Hey Self-Care, It's Time to Level Up

Today’s the day that we’re going to level up with self-care. I’m challenging everyone, myself included, to think outside the exercise, meal prep, face mask, meditation, bullet journal self-care box.

My neighbor Alex and I are hosting a Women’s Circle tonight. The women we are gathering have been encouraged to thoughtfully consider self-care for exploration in a supportive and sacred space. We’re hoping this fosters a discussion on prioritizing our own care, recognizing stressors in our lives, and expanding our views of what self-care means, as well as discovering, as a group, the multitude of ways that self-care is absolutely critical for our well-being.

(We’re also pretty down with this conversation organically taking shape in a very different way, because maybe that’s what we all need. So, if you’re attending tonight and that structured plan freaks you out, this is all that is required: you bring you. The only thing we’re asking for is your presence.)

Alex and I crafted the questions for consideration about two weeks ago, which means I was gifted with a bit of extra time for the subject of self-care to percolate in my brain. The very first self-care practices that came to mind were exercise, nutrition, and my morning ritual. Exercise is critical for me because it builds my confidence and calms my mind. Nutrition is also vital for me because I have adverse reactions to gluten, dairy, and sugar – as well as caffeine and alcohol. My body is a very sensitive temple. Every morning I give myself an hour to drink my one cup of coffee while I dream journal or read. Jumping into action the moment I get out of bed really fires up my anxiety. When I begin my day without my morning ritual, I am less focused, less purposeful. I’m basically a whirling vortex of chaos.

Then I set my November intentions and a big old AH HA light bulb went off. My first intention was to identify stressors in my life and use them as learning opportunities to explore the underlying issues to seek more effective solutions. Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously like self-care. The next was to settle back into meditation and journaling so I can ask myself, “Does this align with my values?” and “Am I making decisions that support my needs?” Weird, that sounds like self-care too. My final intention was to slowly re-immerse myself into listening to and reading the news. I had taken a break from almost all news sources in the aftermath of Kavanaugh because I was too triggered, too vulnerable to consume news without causing my mental health further harm. WHAT THE WHAT? There I was, practicing self-care and I didn’t even know it.

A new world of self-care was revealed when that AH HA light bulb shone brightly across my November intentions. Meal prepping, exercising, journaling, taking bubble baths – all of those are beautiful forms of self-care. Any moment we take to prioritize our own well-being, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, we are practicing self-care. But maybe we can begin to look at these practices as the baseline. We’re doing exactly enough to keep us healthy and balanced.

 “We accept the love we think we deserve,” has reverberated in our current cultural lexicon. This applies to the self-care we give ourselves too. The deeper we can love and accept ourselves, our wants, our needs, the more self-care we can give. That’s what I mean by leveling up.

What would happen if we listened to our deeper desires? What would happen if we sit quietly and allow ourselves to identify our true needs? And rather than shame those needs into submission, we summon up the courage to act on them?

My two biggest stressors right now are texts and emails. I feel like I belong to everyone else with every text and email I receive. I feel pressure to respond immediately. I feel like I am rude or disappointing the other person when I address texts and emails on my own time. And I feel terrible that I cannot be the kind of hyperconnected individual our society seems to demand. I feel like I won’t ever be successful in the work place or in friendships because I simply don’t have it in me to be on call all the time.

You, as an outsider, may easily see that all of those thoughts only exist in my head and are rooted in a fear of not being good enough. I, as the creator of all those thoughts, needed more time to identify the shame and fear. When I did, I challenged myself to practice two new forms of self-care as it relates to texts and emails. 1) Respond when I feel able. 2) Allow myself peace when I choose not to respond immediately.

The second practice is much more challenging than the first. My suspicion is that self-care will become, for me, about finding more ways to ease up on myself. Depression, perfectionism, and a sprinkling of emotional and verbal abuse, all add up to a lot of criticism rolling around in my brain. If I can find more places where I am my own biggest critic, maybe I can find more self-care practices to create more compassion for myself.

It takes a lot of love to sink deep within ourselves to find those needs we’ve tucked away out of well-meaning, but misguided self-preservation. That’s the space where we find the opportunity to level up with our self-care. That’s where we are presented with the challenge to accept ourselves for who we are. It’s only from here that we can begin to craft the self-care we need to address those buried needs. As we greet these needs with gentleness and compassion, maybe, just maybe, we can carry ourselves a bit further on our journey to our greatest spiritual and emotional well-being.