Self Care for the Soul

Pampering self care – massages, pedicures, etc. are important, but without simultaneously caring for the inner self, they may ultimately prove pointless. This is the third edition in a series of posts on self care – for the body, for the home/space, and ultimately for the soul.

Self care for the soul might be the most uncomfortable of the three – it’s uncomfortable by design. It’s intended to slow you down, bring your focus inward, and move you deeper into yourself, clearing out negative programming and getting you back in touch with who you really are and what you really want.

Ways to self care for the soul:

Kate Northup says we are on a hamster wheel of busy, believing that the only way to be successful and valuable is to be in action all the time, ignoring what our bodies need. In her book Do Less she challenges us to ask ourselves, ‘what’s hiding under our haste’ and challenges us to explore time and energy management in a way that leaves the busy chaos behind.

I spent many years busying myself. In our culture it’s so EASY to be busy. With all we have going on, it’s a challenge to slow ourselves down. Today I try to practice making space. I purposely build empty space into my calendar – when the time comes, I’ll do nothing or something probably involving self care. I’ve found that the more space I create the happier I become. I also find I can do my best creative work when I’ve got space and stillness to let ideas flow. For me, creating space includes saying ‘no’ more often. Rather than replying compulsively when an invitation is extended, I sit with it and try to feel whether this is something that I really WANT to do – not something I feel guilty not doing, or something to busy a slower week with. If it’s not, it’s a no.

I don’t need to review the detriments of being connected to our technology 24/7 and mindlessly scrolling through the selective portrayal of others’ lives. am coming off a one-week social media detox and noticing how habitual the reach for social media is – when I didn’t need it and didn’t even want it, I still reach for it out of habit. The week without my phone allowed me to be so much more present in the moment, focusing on what I was doing right then and there, without interest in what others were doing on their feeds. The research shows, being present in any given moment makes us happier people.

The book Close to Om recommends scheduling an afternoon of no technology and leaving your phone at home. To do it on a day when you’re not expecting important calls. Walk, spend actual face time with someone sans cell phones, eat a meal without distraction, go to the park and really experience it. Paint, draw, dance, sing, cook, do laundry, read a book. Be aware of the embedded desire to reach for the office. Whatever you do, be fully there in the moment and the experience.

We can feed our soul by becoming a student again – fueling our minds with new ideas and perspectives. Register for a course on a topic you’re excited about (so many are online and can be done from the comfort of home!), read a nonfiction book, follow inspirational people on Instagram (and unfollow uninspirational people), take a class in a different style of yoga or a new style of fitness altogether. Learn & grow.

If you’re not particularly driven tonwards any topic at this time, how about geting more familiar with your astrology? Rooted in science and customized to you and only you (your birth date, time and place will be the basis for your birth chart – a snapshot of the planets at the time and place you were born), understanding our charts (don’t stop at sun sign!) provides a deeper look into our life experiences, passions, careers, relationships, and emotional challenges. On the most basic level, understanding what element your signs are associated with (earth, air, fire, water) can give you insights into what might calm you in an agitated state (ex: being near water, a nature walk, fresh air, exercise). For a simple, starter guide to understanding astrology, check out Star Power by Vanessa Montgomery.

The stress of our culture is palpable, and so many of us are dealing with issues related to anxiety and depression. I recently came across a quote that ‘we should think of going to therapy the same way we think about going to the gym.’ Investing in an unbiased resource, trained to understand family programming, relationships, and mental health issues can be priceless in times of struggle and for maintenance of our daily lives as well. While it can be scary to embark on a journey of therapy, to expose ourselves to a stranger, or when we’re not sure if the cost investment will be worth it, the right therapist can be a trusted guide for your soul.

Experts say that only 25% of our minds lives in our consciousness, while 75% – past experiences, negative memories, trauma, misunderstanding – lives in our subconscious. This is why we will often see memories pop up in dreams, when we can’t control what’s seeping in from our subconscious. Like an iceberg, we keep a good amount of ourselves buried underneath the surface. To become a more conscious person, and to work our way through these unconscious experiences so that they do not drive present behaviors, we have to tap into the subconscious. Meditation is a great way to do so, and on top of that the physical and physiological benefits to meditation are many. Meditation is not about stopping our thoughts, but becoming aware of them. Focusing on the breath or an image, watching the thoughts come in like clouds in the sky, and then letting them pass. When an emotionally charged thought or image makes its way in, that might be a key into the unconscious, and one to pay more attention to – to sit with.

If you’re new to meditation, there are some great apps that can guide you through simple and short sequences, designed for what you might be working with (better sleep, work stress, etc.)

On its own, or as a component of your therapy or meditation practice, writing down thoughts, feelings, dreams, or images can be a helpful way to tap into the unconscious and sift through what’s in your head. A daily gratitude list can be really helpful to turn around your point of view in times of unhappiness or struggle. The Holistic Psychologist offers a free program called ‘Future Self Journaling’ – 30 days of journaling with the goal of becoming present or aware of our subconscious behaviors and patterns. Or, tracking dreams in a notebook can bring insights into patterns or stories appearing frequently from the subconscious.

No surprise here! There are so many benefits to yoga I don’t have room to list them here. As a yoga teacher my focus is to get you out of your head and into your body for just an hour each day or week. So many of us are so caught up in the daily grind, we’re not in touch with what our body really needs – even areas of pain, overuse, underuse, etc. Moving through the yoga poses (asana) slows down that mental chatter and allows us to focus on breath and stillness.

What I hear the most often in opposition to trying yoga is – “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga!” – yet one of the benefits of yoga is to increase flexibility. There are loads of styles out there – from gentle yoga to heated yoga to goat yoga – it’s totally possible for everyone to find something for them. Or, come try out a class with me on Mondays at 4:30 or Fridays at 4 at Maha – beginners always welcome!

To wrap up on self care, The Holistic Psychologist says – when you’re having strong emotions, or otherwise – ask yourself, “what can I give myself right now?” Perhaps it’s a bubble bath, a walk in nature, a nap or a break from social media. Make time for self care and let your intuition guide you towards what kind of self care you most need.

This article was submitted by Haley Purdy. Practice with Haley on Mondays at 4:30pm and Fridays at 4:15pm. Register here.

Haley found yoga in 2013 as a means of self care after the birth of her first daughter. After more than 10 years in the corporate marketing world, she soon decided that her career path and soul path were not in harmony. She completed her 200-hour teacher training at Maha Yoga under the teaching of Justicia DeClue. Today she is a mom of two girls, and an English Bulldog, Bodhi, all die-hard Eagles fans. 

As a champion of self care, Haley encourages her students to use their time on the mat to get out of the mind and into the body; to take breaks from the grind to appreciate the breath. Haley enjoys the motto, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”