Care for yourself so you can care for others

Editor’s note: With more than 70 years of combined experience, these four local health practitioners offer information from four different perspectives.The topic this month is self-care.

Rebecca Word: Self-care can basically be summed up in two words: taking time. Ask yourself, and be honest, how much time do you give to yourself in a day, a week, a month, indulgently and without feeling guilty? The word “selfish” has come to have major negative connotations in our culture, but might I suggest that without a little attention to self we become poor parents, terrible friends, dismal colleagues and lamentable community members. It is in our quiet moments when we attend to the self that we recharge and refocus our creative and caring purpose in this life. This practice can look different for each person. It may be an Epsom salts bath with a good novel once a week or a walk in the woods or trying out a new healthy recipe… It is whatever feeds you on a deep level. If you have lost touch with what feeds you, start with nature. Self-care is not self-absorption; it is the cultivation of self that makes us deep and useful humans.

Katharine Winship: When Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer asks her environmental biology students if they love nature, every hand goes up. When the professor asks if they believe that nature loves them back, the hands go down. Dr. Kimmerer believes that modern people have lost the reciprocal relationship our ancestors had with the earth. What if that concept was applied to our bodies? Asking someone if they love their body can open a complex dialogue. Asking someone if they believe their body loves them can be even more complex. Yet consider this — your cells are miniature versions of you. They eat, digest, excrete, reproduce. Cells are studded with receptor sites that act like sense organs. Your cells listen to you. One of the best acts of self-care is to love your body and know that your body loves you back. I recommend using Grapefruit essential oil to remind yourself to love your body. Grapefruit essential oil is known for teaching respect for the physical body based on love, tolerance and acceptance. Additionally, chart your goals such as healthy hydration, quality sleep and generous movement. Notice how your body loves you back.

Danielle Rottenberg: The tradition of dinacharya (daily routine) is one of the most powerful tools for improving overall health and well-being. Even if you are new to Ayurveda, you will soon realize the importance of performing your daily routine on a consistent schedule. Anointing the body, washing face and eyes with rosewater, sipping tea or warm water, meditating and yoga are keys to longevity. I know, I know, you don’t have time, you have kids to get to school and then there are work obligations. But once you have set these good habits into a ritual, it becomes second nature. Try one new good habit this month — daily abhyanga. Choose an oil like coconut or sunflower oil (for the summer months); oil your body from head to toe in long strokes on larger limbs and circular motions around the joints moving toward the heart (warm oil is most beneficial). It is a beautiful way to honor yourself, your body and your nervous system as you prepare to wind down from a busy day.

Allison McLeod: What does it mean to be present? We are in relationship to the external world through a felt connection to a deep part of our being. This deep part is our spirit. For purposes of this conversation, let’s separate mind, body, and spirit. We know how it feels to be unable to quiet the mind. We know the body through exercise, pain and pleasure. We know spirit in the moments that move us deeply. When these parts are integrated, we are present. Begin taking deep, easy, full breaths. Put your mind on your breath. Notice where your attention lands, hold it there. What you feel, underneath your thoughts yet anchored in your body, is your spirit. That is what it means to be present. It's that simple. And while it might not be easy to stay there for long, that doesn’t matter. Focus on how it feels in that second. My guess is you may find something of interest and want to go back there. That’s your practice. That’s self-care.

Rebecca Word is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Black Mountain. Katharine Winship is owner of Black Mountain Pilates, a certified Reiki Master and yoga teacher. Danielle Rottenberg is an Ayurvedic health practitioner, licensed massage therapist and yoga teacher. Allison McLeod is a bodyworker and yoga teacher.