The answer in life, regardless of the question, is always love. As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stated, “There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.” Most frequently, though, you need to love yourself first. Directing affection inwardly rather than externally can feel more difficult than showering others with affection.
Love yourself first
Unconditionally loving yourself takes unqualified self-acceptance. When you know yourself better than anyone and are aware of your basest thoughts and sentiments, it can feel pretty disturbing. Yet, if not you — then who? It is precisely through knowing ourself, with all of the darkest parts of our psyche, that we come to accept ourself. There is both bravery and kindness in this acceptance.
It takes bravery to examine our shadows and allow the possibility that some day we might understand them, even if we don’t now. And kindness begins with our own sense of moving forward despite our flaws, and understanding that they are, in fact, part of the human condition. If we are flawed, perhaps others are too, in their individual way. We begin accepting and loving ourself. It transforms into loving and accepting others. We are all perfect and imperfect at the same time, and the world begins to have a little more possibility and optimism.
Extreme Self Care
To live a full-spectrum life, fueled by values, driven by purpose, and full of passion and energy, requires taking excellent care of yourself. It’s all about loving yourself and nurturing yourself with extensive self care. Before venturing forward to care for someone else, more than our needs have to be met. Our body, mind and spirit needs to be nurtured into a state of loving comfort and power!
As I discuss in my book, the three cornerstones of body, mind, and spirit are the portals in which we nurture ourselves. Caring fully for yourself doesn’t necessarily require adding more to your daily list; caring for any aspect of yourself will have benefits overall.
If you’re not already taking care of yourself, odds are you either haven’t given yourself permission to be your own priority, or you lack a few specific resources.
Permission to Love and Care — for Yourself
Take the reluctance out of caring for your own needs. Put yourself as a priority! If you need a little motivation, research shows that taking care of yourself improves physical and emotional health, enhances relationships, increases income levels, and raises the capacity to care for others.
We all have a “best state” when our most positive thoughts get expressed and fear-based shadow traits such as envy, jealousy, insecurity, competition, etc don’t show their ugly head. Those dark pieces remain, however, part of us.
Whatever our personal challenges are, these traits will show up from time to time. They’re the aspect we may be least proud of. The thing is, they show up most frequently if we’re tired, worn down, or in some way weakened.
The easiest way to keep them at bay while still addressing them is through self-care. Self-care is not frivolous, nor is it a luxury. It is an essential component in developing our full potential in this lifetime. We take care of ourselves so that the best part of us can come forward and the shadow — in Jungian terms, the wounded bits — can heal.
Make a commitment — now — for extreme self-care.
Perhaps you are already taking excellent care of nurturing yourself physically, getting routine exercise, eating healthfully, rejuvenating with ample rest. If you still feel unprepared to go forward with full energy towards a full-spectrum life, consider whether other aspects of life are amply nurtured. Are all three cornerstones of body, mind, and spirit cared for adequately?
Full wellness incorporates behavioral (body), cognitive (mind), and emotional (spirit) components. Just by making small changes you will see big results. In 2014, a study found that individuals who incorporated four changes (completion of most difficult tasks first, mindfulness, management of stress triggers, and physical self-care) — reduced stress by 8%, decreased workload pressure by 16%, and increased focus and concentration in six weeks.
Both cognitive and emotional health can be nurtured by caring for the brain. The limbic system of the brain has an impact on both emotions and behavior (emotional reactivity). In contrast, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is tasked with complex reasoning, problem solving, decision-making and other analytical functions. Neurological self-care of the entire brain is required for optimal functioning.
Some ways to tackle this include:
- Tackle your difficult tasks first
The PFC tires throughout the day, yet is required for completion of complex reasoning. By accomplishing these tasks early in the day when your energy stores are at their maximum, your brain will be able to function more quickly.
- Mindfulness — focus on one activity, at one given time
Further reading on this can be found here.
- Manage stress triggers
Exercise emotional intelligence in two ways — by recognizing the triggers at the outset, and by managing your reaction to stress.
Body & Spirit
Your turn now to consider how the following might have a place in an expanded self care routine.
We each are biochemically tailored to respond to nutrition best suited for our body’s needs. Make a commitment to learn what your biochemical needs are, and to take the time it requires to fill those nutritional demands.
The benefits of sleep impact all aspects of life. Determine how much sleep you need, and do what you have to in order to ensure your needs are met. Need a little encouragement? Watch this
We don’t need to exercise endless hours at a gym to get the benefits of physical movement, but our bodies were made to move. Find the movement that your body craves and find the way to make it happen.
- Social Connections
Humans are social animals and we need to be directly, personally connected. Give some thought to your routines. Need to make any changes?
- Flow Activities (those activities that transport you to a state where time fades, and where you are reconnected to a deep calm within)
Like all other categories, this is highly personal and varies widely. Some popular choices for this category include meditation, art — of all media, gardening, some sports, and hobbies.
- Time Away — play, fun, vacation
We need to take breaks, short ones and long ones. Playful short breaks can be incorporated easily. Can you think of daily ways to do this? Longer breaks include vacations void of routine responsibility that allow time to refresh.
Now, specifically determine what do you need to add, how often, and when?
If something in life isn’t going smoothly, the root cause is fear at some level. Ask yourself:
- What are you afraid of?
- What do you really want?
- What is the greatest opportunity possible?
- Can you accept there is a potential beyond that greatest opportunity that you cannot even imagine?
- Can you love and accept yourself fully to say “yes” to the potential?
Why not consciously choose love? A full-spectrum life requires full-spectrum self-care and nurturing.The rewards, like love itself, keep multiplying and manifesting. Start by making a commitment to self-care.