Survival requirements: Taking care of your body and brain.


How do you feel about self-care? Is that something you spend time on? Or think you should spend time on?

Personally, I have an aversion to the phrase “self-care.” To me that phrase has the feel of a luxury that only folks with lots of time, money or privilege get to think about.

In truth, what we refer to as self-care, is a whole host of activities essential to maintaining the optimal functioning of the biological systems that make up our human bodies and minds. 

Self-care is a necessity for making sure your brain is working at its best. We should start referring to it instead as “self-survival requirements.”

I’m constantly reminding the students I work with that, no matter how much they would like to think otherwise, they are in fact not robots. They are biological creatures with very specific requirements for their nervous systems to function well.

So rather than a luxury, self-care is a necessity for making sure your brain is working at its best. We should start referring to it instead as “self-survival requirements.”

What are the self-survival requirements?

Not surprisingly, they are a collection of behaviors that support health. Things like getting plenty of sleep, eating appropriate food at appropriate times, and getting exercise. A few minutes of mindfulness meditation each day is also an important support for your nervous system. Check out this blog post for a nice run down on strategies that support a healthy life.

I think the trick is convincing yourself that it is useful to spend time on these life-maintenance activities. This can start with simply paying careful attention to how your day goes, and then being curious about what you observed. 

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Do you notice that you are more irritable after you stay out drinking the night before?

Your body is trying to tell you that you need more sleep, and perhaps less alcohol for your nervous system to function at high efficiency. 

Do you notice that it takes twice as long to get your work done when you work with your phone next to you and messages pinging you in your computer?

Your mind is telling you that when it gets pulled off task by distractions, it makes it hard to efficiently learn new information or solve problems. 

Were you more grumpy today than usual, snapping at a colleague and struggling with frustration throughout the day?

Ask yourself, what was different about today? Did you not sleep enough last night or smoke too much? Are you hungry? Does your body need some exercise to keep stress and tension from building up?

The sooner you start paying attention to these messages, and making small adjustments in the direction of feeling and functioning better, the sooner you’ll start to notice that you are more resilient and better able to handle all of life’s ups and downs.

Do you have a favorite self-survival strategy? Share it with us below .

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The Mindful Twenty Something by Holly Rogers
“Wise, but not obscure. Practical, but lighthearted and inspiring.”

— MIRABAI BUSH, co-founder and Senior Fellow of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

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