At the beginning of the lockdown in March last year, I attempted to begin a new daily journalling habit: What am I doing for my mind today? What am I doing for my body today? What am I doing for my spirit today?
But as I sat down to answer these prompts myself, I drew a blank. Um…
One of the major patterns I came to recognise over the years is that if my mental health was spiralling, or edging into burnout, it manifested visibly as a lack of self care. I could literally observe it in my body and environment. My house and bed might be strewn with books, tech, laundry and random objects, my diet might consist of delivery (so my trash reflects it), and I stopped moving very much, as evidenced by my phone’s health tracker and irregular bowels. My screen time was higher than ever. I felt exhausted and lethargic.
I was demotivated to take care of myself often because I wasn’t taking care of myself.
It was very much a vicious cycle – the worse everything got, the more I avoided everything, the more overwhelmed I felt, the less inclined I was to do anything about it, the worse everything got.
I learned then how important it is to be deliberate about self care, but I also learned that simply inventing things to do isn’t enough. Before we can answer the questions what am I doing for mind/body/spirit today, it’s imperative we sit with ourselves and answer the questions:
How do I feel in my body today? What does my body need today?
How does my mind feel today? What does my mind need today?
What is giving me purpose and meaning? What does my spirit need today?
Asking what do I need today, instead of what should I do allows me to tap into how I feel and set simple self care reminders that are intuitive and rooted in self-compassion.
Truly checking in with ourselves helps us become more creative and expand our ideas of what self care can encompass. It can also help us remind ourselves what really is in our control.
It’s liberating to remember that both our needs and responsibilities are rarely static things. Sometimes our bodies needs rest and other times our spirits need to reach out and help those in need.
For self care to be truly beneficial, my answers to what am I doing for me today must be relevant and responsive.
Artwork by Sonaksha Iyengar for Mindful and Body.