There is a lot of prescriptive self-care going on and it’s problematic. It’s troubling when we begin to treat self-care as a one-size-fits-all list of activities when wellness really doesn’t work like that.
Sure, there may be some general ways that help many of us feel better, like eating nutritiously and relaxed breathing, but when we try the typical lists of “get your nails done, take a walk, do some yoga, and journal” and it doesn’t resonate then we can become quickly disheartened. This disappointment can then lead to self-abandonment in the form of mistrust and judgment of self.
We may begin to ask ourselves, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why am I not getting this right?” and then decide that self-care just isn’t for us.
And in the end we abandon ourselves because we sit in the vicious cycle of self-harm instead of self-care because it doesn’t look like it does in someone else’s social media feed.
So let’s talk about what I think self-care really is. Self-care is your holistic wellness plan. It’s what restores your energy when you’re depleted, rejuvenates, maintains, and also plays a preventative and protective role in managing and processing of extreme levels of stress. These are the practices that help you feel more in flow and balance. And even though we use the term “self-care” because it’s become part of the cultural vernacular, it can really be called whatever
you want. It’s your practice, your ritual, your routine, your self-love.
Self-care is whole being – whole person – whole soul – holistic. It addresses and nurtures all parts of our self.
When we think about creating our self-care plan some common areas to focus
on can include our physical, mental/emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual parts.
Some people even like to have an “emergency” self-care plan that might include deeper ways to tend to self and slow down during times of more heightened emotion. Self-care is also dynamic! Yep, it’s true. Not only is it not like a one size t-shirt it’s not a “one and done” type of thing. It’s called a practice for a reason.
To be truly committed to your own care is to also soften toward and eventually release the perspective that once you crack your self-care code you’re done. This might be hard for my strivers and folks who like to check all the boxes to swallow. But the sooner we can understand that self-care is part of this life journey, the sooner we can get on with the journey.
We also go through life phases where we desire and need different things. And our self-care will also need to adapt. We will have points in our life where there is expansiveness that allows for a wide array of activities and others where we decide that we can only focus our energy on the most impactful of practices. For instance, when I became a new mother, my self-care was largely placed on the back-burner so I relied on my support system to help ensure I took basic care of myself. And when I felt like I had recalibrated to my new normal a bit, I focused on the bare minimum of self-care which included drinking water, opening the doors and windows for fresh air and light, and baby-wearing walks outside. And that was enough to make me feel triumphant during that season.
So, when we take all of this into consideration it becomes clear that something is often missing from the self-care discussion. In the sea of “shoulds” there is often little space left for “self”. And one of my favorite ways to connect to self is through tapping into my intuition. Yes, this may seem a little “woo woo” but stay with me here because I promise some gems.
Your intuition is your inner knowing or guide. This is the part of us that we may have stopped nurturing once we moved into adulthood. Ever notice how small children seem to kind of just know what they want and need and are typically not afraid to show it? That’s because they listen to themselves. Over time, through societal influences and things like prescriptive lists, *cough* self-care lists *cough*, we begin to let go of what our body and mind know intuitively.
We grow in mistrust of ourselves and look externally for “expert” advice on what is going to be good for us. But you are the true expert on you just like I’m the true expert on me. And I often have people ask me how they know if it’s their intuition (also known as that “gut feeling”) or anxiety and fear. This usually takes time to really know for yourself.
You must begin to tune into your body and mind and how they communicate to you when you are anxious and when you are not. What does it feel like when you are completely unnerved or consumed with worry? How does it feel when you know something for certain? Where do each of these feelings sit in your body? Some people feel anxiety in their chest and a gut feeling may be right there –
in their gut.
Before we go on, please know that I’m not going to shame borrowing and being inspired by others. This is how we all learn new things. But the important part is not getting stuck in making self-care look a certain way. Instead, leave breathing room for developing trust in yourself because it is a key part of a self-care plan that is dynamic, real and sustainable. And this is why I believe that inviting your inner knowing into your practice is so important.
Now don’t worry, it’s absolutely possible to open yourself back up to this even if you’re not sure how. When we think about intuition and self-care, we can think about it being used in two ways:
1. Intuitively choosing and creating self-care methods
2. Tapping into our intuition as a self-care practice in itself
So, now you’re asking how do I intuitively choose the best ways for me to practice personal wellness. I’m going to start you off with the basic question that if you get nothing else from this article, I hope you remember this.
Ask yourself: What do I need right now?
Stop right there. Please read that again.
Have you ever asked yourself this? This is a basic question but can sure bring up a lot, especially for those of us in the habit of putting others first to an unhealthy extreme. Maybe it’s been so long that you don’t even feel connected enough to yourself to know. Maybe you have a healthy inner critic that views this question as selfish.
If this is you my friend, please let go of any judgment you might be holding about this. You are where you are for a reason. The journey of change and a robust self-care practice begin with awareness.
