Self-Care As Legacy
From the dictionary: the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress: expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care.
We’re all aware of the basics of physical self-care: getting enough sleep, eating well, and doing regular exercise. But even these simple things can be difficult to maintain during this pandemic. For example, have there been days when you failed to brush your teeth or hair, didn’t shower or get dressed, and padded around all day in your slippers? I answer yes to all those, and my feelings and spirit have suffered.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
– Anne Lamott
What we’ll explore in order to leave a legacy of values is self-care of our souls (our deepest, truest selves), especially fragile during these stressful times and connected to our physical self-care.
The dictionary suggests that “self-care is the practice of taking an active role (the key word here is active) in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress: expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care.”
Two phrases in the definition are clues for our exploration of self-care. The first is “Protecting one’s own well-being.” I know from experience that the earlier I get dressed and ready for the day, though I may never leave home, nor get further from my bed than to the computer, can make all the difference in protecting my well-being. We’re all familiar with the wisdom of airplane attendants: “put on your own mask before helping another.” The lesson seems to be that we must take responsibility for ourselves. Although loving exchanges with people dear to us can raise our spirits in the moment, in the long term we have to know (or learn) what protects our well-being and take responsibility to discipline ourselves to act.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
– Audre Lorde
Self-care is how you take your power back.
– Delia Lalah
Rabbis of old suggested that we speak 100 blessings every day. One early spring day (soon after I learned that) I was driving along an empty highway accompanied only by the dirty grey slush edging the road, when I noticed a large flock of birds flying overhead, returning en masse to Minnesota for the spring and summer seasons. I was so filled with gratitude, I said aloud, alone in my car, “Baruch atah Adonai ‘birdies’” and then laughed aloud in pure joy. I didn’t need to know the words of the blessing: feeling grateful and expressing it aloud, though only to myself, was my self-care and blessing in that moment.
Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.
– Brené Brown
Considering what you do to take care of the more elusive parts of yourself will be useful in your personal self-care, and also provide wisdom to impart in a legacy letter to those needing a boost in these perilous times.
Here are some questions to prompt your musings and writing (you may have others of your own, and all these questions may not move you).
- How do you care for your feelings of anxiety and fear for yourself and those you love in this pandemic?
- How do you take care of your need for laughter and humor?
- How do you care for the needs of your mind, your intellect?
- How do you take care of your soul that awaits your attention?
- How do you take care of your need to be nurtured by nature?
- How do you take care of your need to touch others, be touched by others, have social interaction, get the hugs you need?
- How do you honor your need to grieve the losses of this time?
- How do you allow and acknowledge your sadness about the losses of this year of the pandemic without succumbing?
- How do you address your need to be creative? To create things of beauty and meaning for yourself and/or others?
After musing and writing about the questions that pertain to you, turn your musings and personal wisdom into a legacy letter for someone(s) you love.
May your self-care practices lighten and enlighten you in these times, and may they nourish those you love,
Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters, Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs & Blessings to Future Generations and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient. Rachael can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.life-legacies.com