For the Holidays, the Gift of Self-Care

Most of us already know that self-care is good for us. Research shows that people who practice self-care have better quality of life, are admitted less frequently to a hospital, and live longer than those who report poor self-care.

While self-care is a simple concept, it can be remarkably difficult to enact. It may feel selfish or too time-consuming to focus on your own needs, and many of us don’t know where or how to start. Haemin Sunim suggests a simple five-step plan to give yourself the gift of self-care this holiday season.

Start by just taking a deep breath. Become mindful of your breathing. You’ll notice that when you begin, your breathing is shorter and more shallow, but as you continue, your breathing becomes deeper. Take just a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing. “As my breathing becomes much deeper and I’m paying attention to it, I feel much more centered and calm,” Haemin Sunim said. “I feel I can manage whatever is happening right now.”

Acceptance — of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections — is a common theme in “Love for Imperfect Things.” The path to self-care starts with acceptance, especially of our struggles. “If we accept the struggling self, our state of mind will soon undergo a change,” Haemin Sunim writes. “When we regard our difficult emotions as a problem and try to overcome them, we only struggle more. In contrast, when we accept them, strangely enough our mind stops struggling and suddenly grows quiet. Rather than trying to change or control difficult emotions from the inside, allow them to be there, and your mind will rest.”

Begin to practice acceptance through a simple writing exercise. Write down the situation you must accept and all that you are feeling. Write down the things in your life that are weighing on you, and the things you need to do. “Rather than trying to carry those heavy burdens in your heart or your head, you see clearly on paper what it is you need to do,” Haemin Sunim said. Whether the issue is work, family demands or holiday stress, the goal is to leave it all on the paper. Now go to bed and when you wake up, choose the easiest task on the list to complete. “In the morning, rather than resisting, I will simply do the easiest thing I can do from the list,” Haemin Sunim said. “Once I finish the easiest task, it’s much easier to work on the second.”