The term “self-care” was added to the dictionary recently in 2017, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From loving ourselves first so we can love others (“Love your neighbor as yourself”) to refraining from work and other stressors (Shabbat), self-care is a significant part of Judaism. It’s not selfish or self-indulgent. It’s about prioritizing our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials don’t have a problem practicing self-care and make more personal improvement commitments than any preceding generation. Self-care isn’t just for those born between 1981 and 1996 – it’s for all ages. It can be an act as small as sitting for a few minutes with your morning coffee before turning on the news. Here are a few more ideas to get you closer to being your best self:
Even with apps that help us become more mindful, like Insight Timer and Calm (meditation), it’s still important to take a break from our devices. Perhaps instead of watching a show before bed, read a book. Self-care also doesn’t have to be scheduled outside of work hours. Many of us have jobs that require us to sit in front of a computer all day. You can break away by practicing the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look 20 feet away. Take it a step further, and go on a 15 minute walk outside. It’s scientifically proven that being out in nature relieves stress. Try it on your next lunch break! After you’ve taken a much needed technology break, don’t forget to go through your social media accounts and unfriend/unfollow anyone that brings negativity in your life.
Busy lifestyles can eventually lead to burnout so it’s essential to take time for ourselves so we can recharge. Meditation and yoga can help us to slow down and check in with our bodies. Various classes exist throughout the community, and there may even be one at your local library or synagogue. This past January, for example, Temple Beth El of South Orange County had their annual meditation retreat. If you find meditating difficult, there are other ways to be more present. Take a moment to focus on your senses. What do you physically feel, see, hear, smell, and taste? Then check in with how you’re feeling. Similar to yoga and meditation, this exercise will leave you feeling more centered.
Be Kinder to Yourself
With everything going on in the world, it can be hard to focus on the positive. A gratitude journal can help. Every night before bed, write everything you were grateful for that day. It could be something as small as someone holding the door for you. For an added boost, reread these the next morning before starting your day. Being more positive also requires us to be proactive with our thoughts. Instead of saying “if I get a raise” say “when I get a raise.” By pretending something we want has already happened, it helps to change our mindset. Another way to transform a negative thought into a positive is through the “Yes, but [insert positive thought here]” exercise. Maybe even give yourself a compliment! The good feelings we get from compliments help us to accomplish more.
If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you to try self-care, then maybe this quote by Hillel is: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
DVORAH LEWIS is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.