by Christine Tentilucci
Relationships take work. Carve out time for socializing with friends. Schedule a date night. How many times have we heard these phrases, and dozens of others like them, as advice about how to cultivate strong relationships? They certainly are valuable suggestions that contribute to fulfilling our social needs and our needs for intimate connections, but they all leave out one common denominator: taking care of ourselves. Perhaps a precursor to these suggestions would be, Take care of yourself so you can bring your best self to your relationships.
Just as we’re instructed in case of an airplane emergency to secure our own oxygen mask first before assisting others, we may benefit from practicing self-care before—or at least hand-in-hand with—building healthy relationships. If our mental, emotional or physical health is floundering, how can we offer balanced, positive energy to family or loved ones? If we are not comfortable in our own skin, how can we connect genuinely with the people in our social circles? If we are struggling with underlying issues, how will we offer nurturing support to friends when they need it? It’s difficult to be genuinely present for someone else when we ourselves are gasping for air. A little self-care may go a long way in building healthy relationships.
It is certainly unrealistic to expect that we avoid all social relationships until our personal issues are resolved. As individuals, we are works in progress, continually growing into the best version of ourselves. As life’s circumstances change, our version of our best self may transform as well. By remaining aware of, and nurturing, our personal needs through the ebbs and flows of life, we can continually bolster our sense of strength and inner peace. From this place of grace and centeredness, we can offer our best selves to others. Tending to our self-care needs, in conjunction with cultivating social relationships, can support the growth of truly intimate connections.
Here are some ways to practice self-care for the sake of social health:
- Make time for your inner peace. Carve out time for worship, meditation, massage, yoga or anything that nurtures your center. Schedule a “date night” with yourself.
- Put physical wellness at the top of your list. Check in with your body to determine what it needs. Once we stop to listen to our bodies, we may notice we’ve been unnecessarily carrying around nagging sensations. Aches and pains? Digestive discomfort? Constant fatigue? Take time to find and address the source of the symptoms. Sometimes we don’t realize how off we are feeling until we’re feeling better.
- Read, learn and grow. Just as relationships take work, sometimes self-care takes work. Adopt an open mind and a curious eye and open yourself to a little self-discovery through journaling or a self-help book. Devoting time to learn about ourselves and what makes us tick—either emotionally or physically—can enhance how we show up for our relationships.
- Be aware. As you discover more about your personal nuances, be aware of how they contribute to your interactions with friends, coworkers, family and loved ones.
In the end, there is no doubt that humans are social creatures, and relationships play a significant role in our daily lives. Nurturing our best selves and tending to our personal needs with care and respect honors our relationships and supports our journey toward true intimacy.
Christine Tentilucci is the marketing manager of Inner Spa, a fully organic, holistic, eco-friendly wellness spa in Newtown. For more information, call 215-968-9000, email Christine@InnerSpa.org, or visit InnerSpa.org or InnerVitalitySpa.com. February 2016.