This is the first of a series of articles about self-care.
Self-care sounds good, but how do we care for our emotional state?
Emotions can be turbulent.
Emotions can affect us deeply and across all areas of life. One strong emotion, enjoyable or not, can alter everything from what we wear, how we think, productivity at work, and the tone with which we say hello to a stranger and talk with our family.
Though each of us may experience emotions differently, many of us were not taught to handle our emotions with care. Caring involves attention, affection, honor, respect, love, curiosity, compassion, and support.
Every which way but care.
Many of us learned—by example, neglect, or maltreatment, to be ashamed of, bury, hide, transform, or manage unwanted emotions. This lack of care for our emotions resulted in deep, vast, profound, and both conscious and unconscious suffering, pain, and a gamut of gross negligence.
Care begins with compassion.
To be compassionate of ourself and our emotions means that we are willing to a) be aware of and b) care for our emotions, as a means to increase our experience of joy and reduce our personal suffering.
What is compassion?
Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine lists that, among emotion researchers, compassion is defined as, “the feeling that arises when confronted with another’s suffering and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering.” And in the case of our emotions, we can apply this compassion—not to the suffering of another, but to ourself.
By choosing to be compassionate, we choose to care.
Through experience, we know that ignoring, denying, distracting, hiding, stuffing, or soaking our emotions as an attempt to not feel them is a temporary numbness. The emotions are still present, underneath all that fear, drama, and control. Rather than choosing addictions, distractions, and medications, I choose compassion … that’s how I care for me.
Feel the feelings
By choosing to care, rather than run from our emotions, we can free ourself from the bondage of stuckness, “never getting better,” and the physical, mental, and emotional sicknesses that ensue from a lack of care. We can be stable, feel able and open ourself to experience new things. And all that can come from caring about and feeling our feelings.
We can compassionately allow our emotions and learn from them. Below are four steps:
- Be aware of how you feel (ask internally, “How do I feel?”).
- Accept when you’re experiencing strong emotions (without judgment).
- Ask, yourself, “What do I need right now?” (and listen with love).
- Give yourself the care you need, immediately (it may be as simple as taking 5 minutes alone, a drink of water, a quick walk, or the right to change your mind).
Rather than looking to other people to care for us …
We can create a caring, clear, safe, inner-place to care for ourself. By doing so, we neither look to others, nor lean on them, to care for our emotions. This allows us to simply share love with people, rather than need something from them.
I encourage you, to open yourself to the peace and safety of self-compassion. By doing so, you will always know that somebody cares.
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For the full Berkeley article about compassion, click here.
Always with Love,