In this moment, as you read this, sit with this question for a few minutes and see what comes up for you. Maybe you need soothing, comforting, or validation. Maybe you feel the need to take up space or be loud and expressive. Maybe you need to release. Maybe you need rest. Write down what answers come up without any censor or need to know where the answer is coming from.
And if it’s quiet, that’s okay. It may take a few times of asking, but I trust that you know what you need. And once you have this written down begin to think about what practices can help address this need. Now, write those down. This might be the part where you want to look to your favorite folks in the self-care space to see some lists. You can pull from these lists to find specific practices that feel like they will address the need(s) that emerged.
Congratulations! This is you tapping into your intuition. You just completed your first Intuitive Self-Care Practice. The next step to continuing to incorporate intuition into building your practice is to assess. Make note of how each of these practices feel and what you notice.
Some questions to ask yourself may be:
• What have I learned about myself during these experiences? How has my attitude about self-care changed or not?
• Did I meet my self-care goals? How did I address challenges that arose? How can I address challenges moving forward?
• Do I need to invite some flexibility around striving for a specific goal or outcome?
• Do I feel a change in my ability to manage daily stressors?
• What changes (if any) do I need to help make my self-care plan a better fit for my life?
• How has my ability to be present with myself and others changed?
• Do I feel an energetic shift in the work that I do?
• What has this taught me about the benefit of a self-care practice with respect to my personal and professional life?
After this last exercise you may have already begun to see how tapping into your innate knowing is a self-care practice in itself. But, here are some additional ways that I think can be part of a personal and spiritual self-care practice.
Tuning into your “yes” and “no”
When starting to learn how to connect to your intuition it can be helpful to learn how to hear your “yes” and no”. Our intuition, unlike some other feelings, can often be like a whisper that takes practice to hear. So to start, find a moment to sit with yourself in quiet and stillness.
Take a few moments to center yourself so you can connect with the present and your body. You may do this with a meditation, a mindfulness exercise, your own ritual, or even a simple breathing cycle. Once you’ve done this ask yourself “yes” and “no” questions or make statements that you know are clearly true or false. For instance, “Is my name ?” or “I am 33 years old”. Then wait to see where the answer sits in your body. How and where do the “yes” or “truth” statements feel?
And how about the “no” or “false” statement? Keep practicing this as you begin to connect to your self-awareness and knowing. This can come be particularly useful when facing seeming uncertainty, because you can turn to yourself for guidance just as much as you can turn to others.
Crystals as Intuitive Tools
Intuition is about bringing the unconscious conscious but it’s also about tapping into our connection to the universe. We can pay attention to signs within ourselves as well as signs that come from outside of us. Tools are never required but can come in handy as we practice using intuition – and are just fun to use!
Crystals are definitely getting a lot of face time nowadays but I’m not mad. They are beautiful, they can be physically soothing to touch, and they have qualities that can ground us to the earth. Honestly, you can use whatever you like as an anchoring tool, I just happen to enjoy using crystals this way.
Some crystals that are known to support and open intuition are:
- Amethyst: Opens the third eye (intuitive connection) and crown (connection to the universe)
- Sodalite: Supports Intuitive wisdom
- Chariote: Helps you energetically vibrate at the frequency of life, and can help you move past intuitive blocks and support self-trust
- Labradorite: Inner awareness and self-discovery
- Dumortierite: Opens your intuitive knowing and can help psychic abilities
- Blue Calcite: My favorite supportive crystal! Enhances intuition but also helps relax and calm with continuous cleansing (of negative energy) and healing and support. And if you didn’t catch it, all of these stones have a blue/violet coloring.
If we consider the chakra system, or energy centers in the body documented in ancient Indian text, the third eye chakra is represented by these very colors!
How to use your stones:
1) Be guided by your own intuition on how you would like to use them
2) Pull a stone from a bag or box and allow it’s meaning/intent to support you throughout the day. You may even carry it with you as a gentle reminder.
3) Hold and rub a stone as a physical grounding to the earth and yourself when
experiencing intense emotions that disconnect you from your body.
4) Meditate with your stones – activate your third eye physically by holding or even touching your third eye (spot between the brows). Brain waves activated during meditation can allow you to access a state where you are more open and able to listen – to yourself and other messages.
Personally, I do all of these practices as part of my self-care. I find that accessing my intuition is a great exercise in intimacy with myself. But when it all gets to be too much and I know that I am moving through a season that isn’t leaving me space to do more than the basics, I always return to one basic question. This is the question that is rooted in self-compassion and intuition:
What do you need right now?
CéShaun Hankins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Portland, Oregon where she is a practicing psychotherapist as well as the founder of The Cultivated Healer, LLC where she is a coach and consultant for helping and healing professionals who want to develop their own business idea and market it on social media in a heart-centered way. CéShaun is passionate about self-care for people who are at risk of burnout and compassion fatigue like new mothers, entrepreneurs, creative people, and wellness providers. She also recently co-founded the Joy + Justice Collaborative to support other helpers and healers who want to inform their work with a social justice framework while also donating to organizations making real impact.