To be honest, when I hear the phrase “self-care,” I typically prepare myself for some serious eye rolling.
Telling a parent of a toddler to take time for self-care in a busy world with high vocational, financial, and family demands seems like suggesting the impossible.
And even when I make time for a pedicure or a night out with friends, I often wonder if my time would have been better spent checking things off my ongoing to-do list or just laying on the floor.
So what is self-care? What does it look like? How is it really practical or sustainable in today’s world?
These questions have forced me to think in a new way about self-care. If the definition of self-care is providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness, then how do we know what is “adequate”?
Do we only discover that we’re not taking care of ourselves when we get to the other side of adequate and start falling apart? How do we proactively care for ourselves right in the midst of our busy lives?
• When doing something for ourselves, whether our favorite Starbucks drink, getting a massage, taking a solo walk, or something else entirely, take a moment before we dive in to set an intention to really take it in as emotional nourishment.
We take a breath, we scan our body for sensations, we use all five of our senses to really bring ourselves to the moment. We really smell our drink, really feel the breeze on our skin or hands in ours.
• When doing something for ourselves, give ourselves full permission to do just that thing for now. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten a massage and while laying on the table found my mind filled with self-doubt: should I have used the money or time for a toddler art class instead?
If this massage isn’t the best I’ve ever had, is it really worth it? Finding ways to turn off the voice of self-doubt that sabotagues our self-care spaces is essential to really taking them in.
Sure, we could have made a different choice. But this is the choice we made in this moment. And we will take it in as nourishment, regardless of the result. What we can control is holding the space; what we can’t control is the outcome.
• Take a moment to reflect on our days in order to take in the unintentional moments that we already did something kind or caring for ourselves.
A journal is a great avenue for this practice of reflection. Did we give ourselves a break from reading the news? Did we give ourselves a moment to sit with a loved one and just take in the feeling of closeness, the smell, the sensation of their touch?
Did we give or receive any hugs today? Did we eat healthy food that was nourishing to us? So often, we think of self-care as something we need to add on to our schedules.
But the very activities that we do every day, eating, showering, dressing, breathing, these things take care of us and support our being in the world.
What if we took a moment to really take them in as such, to allow them to be nourishment to us? In this way, we give meaning to the ordinary moments of our lives. We reframe them as not just drudgery or routine, but as actively building well-being for ourselves.
Caring for ourselves in a world full of stress, chaos, violence, this can feel like a huge challenge.
And especially when our time is already filled to the brim with managing the logistics of our lives. Yet, I believe in the possibility of authentically nourishing ourselves right in the middle of it all.
“Finding a place of rest right in the middle of things.” I wish this for you, a place of rest. Right in the middle. The world won’t stop. But we can still find it. A way to fill up our cups, nourish, replenish and breathe.