything on it is important.
- Take all medications as prescribed. I am usually good about this, but it bears repeating.
- Drink more water. A lot of things I like to drink (coffee, tea, etc) are diuretics, so they don’t help with dehydration as much as I like to think. Water, water, water!
- Pray/Meditate every day. Meditation is part of my prayer practice: there is prayer in which I say words, and meditation in which I listen for the “still, small voice.”
- Move the body. Sitting at the computer, sitting at the TV, sitting sitting sitting is bad for both body and soul. I need to move my body every day, joyfully if at all possible.
- Guard against sunburn. Wear a hat, wear sunscreen, carry an umbrella if need be.
- Listen to the body. Cultivating awareness of hunger and thirst, of moods, of the truth of what I’m feeling is very important for my health.
- Eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’ve had enough. Intuitive eating has already saved my life and my sanity more than once. I recommit to it.
- Get enough sleep! Sleep deprived people have more accidents and have lowered resistance to illness.
- Limit social media and the news. Both are a world of stress these days, and beyond the headlines there is little I truly need. It is always worth asking if an activity is contributing to my ability to improve the world, or limiting it.
- Talk things out in a safe place. Sometimes talking things out can relieve a lot of stress, provided I’m careful to choose a listener who is responsible and discreet: a therapist, my rabbi, or a trusted friend.
- Say “no” to gossip. Rechilut (gossip) covers everything from celebrity “news” to involving myself in drama that is not my business. All of it is bad for me and for the world.
- Hug my beloveds. Beloveds include my wife, our children and their spouses, our dogs, and my dear friends. “Hug” can mean an actual hug, a statement of love, or a decision to assume the best when I am tempted to be cross with someone.
- Give tzedakah. The giving of tzedakah (giving money to relieve the suffering of another) reminds me of the power I have to help others. When I am feeling stressed and powerless, it helps to recognize that I still have the ability to help another person.
- Perform acts of kindness to others. Just as tzedakah reminds me that I am not destitute, an act of lovingkindness (gemilut chasadim) forces me to recognize the ways in which I am able. I cannot walk up stairs, but I can still drive the car and give someone a ride to shul.
- Be gentle with myself. I will say nasty things to or about myself that I would never, ever say to a stranger, much less a family member. “Gentle” means gentle – it doesn’t mean making excuses! Sometimes I need a talking-to (“Ruth, get off the computer and go outside to play!”) but I commit to leaving out the cruel adjectives and names with which I am prone to hurt myself. Just like every other human being, I am b’tzelem Elohim, made in the image of the Holy One, so I have to treat myself with respect and mercy!
Do you have any other suggestions for ways to maintain our health and sanity in stressful times?