I recently shared an article to the Eat Breathe Thrive Facebook page called, “This is What Self-Care REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake” http://tcat.tc/2ypTXyq . I was shocked by the comments the original post of the article received, as well as the reaction it received on the Eat Breathe Thrive page. It seems some take personal offense when called to consider the depth of value of self-care choices. Are we not worth the time to reflect and discern the value of our actions? Is it not wise to refrain from clinging to attachments? Yoga tells us so. Moreover, we are wise to consider the science of stress to inform our definition of self-care and cultivate resilience.
When I first read the article, I thought it poignant and insightful. Message I received: redefine self-care. Self-care has become trendy in our society, and another capitalist tide of something to be bought and sold; buy a Himalayan-salt face mask, read Marie Claire. This author challenges us to consider that self-care should not just be a treat to purchase, but making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. She asks us to consider our pace, the people who surround us, our spending, and our goals as a means to care for ourselves.
“Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.”
Message others received: many comments indicated they felt the author was “condescending” or “attacking to people who indulge.” Others felt the author was “telling me what to do,” or “damaging” to those who make certain choices.
(Side thought, it might be argued that managing our reaction is an effort of self-care. The Sutras note the following: “It is our reaction that is the mental process to be purified. Recall that four attitudes were suggested in sutra 1.33 in relation to other people. These were based on the conditioning of our own mind, not changing the other people.” But I digress…)
Science of Stress
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that stress accounts for about 75% of all physician visits, and up to 80% of all visits to primary care providers are for stress-related complaints. These involve a wide spectrum of complaints, including headache, back pain, hypertension, arrhythmias, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, depression, anxiety, skin problems, fatigue/insomnia, obesity, migraines, hyperlipidemia and accidents.
Moreover, chronically high levels of cortisol can also be neurotoxic. These high levels have been associated with accelerated aging, cognitive inhibition, impaired memory and the ability to learn, increased anxiety and fear, as well as depression and anhedonia, depleting the body’s “positive” neurotransmitters.
Stress is not a passive reaction. Therefore, self-care cannot be passive distraction. It does not reset the central nervous system. When the body is depleted, we need to look at our rhythms, actions and attitudes to build resilience.
Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. Yoga typically improves overall symptom scores for anxiety and depression by about 40%, both by itself and as an adjunctive treatment. It produces no reported harmful side effects. Citation: Shroff FM, Asgarpour M (2017) Yoga and Mental Health: A Review. Physiother Rehabil 2:132. doi:10.4172/2573-0312.1000132
Yoga is a psychology and a practice that asks us to be mindful of the rhythms we create for ourselves, as they go a long way toward determining how happy or unhappy, and how vital or how depleted we are. Yoga asks us to reflect on our value systems, move, breathe, focus, meditate, and practice this again and again.
With the right kind of awareness-in-action, we can find balance and prevent illness. Sounds like self-care that builds resilience to me.
Reflect On & Re-define Your Self-Care to Build Resilience
In some areas of life, we pride ourselves on being discerning consumers. We are picky about cell phones, cell phone carriers, cars, clothing brands. We want the best. Interesting that when it comes to the care of the body, mind and soul, we are willing to settle for a capitalist tide. Shouldn’t we want the same for our Selves?