Self-Care: Governor, Time Traveler, and Gamer
Three metaphors for self-care are discussed.
Posted Jan 17, 2020
In today’s post, I discuss three self-care metaphors that may be helpful in encouraging you to take care of yourself, especially during those times when caring for yourself might feel very difficult to do—during an illness, when you feel down, after a romantic breakup, etc.
Your body as a country
For the first of the three self-care metaphors, I encourage you to think of yourself as the governor or the president of your body. Begin by taking a moment to think of the many organs and trillions of cells keeping your body (the country you govern) alive and healthy. As the president of your body, you need to make sure all these cells and organs are functioning properly.
Imagine your cells (your country’s people) have elected you the president because they trust you to have their best interests at heart. That is why they follow your orders. Throughout the day, your body’s labor force (your arms and legs) tries to do as you demand, and at night, while you rest, your country’s government (your brain) and the center of industry (your heart) continue the work of keeping you alive and healthy.
If thinking of all your country does for you makes you feel grateful, then how can you make sure this country and body of yours will continue to function smoothly? How will you make sure its residents are happy? By showing care and compassion, perhaps, and doing what is good for them.
When you care for your body, you will increase the likelihood that your body will be able to do what you want it to do. Mistreat or ignore your body and you will find yourself governing an unhappy and unmanageable nation disrupted by damage and disease.
Traveling in time with your body
Another potentially useful self-care metaphor involves time travel. Imagine you live in some future—say, eight years (or months, weeks, or even days) from now—and you have traveled back in time to the present moment.
In one version, you have taken care of yourself these eight years. In another version, you have not. The three of you—these two versions and your present self—are sitting in a circle.
Really try to imagine how each version of you would look. Begin with the one where you did not take care of yourself: Visualize how each part of your body, such as your hair and skin, would look and feel. Would you have any aches or health issues? How might have eight years of drinking, smoking, overeating, or not exercising affected your health, attractiveness, confidence, optimism, or accomplishments? What about work, school, and social life?
Do you, as this ill and unhappy future version of yourself, feel angry at the present you?
Now become the person who practiced self-care regularly. What do you look like and how do you feel? As this person, do you feel a sense of gratitude for the effort and determination of your present-day self?
Last, become yourself once again. Remember, you will be making choices every day that will affect your future.
You do not have to be perfect to have a better future; simply commit to making choices with self-care in mind.
Your body as a role-playing computer game
This last of self-care metaphors requires you to think of your life as a computer game.
Imagine you are playing one of the latest computer games, a role-playing game called My One Life. The game has the most beautiful graphics ever realized; your character is amazingly life-like and has many powers (mobility, intelligence, talents, skills, and others).
Your player character (PC) will face gigantic monsters and formidable obstacles along its journey. Though you can not predict how your PC will perform and what it will achieve by the end of the game—your character could become a country’s president, a famous singer, a spiritual guru, a brilliant scientist, a legendary warrior, and so forth—you can help your PC improve every time you play the game. How?
One, you have access to magical substances like nutritious snacks, healthy foods, and a healing potion called water. Your character has many options in terms of skills and weaponry, too, such as intelligence (using education power-ups) and strength (using exercise power-ups).
Two, in the game settings, you find a secret menu of options that increase your character’s energy level by 50-100%; these include breathing exercises, yoga, restful sleep, and many others.
Remember, when your character dies, the game is over and cannot be restarted.
How do you want to play this game?
Concluding thoughts on the motivation for self-care
Self-care refers to “the process of actively initiating a method to promote holistic well-being” (p. 189),2 and includes a variety of activities—healthy eating, exercise, sufficient sleep, mindfulness or meditation practices, effective emotion regulation and coping strategies, and engaging in healthy and meaningful hobbies and leisure activities. Self-care requires intention and considerable effort; it may at times feel like too much work or even selfish. Yet, it is absolutely necessary. I hope at least one of the self-care metaphors I have given you helps you feel more interested and motivated to take care of yourself.
1. Myers, S. B., Sweeney, A. C., Popick, V., Wesley, K., Bordfeld, A., & Fingerhut, R. (2012). Self-care practices and perceived stress levels among psychology graduate students. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(1), 55-66.
2. Colman, D. E., Echon, R., Lemay, M. S., McDonald, J., Smith, K. R., Spencer, J., & Swift, J. K. (2016). The efficacy of self-care for graduate students in professional psychology: A meta-analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 10(4), 188-197.