How to Develop Self-Care

Everywhere I look this month I see reminders of the upcoming holiday: bouquets of red, pink or yellow roses, heart shaped boxes of chocolate or other sweet confections, expensive greeting cards declaring love to a perfect valentine.

While I’m not necessarily cynical about this holiday (and will probably enjoy a nice dinner out to mark the occasion), I plan to celebrate a bit differently this year.

My word for 2017 is “Nourish,” and in that spirit I plan to focus this month on Self-Care.

The saying goes, “You can’t love others without loving yourself,” but I like Joyce Meyers’ expansion of that thought: “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. You can’t give away what you don’t have.”

For me, the first step in learning to love myself is to accept God’s love for me.

I grew up in a legalistic society, where a good Christian girl followed all the rules and “Thou shalt nots” and never voiced any contrary thoughts. To me, God was a big accountant in the sky, keeping track of my debits and credits in his ledger book of life. No love or grace survived in this equation. Only harsh judgment and the wagging finger of shame as I continually fell short of heavenly expectations.

It has taken a long time to erase this warped view of my heavenly Father. And I must confess, at times it still comes into clear view. But over the past two years I have focused my Bible study on His Love for me, and His Grace and Mercy extended to me because of the blood of Jesus.

I now carry two verses of scripture in my heart at all times to remind me of this powerful love.

The first verse is found in John 10:10 (NIV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.

Jesus did not die on the cross so I will feel defeated, despondent and hopeless. That is the voice of the enemy beating me down with his lies.

And Jesus did not die on the cross so I can merely exist or simply go through the motions. He came that I might experience the joy, excitement and adventure that life with Him offers.

A God who desires I live a full, rich, abundant life is a God who truly loves me. I can trust Him. The fact that the God of the universe chose to create me and desires to fellowship with me, means I am lovable.

The second verse is found in Matthew 23:12. I particularly relate to The Message translation: “If you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”

All God asks of me is that I be who He created me to be. I don’t have to be someone else. I don’t have to compete with others. I don’t need to change my temperament, physical appearance, or personal interests . I only need to accept myself (my strengths and weaknesses) and my life will have purpose. What a wonderful way to show love to myself as well as to my Creator!

While I continue to meditate on these scriptures, I have also adopted some pragmatic methods of promoting Self-Care.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways:

Treating my body and mind with love and respect.

  1. Drinking more water to stay hydrated
  2. Eating more nutritious foods that feed the body and the soul.
  3. Staying disciplined in an exercise routine. I want a strong core to help me overcome physical, mental and spiritual adversity.

Taking time to relax and rejuvenate in a purposeful way.

  1. Relaxing in a hot bath
  2. Reading a good book with a hot cup of tea
  3. Writing in my journal at a local coffee shop
  4. Taking myself on a date … window shopping, the library, the local museum, a movie
  5. Meeting a friend for lunch and sharing life stories
  6. Taking a stroll through the park – not a cardiovascular walk, but a leisurely stroll to admire nature and allow my thoughts to wander
  7. Purposefully spending money, rather than buying what I don’t need in an effort to fill a void
  8. Learning a new skill (like speaking Italian) rather than watching mindless television re-runs
  9. Keeping a gratitude journal – focusing on one positive event for each and every day
  10. Lighting a candle and enjoying its fragrance
  11. Playing soft music in the background (or loud music and dancing)
  12. Breathing deeply

Taking control of internal self-talk.

  1. Choosing to be joyful despite the circumstances
  2. Focusing on what is going right rather than solely what is going wrong
  3. Replacing critical thoughts with positive affirmations
  4. Acknowledging my effort rather than focusing solely on the outcome
  5. Thinking the best of myself (and others) rather than the worst
  6. Forgiving myself for making mistakes and being imperfect.
  7. Forgiving others for their imperfections

Eliminating unhealthy thought patterns

  1. Stop caring about what others think; focus on what God thinks of me
  2. Stop trying to please everyone. It is an impossible task.
  3. Stop comparing myself to others
  4. Stop fearing failure; the only real failure is not trying
  5. Stop taking everything personally; sometimes it isn’t about me
  6. Stop taking care of everyone else at the expense of my own needs
  7. Stop worrying about the future and instead trust God
  8. Stop squelching my dreams and instead believe Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

What about you? What are some practical ways you can develop more self-care? Accept God’s Valentine to you this year and show yourself a little Self-Love.

©2017 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.

How to Focus on a Fresh Start

I always look forward to January 1st. It is symbolic of a fresh start – a clean slate – a chance to right the wrongs of the previous year.

However, I no longer participate in the tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions. I always set the bar too high, expect too much, and set myself up for failure. By the end of the month I am more dejected than when I started. Who needs that?

For the past few years I have chosen instead to focus on a word of the year. The idea is to reflect on the previous year, anticipate the year ahead, and select one word that would help achieve a personal goal.

Words I have chosen in the past include balance, peace, and delight.

Molly's FUN imageAfter much reflection and prayer I decided my word for 2016 should be FUN. As someone who takes life too seriously and always puts duty before pleasure, I decided it was time to live life with the Joy of the Lord.

He is the one who gives us passions. He is the one who gives us talents. He wants us to use these gifts in a way that adds joy and happiness and yes, FUN in our lives as well as in the lives of others.

This was not an easy word to accept. I was immediately bombarded with thoughts of selfishness. After all, aren’t we always supposed to put others before ourselves?

But if the well is dry, there is no water to offer others. As the airline industry knows full well, we must take care of ourselves before we can offer assistance to others.

So this is the year I will drink water to quench my parched palate. This is the year I will fill the well so I can serve others with a heart of love rather than an attitude of duty.

I am learning, however, that this idea of FUN is not as much about choosing certain activities as it is about having a certain mindset.

A life of duty is governed by the word “should”: I should do this or I should do that or I should complete all work before play.

The tyranny of obligation led me to believe the only source of fun was to retreat into solitude and shut out the world.

So I have decided to abolish “should” from my vocabulary.

Instead of saying, “I should exercise” I will replace that mindset with “I want to exercise because I want to be strong and healthy enough to travel when I retire.”

Instead of saying, “I should fix dinner” I will say “I want to fix dinner because I enjoy cutting vegetables, experimenting with recipes, and eating whole foods.”

Instead of saying, “I should clean the house” I will instead proclaim, “I want to clean the house because I am grateful for adequate shelter and I enjoy an organized space.”

Do I expect to transform my thought process overnight? Of course not. I will fail, and fail, and fail again. Old habits die hard

But the beautiful thing about fresh starts is they aren’t limited to one day of the year.

I am offered a fresh start each morning I wake up. I can begin again at the top of each hour. Every minute offers the opportunity to start over.

January 1st may be the start of a new year, but God offers us a fresh start with every breath we take. Give yourself grace… and have some FUN.

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.