The Importance of Self-Care in Challenging Times

TA quote commonly attributed to Marcus Aurelius states that, “very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

While I am the first to admit that this may, at times, be something of an oversimplification, the beating heart of this concept holds immense merit. It has long been a grounding point for me when I think about and engage in self-care.

It is probably safe to say that most people reading this post are familiar with the words, and likely the general concept of, self-care. This subject has become a hot topic as of late and for good reason. Both individuals, and certainly the world as a collective whole, are in need of some serious TLC.

Today, however, we’re going to dive deeper than what might be dubbed the “obvious” forms of self-care and explore ways to truly attend to yourself, your mental health and your inner happiness when stormy seas lap at the shores of your own existence.

The Importance of Self-Care in Challenging Times | The Witch of Lupine Hollow

Hard times are a nearly unavoidable part of life. So is pain and sorrow, grief, loss, trauma, hardship, suffering, stress, anxiety, and for some, depression – to name but a few of the more difficult aspects of the human experience.

Each person’s story is different, as is how a certain experience and its emotional impact are felt, yet we frequently share much in common with one another when times are rocky or uncertain. One of those points is how easy it can be to put ourselves and our own well-being on the backburner – especially if we’re attending to the pressing needs of someone else who is suffering.

As overly simplistic as it may sound, it is important to remember that self-care begins with yourself. When life gets hard as nails, we often enter a sort of triage mindset, attending to our most basic needs and looking after others first, neglecting self-care or at least making it a distant afterthought, at best.

In part this might be because we don’t always fully know – or moreover, recognize – how best to take care of our present-day selves.

Self-care can certainly include pleasant things such as taking bubble baths, meditating, giving yourself a face mask and so forth. When we dig even deeper though, we find that it has a great deal to do with understanding who we are, how we operate, what we hold dear, what upsets/bothers/stresses us out, and how we are personally able to best cope with a given situation.

Acceptance is a very important part of genuine self-care. It is rarely easy or straightforward to accept that which we dislike, find unpleasant or wish wasn’t our current reality – and Goddess knows that we humans will often go to great, and sometimes very dangerous lengths, to avoid doing as much. Yet, acceptance is a vital part of life.

It is not the same thing as throwing in the towel or even necessarily agreeing with what it happening to and/or around you. It is being present in the experience, understanding the dynamics of what is currently happening, and making at least a certain degree of peace with that fact. Acceptance is not weakness or failure, far from it. Instead, it is a pillar of strength upon which you can better build a future that is more ideally suited to your needs, beliefs, and life.

Self-care doesn’t have to cost a thing and, I would argue, is all the more effective when it is fully self-generated or obtained from nature.

Every trying, unwanted or stressful situation will have its own set of particulars, but when the chips are down, ask yourself, what can you safely do right now that will your mental, emotional, physical and/or spiritual wellbeing? What will make you feel more whole, more like yourself, more at peace?

For many, this may include activities such as journaling or otherwise documenting your thoughts, emotions, experiences, and dreams. In addition to written journaling, other possiblities include such things as art journaling or creating private or public videos of yourself speaking.

Make peace with the chaos. As witches, Pagans and folks who are generally especially attuned to the energy, workings and natural order of the universe, most of us know and understand that chaos and uncertainty plays a roll in the basic order of existence. While it might not always be something that we wish to experience, leaning into chaos and finding ways to have a better relationship with tumultuous states of being is a hugely important weapon, so to speak, in our self-care arsenal.

Let the little things go. The more we’re stressed, the harder life gets, the more likely it is that the littler things in life will suddenly feel far greater or more challenging than they really are. The tougher the times, the more it serves us well to let smaller problems and sources of stress roll off of our backs. This isn’t always easy, believe me I know, but it can make a world of difference because now, instead of seeing a mountain obscured by a series of annoying little hills that we’d have to climb over first before scaling that mighty peak, we can instead set our sights on the summit and plow straight ahead to the top.

