I never really have had a nighttime routine. Yet for whatever reason, I had purchased a face-cleaning product and opted to use it right before going to sleep.
As I massaged the foamy substance over my cheeks, temples, and forehead, it dawned on me that it had been ages (if not forever) since I actually paid attention to myself. Deliberatively moving my fingers over my cheek muscles, and feeling stress just dissipate, it dawned on me that this simple act of looking after me was a respite against the running around, the hustle, the strategy sessions that made up my day.
Perhaps it’s the same for you as well.
I easily am overcome by wanting to only do activities that show results. Whether it is society driven or a personality trait, I’m not sure. But internally I find it difficult to equal the luxury of leisurely taking care of myself to something of value. And while I work in an industry where self-care is important, there are just so many things piled on the to-do list that self-care just keeps getting stuffed down to the bottom, if not forgotten about all together.
But I find that when self-care is ignored, I
Loose touch with myself. Literally and figuratively. There is something about just putting lotion on your arms or hands, and feeling the skin underneath your fingertips. Whether it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom or beginning to have the dryness of age, connecting with who you physically are in that moment is crucial to you being connected with who you are.
I think I visualize it as by putting our own hands on our own skin, we are testifying that we exist, that we are real, that we have value, worth, we are a physical entity. We are something to be protected and fought for, and gosh darn it, we are an entity to watch out for!
- Begin to grind my body down. It starts with a small crimp in my shoulders, or my leg cramping up a bit more than usual. Yet those are my body’s small ways of letting me know I need to move, I need to change my perspective, and yes, I’m stuffing down too much stuff that I need either to deal with or need to leave behind.
Just the simple act of stretching my back reminds me that my body (and mind) was meant to move, to be challenged. And if the simple act of reaching behind me and trying to grab my hands is actually a difficulty, boy have I remained still for way longer than the past due date.
- Mentally have trouble focusing. Dealing with day-to-day emergencies, being reactive rather than proactive, keeps my mind just on the immediate needs now. But it doesn’t stretch my mind (see bullet point above: our minds are made to be continuously stretched!).
Not setting time aside to think about what is truly important, to discuss and strategize about goals, to simply reflect on the past hour, allows those pathways in my brain to go dull, and eventually shut down.
Yet they are an important and crucial part of my personal growth. By allowing them to turn off, I find myself with mental gaps, as if my brain has been on a drunken vacation for too long and when I attempt to give it a wakeup call, my brain’s only response is: “oh, what?.....hummm, yeah, let me get back to you on that, maybe?”
Just as anything else that we choose to not practice or continue with discipline, my brain muscles begin to get lax, floppy, and unresponsive. And that eventually leads to my personal development stalling. No Bueno!
Eventually, our bodies and minds start yelling at us to pay attention and take care of ourselves.
Necessary areas of self-care
Before we get to some self-care actions, let’s take a quick look at what self-care encompasses.
Self-care isn’t all about a day at the spa and mani/pedis. You and I are complex creatures, and self-care encompasses taking care of ourselves:
- Physically: Our bodies were built to do heroic things. Yet they still need fuel, the right fuel, and they still need movement and care. Everything from drinking that first glass of water in the morning to finding out what foods work best with your body to the simple act of standing up and stretching your legs every 45 minutes is part of what providing our physical bodies with self-care is all about.
- Psychologically: Those pesky negative thoughts we have about ourselves? Self-care means we combat them with truths: truths that remind us we have accomplished much in our lives, overcome whatever struggles.
- Socially: Okay, I have to admit that I am extremely awkward when I have to mingle in a room with perfect strangers. Call me a petrified wallflower-in recovery! Yet the simple act of talking with other human beings, of chatting with someone over the phone, or walking around the block with a friend or neighbor is something that keeps both our minds and bodies ticking. And it prevents us from getting too far deep into ourselves – interacting with other people provides us the opportunity to see other’s perspectives (and learn) and to also get encouragement and support. I call that a win-win.
- Emotional: What causes me to snap in anger or become easily frustrated? Journal or reflect – but deal. Personal development is all about moving forward, one step at a time.
- Spiritual: I see this are of self-care as the most important. Connecting with a bigger purpose and working on that relationship cascades downwards onto all of the other self-care areas. When you identify your place in this world, it helps to encourage the keeping up of our bodies, of keeping up with thoughts that encourage us to keep doing what we are doing and helps overcome the frustrations that may come with anger or lag of change. And it also helps demonstrate that we are not alone and therefore fosters relationships with others, as we realize that we are interconnected and meant to learn and support one another.
Incorporating self-care into our daily to-do
So what if you are like me and taking time to just read and relax doesn’t “seem” to measure too high on the value meter, and you feel just a bit guilty at letting other, more “important” things on the to-do list stack up? (Air quotes are necessary: our perception of what seems important is changed after some self-care dosage.)
1. Start small
Washing your face is probably something you already do. Take an extra minute and ramp it up to a “spa” experience. Massage those cheeks. Rub your temples.
Get up from your chair at least once an hour and just walk to the kitchen/break-room or the front door (and maybe open it and breathe some fresh air). Just change your perspective and move.
Jot some reflective notes on your phone’s app or a little notebook while standing in line to pay for groceries. (I’ve had some of my best reflective moments while my salads are being scanned!)
2. Be present
Whatever small activity you choose, be fully engaged in it.
When looking outside the front door (or even going outside), take a look at your surroundings. Was that flower bud open yesterday? Is that bird really hanging upside down on the branch – how in the heck is it doing that?
Taste the fresh lemon water in the morning. Is the lemon just a bit bitter or is it juicy and remind you fresh spring and sunshine?
Being present in that 1-minute experience allows you to “stretch” it out – when all of my senses and mind are fully engaged in an activity, 5 minutes can feel like an hour – and it will fly and yet encompass so much.
3. Give value where value is due
Once I started doing these small self-care activities, I noticed that everything else outside of the activities held more purpose and focus.
Massaging the temples of my forehead allowed the physical stress to find relief – and it also allowed my mind to reflect upon the cause of the stress. (Emotional self-care: I got a double out of a single self-care activity!)
Reflecting on my own actions or activities, as well as activities or behaviors of others, also encourages my brain to reengage with pathways that have been dormant for a while: the part of my mind that wants the best for myself AND this world; the part that is purely proactive.
It is amazingly incredible to realize the huge value that these simple self-care activities produce. And by recognizing that, I also recognize how valuable these activities are – and how detrimental it is for me to incorporate them into my daily to dos.
I realize that this is sometimes easily forgotten – but when you see how these activities help you reconnect with your best self, how they encourage positive thinking and courage and strength, I hope that they also cement the desire to bring about the discipline necessary to protect the progress you have made in your personal growth journey.
(And yes, I hope also that what didn’t seem like an activity with much value becomes an important, high-priority activity on your daily to-dos.)
Photo Source: https://stocksnap.io/
I love reflecting on purposeful, thought-provoking life experiences and turning them into life purposes. I am a writer dedicated to sharing life-lessons to empower women to attain their best life by turning experiences into passion-driven action.
When I'm not studying life, I'm intentionally living it. I enjoy art (admiring it and creating it), nature, and I'm a beginner sewer in the attempt to sew my own unique clothes.
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