Friday, August 21, 2009

Basic Principles of Self-Care

I thought it might be helpful to list the basic principles of self-care. I find I need to keep reminding myself of these! Self-care still does not come easily to me.
  1. Establish and stick to a regular sleep schedule, giving yourself enough high-quality sleep.
  2. Eat healthily. The basic recommendation seems to be lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, plus some protein. Minimize simple carbohydrates (grains -- especially refined grains -- and sugar).
  3. Get regular exercise. Build cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.
  4. Build a good support system for yourself. Surround yourself with people who like you in ways you like yourself, and who bring out your best. Be supportive of them too, bringing out their best.
  5. Cultivate mindfulness. Be aware. Pay attention. For example, be aware of your emotions, and don't be afraid of them: learn from them. Be aware of habits of thought and habits of behavior: change those that are not serving you well. Be aware of your effect on the world, and the world's effect on you. Be aware of the present moment, of what is real right now, and all of the richness of possibility that is available right now.
  6. Keep stress to a minimum. Some stress maybe cannot be avoided, but sometimes stress is self-generated, or can be alleviated by making different choices.
  7. Develop effective strategies for coping with the stress you do have to deal with.
  8. Avoid unhealthy addictions or compulsions. Or, if necessary, seek help in recovering from those already established.
  9. Enjoy all that is worth enjoying. And regularly do things you enjoy. Being in nature, coming into contact with beauty or greatness, being creative, learning something new, or spending times with those we love: these are some examples of renewing, enjoyable activities.
  10. Cultivate a a "realistic positive" attitude. Be alert to negative thinking, and rework it into realistic positive reminders and aspirations. Also, cultivate a sense of humor towards those challenges of life that deserve being laughed at.
  11. Be in touch with who you most truly are, and with the meaning of your life. What do you value? Who and what do you love? What greatness does/can your life bring into being?
  12. Know when to seek help, and do not be afraid to ask for it. Most people feel honored to be asked to help. Helping each other is one of the sacred activities of everyday life.


  1. I'm a grad student who enjoys your blog from time to time. I really enjoy your thoughtfulness about life, religion, philosophy, etc.

    I've never commented before but I did want to point something out. As far as eating healthy goes, "simple carbs" are refined grains, fruit (esp. high-glycemic index fruits like watermelon), sugars, and the like. Complex carbs (the good kind for sustained energy/health) are WHOLE GRAINS (should eat a lot of them, especially if you do cardio) and starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes).

    I'm a martial artist and the general rule of thumb for athletes (as well as any one else, with the possible exception of people who lift A LOT of weights and needs lots of protein) is about 40% of your daily calories from complex and simple carbs (most cals should be from whole grains and higher calorie fruit), 30% protein, and 30% fat (keep saturated fats low). This is roughly what the "daily recommended" diet is, as well as the "Zone diet," I believe. Unfortunately few Westerners eat this diet--it's more typical of Asia and other parts of the world. Westerners tend to eat far too few carbs--and they tend to eat mostly refined simple carbs with much less nutritional value.

    I would also highly recommend eating Omega-3 fatty acids every single day. This helped with my mood and borderline depression dramatically. There are clinical studies suggesting a link between low intake of Omega-3s and depression, mood disorders, anxiety, and problems concentrating. Oily fish (particularly the smaller ones with very little mercury) and flaxseed are great. I tend to eat salmon or sardines everyday in place of tuna, and add some flaxseed meal to my oats. Some say the absence of Omega-3s is the single biggest problem with the modern Western diet (apparently both oily fish and flaxseed used to be more common foods in the West).

    There are a lot of online tools to analyze your diet or specific recipes, if you want to be highly precise and see the breakdown in calories from carbs, protein, and fat in your daily diet. Back when I used to eat white bread, pizza, tacos, and burgers a lot in college, my macronutrient ratios were downright shocking. :)

    Anyway, just wanted to share what I've learned to help take care of myself.

    Best wishes,