Lesson #4: 11 Powerful Ways to Take Care of Yourself

Lesson #4: 11 Powerful Ways to Take Care of Yourself relaxationIt took me several years of tending to my own inner universe before I could launch Mindful Construct. I needed to learn a lot about my own emotions, my own response ability, and my own personal constructs before I could write about them in articles. Along the way, I've found eleven books tremendously helpful, and I'd like to share their main lessons with you. (These are Amazon affiliate links.)

1. Make self-care your daily practice

At the start of 2007, I purchased two books that changed my life. The first was Simple Abundance. The second, The Language of Letting Go (see #2). That New Year's Day I made the decision to stop trying to be a "better version of myself." I didn't want to try and fix my deficiencies anymore. Instead, I decided to celebrate myself. To nurture myself, by going to the bookstore and buying something that would enrich my year. Simple Abundance was the perfect fit, because it's a daily companion -- with a supportive essay for each day of the calendar year. In Simple Abundance, Ban Breathnach shares how she created peace within herself by honoring the principles of gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy. If you choose to read this book, or any nurturing book bit-by-bit religiously each day of the year -- that itself is an act of self-commitment. To continually nurture your soul with comforting and inspiring words. Another profound journey shared by Ban Breathnach is Moving On: Creating Your House of Belonging with Simple Abundance. It shares the backstory behind the writing of Simple Abundance -- when Ban Breathnach watched her marriage and personal life crumble and writing was her only way through. This is another reason why Simple Abundance is so powerful; Ban Breathnach lived by her words before she published them.

Self-love means committing to your relationship with you -- each and every day. It means putting in the hours of solitude and doing something nurturing for yourself each day (like reading a special book).

2. Be true to your feelings, it makes you strong

Along with Simple Abundance, The Language of Letting Go gave me daily meditations on how to take care of myself, honor my emotions, and break free from codependent cycles. What's great about Beattie's writing is that she pulls from heartstrings -- not academic research or mainstream mental health. She calls life as it is, and nudges you to view your relationships with more honesty and self-care.

True strength comes from knowing who you are. Knowing who you are comes from the courage to feel all of your emotions.

3. Maintain healthy personal boundaries

Boundaries found me one day when I was walking through the same bookstore at a later date. The powerful cover image convinced me that this book was worth checking out, so I bought a copy and took it home. What came from that was a thorough, clear, and assertive explanation of what personal boundaries are. It tracks the development of boundaries over the critical childhood years, and shows how boundaries learned (or not learned) at each stage are so crucial to how you co-create your relationships and life as an adult. Boundaries is written in a Christian tone, with ample references to God. Because I'm not religious, I replaced each instance of "God" with "My Soul" or "My True Self." What came from that translation was worth more than I can describe. It's essential to learn more about boundaries so that you can maintain a healthy relationship with yourself, and healthy relationships with others.

You need to protect your precious resources, such as time, money, energy, attention, and empathy. Those are the only resources you have to invest into your relationship with you and into your relationships with others.

4. Treat addiction and compulsion with mindfulness and care

During the middle of high school, I had trouble owning my negative emotions. I stuffed anger to be "nice," and didn't know how to get in touch with my pain or fear. As a result, I turned to food as a way to deal with my uncomfortable feelings. I ate compulsively and gained weight rapidly. My addiction of choice was calories. To lose this extra weight I would try everything from diets, to fasts, to logging all my meals, to counting calories, to eliminating sweets. None of it worked of course, because I was trying to control external things without changing the internal program. When I found Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, I finally found the missing piece -- that what was going on inside was the problem. Breaking Free is a simple, compassionate, and practical read on how recovery isn't about overcoming addiction, but becoming totally mindful of it. From self-honesty and self-care, natural healing works itself out. This book is excellent for mindful perspective. You may not be addicted to food when the emotions get tough, but you may have another vice that distracts you from your feelings. Addiction is so widespread because it is simply the human way to deny or avoid facing that which is too uncomfortable or scary.

