What Is Self Care? Part 3: Self Care is Holistic Wellness

Self Care for Advocates Presents:

What is Self Care? Part 3

Self Care is Holistic Wellness

To many people, a question without an answer is a frustrating concept. But some of these questions suffer not from a lack of answers, but far too many. For SCFA, that question is and always will be, What is Self Care? But we are not frustrated by this search for the answer, because more answers means more ways we can equip people with the knowledge of how to give themselves the love and healing they need. So we’re always excited when a new answer emerges, and today that new answer is, Self Care is Holistic Wellness. 

Last time in this series, we talked about Self Care as Comfort Food and we talked with SCFA staff member Connor and took a look at some of our favorite recipes that were as simple as they were filled with memory and joy. I think many of us were eager to try out these recipes for ourselves, and all of our minds were racing with our own self care comfort food recipes. 

We were thrilled to get to have our very own Kanisha take a new look at self care with an old friend of Self Care for Advocates, Rev. Nicki Arnold Swindle. You can find the full conversation between Kanisha and Nicki at this link:

Nicki is an Army Veteran, a holder of a Masters in Divinity and is a licensed social worker in the state of Alabama. Nicki’s work has been primarily with marginalized communities with an emphasis on the LGBTQIA+ community. Nicki also works to support and provide resources through her practices to U.S. military veterans. 

Nicki begins, “Wellness is the process of achieving and maintaining one’s potential state of being and feeling complete in relation to oneself, others and greater transcendence.” 

“Spirituality is not religion, and I [have worked] to honor the religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs of all of the people I serve, of all veterans, service members and their families.” 

What Nicki soon realized was that she could not address people’s spiritual needs, without also addressing their other needs. This led her to creating a curriculum that addressed spiritual and mental resilience, which she would go on to use to the benefit of many of her cases. It was this work that inspired her definition of wellness (seen above.) 

Nicki breaks wellness down into six pillars: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional/Psychological, Social, Personal and Spiritual. 

By seeing this approach as a tool for achieving and maintaining wellness, so too was Nicki able to promote self care and resiliency. Seeing wellness and self care through this lens, we can also work to identify the obstacles that are standing in our way. 

“It’s about learning to overcome those obstacles and learn about what resources are available, so that we can always be improving our relationships with ourselves,” Nicki adds. “I always start with a conversation about achieving and maintaining physical wellness.” For her, this usually takes the form of running. Nicki describes her journey to running as difficult, a sentiment almost any and everyone can share. For SCFA staffer Kanisha, this is achieved by combining the physical and mental through meditation and breathing exercises. The ability to blend the two pillars is critical to finding peace, especially in moments of high anxiety, Kanisha explains. 

Nicki expanded on this, “Many of the ways we approach wellness and self care belong in multiple categories. These are not binary, but instead benefit from being seen as ways to benefit many of the aspects of achieving our wellness. For me, running falls into the categories of Physical, Emotional, Psychological and at times even Spiritual.” 

These acts of wellness and self care can also all be made to benefit us personally and socially, as there are so many ways to build community around our practices. Running can be seen as an individual action, but it can easily evolve into running with friends, or joining a running community. Meditation, as Kanisha added, can be done alone or with a group. It can even be done together virtually! There is no limit to the ways that acts of wellness and self care can be made to satisfy whatever our needs may be, and can always be a tool to build community as well. 

Nicki and Kanisha went on to talk about the things that provide us with release, both physical and emotional. For Nicki, that is yet another thing that running provies. 

“I like to cry,” Kanisha adds with a laugh. But even as we joke, it is important to recognize how vital these opportunities for vulnerability and release are. It’s impossible to build a solid foundation of self care unless it is on stable emotional ground. Making space for that vulnerability, Nicki goes on to say, is an essential part of her work as a Chaplain. 

One of the most  uncomfortable pillars of wellness and self care, at least to discuss, is Financial. Nicki explains, “I abhor paying bills, [worrying] about money, and yet it’s one of the most essential things. We literally have no choice.” 

And whether you’re living with financial instability or not, it is ever present. 

“I’ve experienced being unhoused, and I’ve experienced being more financially stable. The stress is always there, and if you’ve gone through financial struggles then you never leave those feelings being.” 

This presents an important reminder, which is that not ever self care activity is going to be something we enjoy. Though there are many things that we can do that heal us through the positive feelings they bring us, there is vital work that in the moment will not feel quite so positive. Whether it’s paying bills, making sure we’re getting our work done or trying to incorporate some more physical exercise into our lives, it’s just not always going to be fun. 

“To put it simply, it’s a part of Adulting,” Kanisha adds. 

When we take a step back from the specific ways we work to achieve these pillars of wellness and self care, we need to see how we can better balance our activities to make sure we’re addressing all of our needs. Are there areas that we’re lacking? How can we organically implement new activities into our already busy schedules to better achieve different forms of wellness. 

“Sometimes looking at these activities, even charting them out can be a reminder that, ‘Hey, I haven’t eaten today, or I haven’t taken my meds’. And those simple acts can put you well on your way to achieve, say, better physical wellness.” 

“Until I was 45 years old, I told people I hate running. Years of being in the military meant running was always something I thought of [as a punishment.] But when I turned 45, I started to change my relationship with running. This is what I found, and it gave me opportunities to go outside, to get out of my own head and even to help with processing trauma.” 

You can watch the full conversation with Kanisha and Nicki at this link:

Thank you for going with us on this journey through the question, What is Self Care? We’re so excited to keep asking this question, and to learn more about it’s many answers. 

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