Tune out or reduce as many sources of negativity as possible in your life. Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, most of us are constantly bombarded with negativity around the clock. Whole industries exist to perpetuate and profit from bad/frightening/terrible news. Don’t let them have the upper hand. If possible, consider greatly reducing your expose to the daily news, be it on TV, in print or online.

And by the same token, take a good, hard look at who and what you follow online. Are these sources of stress and anxiety? Do they anger or upset you? Do they make you question your own abilities or self-worth? If you answered yes to any of those points, it’s time to start unfollowing and unsubscribing. Right now.

Step away from energy vampires, excessively demanding people, toxic individuals and anyone else who isn’t a healthy fit for your life at present – or, at the very least, try to set boundaries that you stick to and reduce the amount of time you spend interacting with these individuals. As many an empath can tell you, often a large part of the reason why we’re hurting or feeling stressed out is because we’ve absorbed the negativity/anger/stress/pain/etc given off by another living being.

Compassion and empathy are hugely important, but so is ensuring that we’re strong and healthy enough to navigate the waters of our own lives, instead of being dragged under the water by someone else’s problems. After all, the stronger, healthier and happier we are, the better we can help those who truly need it when the time arises.

View self-care as part of your spirituality. Like plenty of other witches and Pagans, I don’t draw lines between where the more mundane aspects of my life end and my spirituality begins, or vice versa. I am a perpetually spiritual being – just as we all are, whether we realize it or not.

The Importance of Self-Care in Challenging Times | The Witch of Lupine Hollow

My spiritual practice is a vital, in fact I can honestly say, life-saving, part how I engage with self-care. In my darkest hours (including following the loss of our home, belongings, my business, and our precious cat to an arson fire in 2016), witchcraft and Paganism have been some of the very brightest lights that helped to guide me through in the face of intense pain and hardship.

Determine or remind yourself what elements of your spiritual practice are most rewarding and beneficial to you and then try to carve out time to engage with those elements on a frequent basis – even if that just means five minutes here or there at your altar, a quick spell done in the evenings, a short nature walk to forage for items you can work with in your practice, or writing a page or two a night in your Book of Shadows/Grimoire.

Our environment can play a major role in terms of how we feel and a messy home (or dorm room, etc) is a surefire way to add ambient stress to our lives. You owe it to yourself and your mental health to live in a clean, tidy space. If you’re not able to clean or tidy yourself, consider asking for help or employing a professional to give you a hand there. The benefits of a nice clean home and how much calmer it makes most folks feel cannot be overstated.

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves when the going gets rough is to realize and accept that a change is occurring and that when the pieces of our lives land, they may not be in the same order as before. We’re still the same in many ways, but we’re also different. Things have changed and so have we. While not everyone around us will understand or accept this, if we can, we’re lightyears ahead of the problem(s) that befell us already.

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves – even if you happen to be an extrovert – is some alone time. We need to focus, sift through our thoughts, be at one with our emotions, feel safe, and tap into the innate strength that resides in the core of our beings.

It is important to keep in mind that while self-care is truly important for everyone, those who are/identify as empaths, HSPs, Earth Angels and other extremely attuned/sensitive beings may need to make self-care an even greater priority.

Regardless of if you fall under one or more of those headings though, you should – must, I would argue – consciously engage in self-care.

Being kind to yourself, looking at the bigger picture that is life (not just the current troubles you may be experiencing), setting aside time for yourself, reducing outside sources of unnecessary stress, utilizing your spirituality as a self management tool, and living in a tidy environment are some of the best and most effective ways to help yourself endure, and ultimately move beyond, hard times.

We began today’s post with a quote by Marcus Aurelius and I’d like to wrap up here with another: “The more we value things outside of our control, the less control we have.”

Self-care is about many things, one of which is feeling a greater sense of control over our bodies, our minds and our lives. Focus on what you can control, accept what you cannot, reach deep inside yourself to generate happiness, and remember that life is a journey of many steps. Some are hard, some are easy, but each ultimately adds to the path behind us and the exciting road ahead.

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