by Reza Torkzadeh

Just for a moment, imagine your body as a vehicle that is transporting you through life. You have a specific set of capabilities, features and seating capacity. Your tires are well-balanced and the tank is full of fuel. You’re on a mission to reach your destination and have a navigation system that tells you how many stops and turns you must make along the way. Your vehicle is operating at its optimum, the drive is smooth and the view is pleasing.

Doesn’t it sound wonderful?

Now imagine the same vehicle traversing the roads to endless destinations, sometimes without a map or a navigation system. Over time, the tires start to wear out and get out of alignment, the passengers become loud and disruptive and you don’t have time to refuel. Before you know it, the check engine light starts to flash, making your drive unsettling. What do you do then?

Well, when it comes to our actual vehicles, we receive an Owner’s Manual that informs us of the operational instructions and the service schedule. There are sensors, alarms, notifications and other alert systems that keep us aware of the needed maintenance to ensure proper functioning. We expect our cars to get us to where we need to be. Therefore, we’re willing to pay attention to what it takes to get us there.

What if human beings came with an Operating Manual: one that would provide an instructional guide to our mechanics? Life would become more manageable simply because we learned about our unique needs. In reality, though, many of us have no idea how to maintain ourselves and neglect all the warning signs until we have no choice but to address them. Self-care is more than just a word or a luxury limited to those who have plenty of time and money at their disposal. Self-care is our vehicle’s maintenance plan; without it, we can’t function properly. We lose energy, become extremely irritable and make poor decisions for ourselves. We’ve become so consumed with our commitments and responsibilities that everything seems to be of a higher priority than our self-care.

What’s fascinating is that just like vehicles have a unique make, model and a set of requirements, so do we. And yet humans are notorious for signing up for generalized remedies for self-preservation, which is why self-care appears too challenging to maintain. We’ve over-complicated how to recharge ourselves, but can’t afford to continue ignoring the symptoms of self-neglect. It’s time to take a deep dive into what makes each of us unique and invest in understanding what we need to operate at our true potential. A prerequisite to fulfilling a sustainable self-care practice is self-awareness. Most people go through life as complete strangers to themselves. They know what they must do but are unsure about what their needs are. It’s a question worth contemplating to recognize the specific rituals, activities and even a sleep schedule needed to refuel.

Let us not focus on the overwhelming steps to self-care by incorporating the mainstream guides to add things like yoga, massage, meditation, long baths, mid-day naps, diet and exercise routines, shopping therapy, creative activities, girls’ trips, boys trips or retreats into our busy lives. Instead, pay attention to small things that can be done daily that give you the proper energy to attend to the demands of life. Let us bring our awareness to S.T.O.P (Stop, Think, Observe and Proceed). Then communicate our findings with friends and family. Self-care needs no justification. It’s the way to move forward in life. Here’s to you and your tune-up.