Finally, in the midst of winter,
I discovered in myself an invincible summer.
~ Albert Camus
Self care necessarily needs to be applied and undertaken in the four major area of life: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Let us recognize straight off that self-care is not a selfish pursuit but is vitally important if we are to release the potential we have been gifted with and, also, to value and enjoy more fully the life we have been given by our loving Father in Heaven.
MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Every student of psychology is familiar with the Maslow hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, proposed the idea in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.”
The theory usually is depicted in the form of a pyramid, with the most urgent and basic needs forming the lowest and largest level. Maslow argued that it is only when the needs of one level are satisfied that one is able to focus one’s attention and effort on the next level.
Clearly, the first level is the satisfaction of physiological needs. The basic physical necessities that enable one to stay alive: air, shelter, food, water, sleep, the sex drive, homeostasis, excretion of waste.
Next is the level of safety.This basically involves making sure one’s living space and property are safe from intruders or possible damage, and also includes security of employment, resources, finances, and health. This is a demanding level and many can remain stuck here.
A person needs to know and believe one is safe in order to move fully up to the next level, which is love and belonging.
The focus here is on friendship, family, and sexual intimacy, the basis of which is love. Interestingly, it is believed that issues of love and social connections are almost 100% about how we perceive and understand what is taking place in the relationship. Therefore, learning how to communicate honestly and clearly, and with vulnerability, is of great importance in building true and real relationships.
Healthy communication also is important in order to move to the next level, which is esteem. If one gets caught in a vicious cycle of doubt and negativity on the third level, it will be difficult to gain true self-esteem and a positive, confident mindset. Most experiences of joy, well being, and healthy motivation are internal and not dependent on external circumstances.
Finally, one needs this measure of healthy self-esteem and awareness in order to reach and begin to fulfill the final objective of self-actualization. This includes creativity, spontaneity, acceptance of reality and of others, morality, and a state of spiritual transcendence – a harmony of body and soul. Sadly, the size of this tip of the ‘pyramid’ indicates that not many are able or are maybe are not motivated enough to invest their focus and effort on this level.
if you are here in the Being Holy Being Whole group I am certain that you already have invested much effort and thought into the area of Mussar or “self actualization” – personal and spiritual growth. There are thousands of books written on each of these self care subjects, so, in this context, it is enough to take a brief look at the four areas.
It goes without saying that care of our body is the most important and basic level of care. The stronger and healthier we can maintain the body the more energy we will have and the more effectively we will be able to address the other areas of life. One issue that plays a significant part, according to the adage “We are what we eat!” is a healthy diet. Our diet affects our gut. There is a direct link between the gut microbes and the brain. Good microbes actually help maintain good moods and emotions.
Another important activity is to get out into nature whenever possible. Connect with the soil. Walk barefoot on the grass or on the beach if you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean. In a nutshell, along with regular dentist and doctor visits, we need to keep moving, get outside, and eat the best possible food we can.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL CARE
These two areas work closely in tandem. Affording care to our mental and emotional states requires a great deal of awareness and healthy introspection. This generation is facing unprecedented challenges to both mental and emotional health. Along with stress, a great problem in this modern, fast paced, and often isolating, world is that of loneliness. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. We need time to be alone; to make time for oneself and one’s spirit in order to do the inner work that will help cultivate a positive mindset and healthy, balanced emotions. This, in turn, will help one maintain healthy and loving relationships.
Life has ups and downs and we inevitably get hurt along the way. Mussar teacher, Gedaleh Fenster, offers a thought worth contemplating:
If you focus on the hurt you will continue to suffer.
If you focus on the lesson you will continue to grow.
We need to believe in ourselves sufficiently in order to really get to know oneself and to understand that who you are and what you do is fine because you are beloved in the eyes of our Father. With the knowledge that you are a radiant soul worthy of love and honor, you can begin to see the others in your life in the same way.
Again, we need to slow down and make time to draw aside and quieten our minds in order to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit of God whispering to our spirit. We need to make sure we are not searching for meaning outside of ourselves – in other people or in material things. True meaning will come from within, from the soul.
We have been given the precious gifts of God’s Word, food for our mind and soul, and of prayer! An interesting observation was made by Rebbe Nachman, who said that. praying to God will energize you. Studies show that when we dwell on negativity this weakens our physical muscles up to fifty per cent! Take all your worries and fears and talk about them to God. This allows you to let go of the negativity and to become energized.
So, dear friends, let’s eat well, stay positive and enthusiastic, keep learning and praying, and fully appreciate each precious day we are given.