The importance of the Conscious Self-Care for the daily life
Buddhist Psychology gives us a term that, in the West, where we are so accustomed to living with an anxious mind, is very beneficial to implement.
This psychology speaks of "Conscious Self-Care" as an attitude intentionally directed towards treating ourselves with love and gentleness, without confusing this habit with engaging in self-indulgent behaviors aimed at immediate pleasure. Far from seeking comfort, Conscious Self-Care often requires removing ourselves from places, relationships, habits, and attitudes to which we are attached and that harm us. On the other hand, it involves installing habits and making decisions that we know are necessary to improve our quality of life.
Conscious Self-Care involves strengthening a part of ourselves that is "mature," sensible, reflective, and wise. This part "pulls" us away from what harms us and "leads" us, even if we feel lazy, towards what makes us grow and evolve. It is associated with a fundamental word: "intentionality."
¿Why Conscious Self-Care is an intentional act?
Because we are human beings of habit, it doesn't come naturally for us to reflect on which attitudes are good for us and which are not. It's easier for us to "repeat" the same things and stay anchored in familiar places.
Most of the time, we operate on autopilot, repeating the same old habits that lead us to the same experiences, and these experiences trigger the same emotions that reaffirm our beliefs time and time again. In this way, we reinforce the same sense of "self," the same "personal flavor" we have of ourselves. Breaking this chain of association requires a strong conviction to consciously install a caring instance that is attentive to the opportunity to choose differently when our instincts and past learning almost force us to repeat more of the same. This could mean staying in a harmful relationship, consuming things that we know are not beneficial for our growth, delaying beneficial efforts we owe ourselves, or postponing ending something that keeps us in discomfort.
Self-caring with Full Awareness is choosing what's good for oneself and giving up those immediate pleasures or comforts that we know will bring us significant disadvantages or unpleasant consequences, sooner or laterAutocuidado Consciente para gestionar la ansiedad.
When we fall into autopilot mode, our minds inevitably switch to "anxiety" mode. This explains why in our culture, anxiety seems to prevail. Most of the time, we are running around, and therefore, we "need" to automate ourselves to cope with the daily demands. When the mind is not consciously in the present, it drifts forward, trying to anticipate the future and foresee possible threats. Our genetic and phylogenetic design compels us to repeat what has kept our species alive until now and to protect ourselves from potential dangers, just like a lion that could devour us at any moment. This is why it is so incredibly difficult for us to change. To our brain, change represents risk, danger, uncertainty, and insecurity.
"Awakening" means taking ourselves out of the survival mode we operate in by default and beginning to "live" from full awareness, realizing that the context has changed, and many threats and dramas that seem tremendous only reside in our heads. Unlike ancestral times, there are no hungry tigers roaming around. Of course, the tigers of our time might be a mortgage, a mother-in-law, an ex-partner, a boss, or the fear of not making ends meet. However, even though they may be serious issues, they are not matters of life or death. If we perceive them as such, our minds remain in a constant state of alert, which leads to sickness due to stress and excessive fatigue. It's as if a tiger or lion is constantly chasing us twenty-four hours a day.
Conscious Self-Care intentionally brings us to the present moment and helps nurture our minds to prevent us from getting entangled in dramas, tragedies, and worst-case scenarios that burden us with anguish and anxiety. An anxious mind becomes chaotic, scattered, and disordered. It diminishes our potential and immerses us in a state of weakness and helplessness, draining our vitality and effectiveness.
If we believe that losing our job, our partner leaving us, or money not being enough means we end up with "nothing," instead of thinking about practical solutions to unresolved problems, we will remain stuck with a blocked and paralyzed mind.
It's not about diminishing the importance of what happens to us, but rather about using our minds to our advantage to avoid ending up exhausted and unnecessarily suffering. Ultimately, what we need to feel happy is not external circumstances but a calm and serene mind resulting from conscious self-work to manage it. This explains why some people who seem to have everything one could wish for don't feel as content as we might think we would feel in their position.
