“I need a break.” Has this ever been a thought in your mind? Are you feeling guilt about needing time for yourself, or are you comfortable with the idea of self care? How do we look at it as a spiritual practice rather than an indulgent luxury?

For many people, the word ‘self-care’ conjures up visions of expensive spa days and mani-pedis. It can also evoke images of people withdrawing from life or shirking their responsibilities and choosing instead to prioritize personal comfort. However, let’s take a deeper look into what self-care truly is and how it relates to our spiritual health.

In our hectic lifestyles, there seems to be no balance anymore, only constant running and keeping up with society’s demands. The time to pause and look deeply into our true needs as humans is of utmost importance. The idea behind self-care has its roots in reminding us to actively cultivate our wellbeing and whole self.

According to psychologists and spiritual teachers alike, self-care is not necessarily about selfish pursuits or indulgences. Instead, it encompasses a responsible practice to nurture oneself to have greater capacity for loving service. Thus, it is a pathway to experience wholeness, understanding, and compassion.

In this article, I will explore various aspects of self-care and examine it from the lens of spiritual growth.

What Self-Care Is and Is Not

Nurturing Your Whole Being

‘Self-care’ is a holistic term that encompasses every area of our being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It does not privilege any one aspect over the others, as all parts of ourselves interrelate and affect each other.

To illustrate, consider nourishing one’s body by eating healthy food without making space to heal unprocessed emotions or neglecting regular meditation practices. An imbalance in any one area would gradually impact the others and may eventually lead to disharmony in our entire wellbeing.

As Buddhist nun and author Pema Chödrön teaches, “The path is an adventure in Awakening to our True Nature, and self-care needs to be at the core of this endeavor. This is where the long-held myth of selflessness, denial of one’s needs, and martyrdom, often propagated by spiritual teachings, gets debunked. If we neglect our needs to please someone else’s expectations, it fosters resentment and frustration and blocks our growth.”

Not About Indulgence or Irresponsibility

In the rush to be connected and perpetually busy, we are often unaware of when our energy levels deplete. We tend to think that taking a break means taking a break from life and prioritizing ourselves over all else. However, this misunderstanding is a major disservice to the concept of self-care.

Self-care is not an invitation to slack off or abdicate responsibility. On the contrary, it is a way to gain the strength and clarity necessary to show up more fully in our lives. When we prioritize our care, we increase our capacity to love and serve — both ourselves and the world around us. The healthier, happier, and balanced human beings can contribute much more to alleviate the pain in this chaotic world.

Moreover, opting for a healthy lifestyle and taking care of oneself also stems from a sense of accountability to the well-being of our larger communities. Self-care in this sense is synonymous to respecting ourselves and others, and affirming the inherent value of everyone’s existence.

Thus, self-care is about taking personal responsibility to fill up our emotional reservoir when needed and investing in daily practices that lead to a nourished life. It is an intimate and sacred relationship with oneself, which allows us to expand our compassionate capacity to serve others.

Balancing Self-Care and Responsibilities

Many of us still find it challenging to balance self-nurturing activities qwith our day-to-day responsibilities. However, it is essential that we learn to make space for self-care, just like we do for work, family, and social commitments.

Here are a few practical steps for prioritizing self-care:

  1. Make self-care non-negotiable: Caring for one’s self should be as much an integral part of our routine as is brushing our teeth.
  2. Set aside specific time: Designate a non-negotiable time each day or week that focuses on self-nourishment.
  3. Break the pattern of overworking: Assess your patterns of overwork and learn to pause when you need to. Consciously shift your response from running on automatic pilot to making a deliberate choice for self-care.
  4. Start small: Do what works for you at this moment. Tiny, meaningful practices can go a long way. For instance, making the bed or going for a short walk can help you recharge.
  5. Focus on whole self: Engage a balanced mix of physical exercise, mental rest, emotional support, and spiritual practices.
  6. Seek support: Do not hesitate to reach out for professional help when needed. Seeking support from a therapist or counselor can greatly aid in developing a better understanding of personal needs.

Final Thoughts

The idea of self-care might still carry a bit of social stigma or misconception, but it is a necessary and transformative endeavor in the journey of inner growth and healing. Let us remember that self-care is not just a phrase but a potent commitment to ourselves, and learning to invest in our well-being is a sacred responsibility. When approached with hunility and openness, self-care can ultimately lead us to a state of wholeness, compassion, and enriching service.

I encourage us all to evaluate our approach to self-care, to recognize the gifts it has to offer, and to allow ourselves to explore its myriad dimensions. It is part of the key to maintaining a beautiful balance between our outer striving for excellence and an inner commitment to personal healing and growth.

My hope is that through considering self-care within the context of spiritual development, we might learn to free ourselves from the limiting impressions around the term and embrace it as an instrument of transformation, love, and service.