The answer to addictions and compulsions is not discipline; it's mindfulness. When you observe your addictive behaviors and accept them as they are, you give yourself permission to identify hidden wounds. It's those wounds that fuel the compulsion, not lack of discipline. To to heal your addictions and compulsions, you need to heal the emotional wounds from within.

5. Don't try to get others to love you -- simply love yourself

This is the follow-up to Breaking Free from Emotional Eating. And it's probably the most heartfelt book I have ever read. Roth bares her soul so that you may better understand your own journey -- whether it be with food addiction or some other issue. She shares in more detail how she struggled with compulsive eating for years, and how she finally found out how to heal from within. This book is full of wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration. It shows how vulnerable and fragile, yet strong and capable you are. I borrowed it from a neighbor, but when I finished it, I bought a brand new copy so I could see it on my bookshelf everyday.

Addictions, compulsions, and other dysfunctional behaviors protect you from feeling the pain of rejection by others. But if you love and accept yourself, you won't desperately crave the approval and attention of others -- who don't already love you for all that you are.

6. Listen to your inner conversations

I can't recommend this book enough. I think everyone needs to read it -- now. Here's Part 1 & Part 2 of my review on Mindful Construct.

Your personal narrative determines how you respond to your life. In order to have a healthy personal narrative, you need to be mindful of all the stories you tell yourself. Listening to your inner conversations is a powerful way to do this.

7. Keep a healthy attitude

De Angelis has a lot of practical, grounded advice about response ability. She writes from her heart, and writes directly to you. If you're looking for an easy and feel-good read, this will do the trick. If you're looking for support -- for someone to cheer you on when you take greater response ability for your emotional health and well-being, this is a fundamental read. It's classic self-help and I've enjoyed every bit of it. Except, there are some pitfalls to look out for. De Angelis tries a bit too hard to make everything okay. For principle eight, she draws upon the spiritual saying that everything happens for a reason, and everyone is in your life for a reason. So if someone in your life hurts you, it's for a reason. It's always because you asked them to hurt you (before you both incarnated on Earth). So you could grow in love and be a "better version of yourself." And when you asked them, they replied, "Yes I love you enough to do it, so I will hurt you!" I'm not on board with this simplistic sugar-coating. And it contradicts her belief that you have total "freedom" to respond to your life. I also take issue with the polarization to only love. The tenth principle is profound, "Whatever the question, love is the answer." But it doesn't sanction getting rid of all negative emotions. So read the sixth principle, "Fear will steal your aliveness -- make your courage bigger than your fear," with some discernment. The best way through fear, is through fear. That's true love and self-acceptance -- allowing yourself to feel, and then listening to those feelings and what they mean. The rest falls into place. It's mostly principles six and eight that I take issue with, but still read the others with healthy skepticism. From what I've come by so far, this book is the closest I've found to the Mindful Construct vision, as it focuses intensely on the power of attitude and how your life is your construct.

Your attitude shapes your experience. If you commit to a healthy attitude focused on self-growth and love, you will create inner peace and happiness for yourself.

8. Integrate your past

Reading this book is like taking the red pill, and seeing that the world as you thought you knew it was a total illusion. The fake world is one where your personal problems can be attributed to genes alone, or chemical imbalances, or bad luck in life. The real world is one where your personal problems are insanely complex, and usually rooted in dysfunctional relationships with yourself, your family, and your greater social networks. Bradshaw tells the story of your inner child in a way that makes so much sense. Naturally, it's also a story about your ego (the wounded inner child). I consider this book core reading for anyone who wants to get to know themself better and genuinely "grow up."

In order to fully heal yourself, you need to grieve the past. Find the pain carried over from childhood, and process it. Once you do, you will discover how you may be co-creating this pain in the present. And then you can start to learn how you can better respond to the present and grow from your pain.

9. Don't ignore your pain

This book is a powerful read, full of effective exercises and steadfast support -- in reprogramming codependent habits into functional ones. It helped me through a rough time in my life where I was so codependently lost in other people's problems that I had no idea who I was. (One of the major pitfalls of my empathetic nature.) I've only read the first few chapters, because that was enough to really shake me up and reassess how I was relating. Someday I'd like to finish it.