Some people live permanently with an anxious mind, losing their quality of life and burdening themselves with worries that even jeopardize their physical health. So, the question is:
How to implement Conscious Self-Care in everyday life?
Self-care is much more than pampering and indulging oneself; it is assuming full responsibility and commitment to oneself. It is making the decision to adopt habits that help us reduce discomfort, stress, fear, insecurity, and inner conflict.
As I mentioned earlier, we tend to repeat the same behaviors, which is why we need to define a "Self-Care Plan" in advance and already have decisions made for when anxiety prevents us from thinking and reflecting clearly.
Here, I share with you six strategies of Conscious Self-Care that can help you manage excessive worry, pessimism, and psychological exhaustion that characterizes the anatomy of an anxious and restless mind:
1- Build a personal space of calm and serenity:
Define an intimate and personal space associated with feelings of safety and mental peace. It could be an altar set up in a corner of your home, an outdoor space, or a comfortable chair in front of a window that inspires peace. This space should be a peaceful place that you visit at least twice a day for 10 minutes and whenever your mind starts to race. During this time, connect with yourself, ask how you are feeling, nurture your inner self, and give yourself words of encouragement. With time and repetition, this space will become associated with treating yourself kindly, lovingly, and gently. It will help alleviate anxiety, worries, and irrational fears that weigh us down.
2- Include moments of grace and happiness:
To calm an anxious mind that always thinks of the worst-case scenario, it's essential to counteract it with activities that bring joy and positive sensations. Enjoyment, relaxation, and rest are not wasting time, as our culture often perceives. Instead, they prepare the mind to function positively and allow us to see life from renewed perspectives. Engage in activities you like, that excite you, and that align with your passions (such as playing a musical instrument, painting, taking aimless walks, reading a good book, or spending time with friends). Each person should discover their own sources of energy renewal and inner serenity.
3- Identify outlets for releasing anxiety:
Anxiety needs a channel to release pent-up energies and tensions. Practices like yoga, mindfulness, running, walking, or engaging in sports help release neurotransmitters that oxygenate our brain and, as a result, alleviate restlessness.
4- Invest in personal growth and stop wasting resources on things that don't contribute:
Self-care means choosing what's good for us in terms of physical and mental health. It involves adding satisfying experiences, paying attention to the foods we eat, and engaging in activities that make us feel good. It also means learning what would make us proud of ourselves, such as practicing yoga, attending therapy, and working on self-discovery. Distinguish between expenses and investments, and don't stop investing in things that contribute to a better quality of life and elevate our level of awareness to evolve our appreciative perspective.
5- Lighten your mind from unfinished and pending matters:
Avoid procrastinating what you can do today. Don't leave worries, concerns, or discomfort for tomorrow. Close issues, conclude open chapters, resolve unresolved matters. What we postpone keeps lingering in our minds, occupying space that could be liberated for other things that benefit us more. Additionally, putting things off can haunt us as an unresolved debt. Having "unfinished business" in our minds increases anxiety, and living with an anxious mind isn't truly living; it's limiting ourselves to mere existence.
6- Reevaluate and cultivate healthy relationships:
Having intimate and fulfilling relationships and surrounding ourselves with positive energy is fundamental for self-care. If our relationships are empty, critical, or conflictive, it's essential to reevaluate them. As our level of awareness rises, we no longer tolerate malicious conversations, gossip, rudeness, indifference, or mistreatment. Choosing what's good for ourselves also means weaving a valuable and meaningful human network. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to adding affection and love to our lives.
From Unconscious Doing to Conscious Being
Making Conscious Self-Care a part of our lifestyle may seem challenging in a world full of tasks and contradictions. However, it does not require doing more; it means being present and conscious in the actions we already perform. It involves stepping out of autopilot mode and paying more attention to each choice we make. We need to pause and ask ourselves: "Is this choice I'm about to make good and beneficial for me?" This way, our "BEING" is more present, conscious, and attentive when directing our lives.
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