The idea of Self-care has been abuzz in the world around me these last several weeks. For those of us attuned to the academic calendar, whether as teachers of university or grade school students, or parents of children in school, the mid-fall rush has gathered. We’re tired. We’re over-extended. We’re doing too much for others, with less time for ourselves.
That’s a word we use a bit in Alexander Technique circles to refer to the whole person (though the idea of mind-body unity is certainly not unique to our work, nor is the word “self.”) The “Unity of the Self” means that we are not a body and mind, two entities to be treated and trained in two different ways.
Even more than that, it means there isn’t even a mind-body “connection.” They are the same thing – Us!
We are more than the sum of our “parts:” our thoughts, our muscles, our bones, our organs, our emotions, our spirits. Try to separate out any of those things into its own category, and you have problems. Science is continuing to show that our ‘minds’ and our ‘bodies’ are not separate. (For example, here’s a fascinating article about how skeletal proteins in mice have direct correlation to what we usually think of as “mental” health. Our bones effect our brains!)
So what is self-care, when your self is all of you?
Here’s my take:
A quality self-care activity gives you:
- time during which you can be mindfully aware of and pay attention to your Self in positive ways
- nourishment for your whole Self (remember, body/mind/spirit)
- peace for your whole Self (again, body/mind/spirit) – peace is defined as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.”
- well-being that extends after the activity is over.
Using these guidelines, what are self-care methods that might work for you?
- Some people enjoy a run or walk, especially outdoors. This is wonderful, and I do it as often as I can!
Ask yourself: Is your walk/run giving you whole-body-mind peace, as well as nourishment (exercise, fresh air, time in nature) and time to pay attention to your Self? Or do you “check out” and just run “with your muscles,” unaware of what you are doing? Does the benefit extend back into the rest of your day?
- Some people enjoy the occasional massage. (I do too!)
Ask yourself: Are you able to take this peace of body with you into the rest of your life, or do you find that the tension creeps back in as soon as you return to ‘business as usual’?
- Some people find that connecting with others to share a laugh, or reading something uplifting can help you put your burden down for a little while.
Ask yourself: What if you carried less tension around with you in every activity you do, putting that burden down more and more often, and supporting your Self instead with ease?
Ask anyone who has taken an Alexander Technique lesson, and I think they will agree that a lesson gives you all of these things: Time for calm, non-judgmental attention, nourishment for your Self, and peace of body/mind/spirit that can be accessed by you, on your own, throughout your day regardless of what activities you’re doing. The Alexander Technique is mindfulness embodied.
The American Society for the Alexander Technique explains our work in this way:
“A proven approach to self care, the Alexander Technique teaches how to unlearn habitual patterns that cause unnecessary tension in everything we do. It’s used by people of all ages and abilities to enhance the performance of every activity and relieve the pain and stress caused by everyday misuse of the body.”
In our culture, we tend to push our Selves to the limit, and only when we reach our limits do we “indulge” in Self care. What if you were caring for your Self in an ongoing way, and made opportunities for time, nourishment, and peace throughout your busy days, instead of waiting until you are in “crisis mode”?
In this context, you often hear the analogy of the talk given by flight attendants about aircraft emergencies: put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.
When I am under considerable stress – deadlines, family needs, emotional and mental preoccupations – teaching the Alexander Technique is what brings me back to a calm center. In order to be able to teach well, I have learned to put my Self first, and I MUST pay attention to my own Use to have a chance of assisting the person in front of me. I recently had a difficult morning, where I couldn’t “think” myself out of an emotional/physical funk, but teaching four Alexander Technique lessons took me back to a way of being that was poised, free, and light. I still remember what I was stressed about, but it no longer weighed on me. I could move through my days with the grace and ease that is the potential of every person. I am more effective in my work, I am a better parent, and I just feel better in my Self.
The next time you say to yourself, “I really need to do some self-care,” consider trying an Alexander Technique lesson. I’ll even offer you a discount: 25% off your first lesson if you’re a new student. Just mention you read this blog (promo code: SELFCARE) and we’ll make a space for you: for time, nourishment, and peace that you can take back out into your life.
I look forward to hearing from you!