Getting lost in the pain of others, or allowing them to continually harm you -- is a clear sign you are avoiding your own pain. In order to take care of yourself, you need to get in touch with pain -- and when necessary, fix the problems that give it cause.

10. Get comfortable feeling your uncomfortable feelings, no matter what other people say

Author Anne Wilson Schaef takes the codependency discussion much further -- saying how society is an addict. Co-Dependence is a detailed account of how codependency works. It also spells out why exactly it's so dysfunctional. (Schaef also explores how psychotherapy is a codependent institution in Beyond Therapy, Beyond Science: A New Model for Healing the Whole Person which has helped me gain a lot of perspective on the field.)

Codependency is ingrained in society because people are programmed early on to avoid experiencing their unpleasant emotions. You need to integrate your unpleasant emotions in order to be response able in life. No matter what dysfunctional myths society will spread about your negative emotions.

11. Be patient with yourself

There's nothing like a good Dr. Seuss read. This book is especially wonderful because it's a metaphor for life and response ability. It's a word-silly look at how easy it is to get set back by what happens to you in life, and how important it is to believe in yourself and keep on. Because oh, the places you'll go!

Life is full of emotional ups and downs, breakthroughs and barriers. If you accept who you are, and practice self-patience, you will come out on top. Success is yours, if you remain true to yourself.

What's helped you tend to your inner universe?

Have any of these books helped you along your way? Have you found any other books particularly helpful? Feel free to share them in the comments below! Until next time... All the best, signed, Melissa P.S. Did you get here from a link from a friend? This Lesson 4 of a 10-part free e-class that shows you how your life is your construct. Learn more about it and sign up here.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

barbra August 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I have read many of these in the past but they need to be revisited. I love your website. It is beautiful, clear, informative, true, and nourishing. Blessings

Melissa Karnaze August 8, 2010 at 6:38 am

Thanks barbra, glad to remind you of these helpful books!

philip November 19, 2010 at 6:10 am

Hi Melissa, have you read the book called “I AM THAT” talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj?

For me it seems to hold the key for understanding oneself.

Thank you Melissa


Melissa Karnaze November 19, 2010 at 9:07 am

Hi philip, I haven’t read the book. From the description, it sounds like it promotes the quieting of the ego. That’s actually the opposite of what we’re focusing on in this class. :) The goal here is to integrate your ego/emotional self to partner with it.

Lu June 30, 2012 at 5:09 am

Books by Iyanla Vanzant have been very helpful to me. One book, “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up,” is a forty day workbook that i have read and reread for years. It is thought provoking and challenging, so full of good that it takes many readings to grasp and incorporate it all. She has lived and worked through so much “crap” in her life. She knows the road to healing because she has walked it and continues to travel it. She is honest with herself and her readers. You feel she knows and understands where you are at and exactly what you are going through. Her writing, along with Ban Breathnach’s writing give me renewed focus and hope. Ban Breathnach’s “Something More, Excavating Your Authentic Self” is equal to her “Simple Abundance” book. Thanks for your input at Mindful Constructs. I am amazed at your wisdom in light of your age. Congratulations on coming to these discoveries so early in life.

Mita August 20, 2012 at 8:54 am

I have so little reading time…I saved all the highlighted parts in a document arranging them from bottom, up and then middle the way they feel most coherent to me. I added the words self-love and self-compassion along side self-patience, which is what I needed most now. Thanks melissa!

Sim November 22, 2012 at 3:06 am

Hi Melissa!

Thanks for the book ideas. My only dilemma is now finding which one to read first! I’m currently reading Codependence for Dummies by Darlene Lancer which is more useful than the book by Melody Bettie for me. But I need help on boundaries, assertiveness but also Codependence so ARGH where to start! :)

Nasser Ugoji December 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

Six hidden motives that defeat your goals – James R. Baugh

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