Tonight, my friend is coming to pick me up to go out to dinner with her and her kids. I usually procrastinate getting ready and am flying through my house minutes before my ride arrives, feeling frazzled and guilty for making them wait. But today, I decided to be intentional about my time and resultantly, my self-care.
Noticing I had way more time than I needed, I decided to start getting ready so I had the cushion of time. I gathered my new coconut, chemical-free shampoo and conditioner and carefully placed them on a ledge in my shower. I turned the water on to a comfortable warmth, and turned the music off on my phone. I would give myself silence, to reflect and be mindful of that moment. I stepped into the shower and let the water warm me to my core. I started applying my shampoo, giving in to the smell of coconuts. Once rinsed, I combed the creamy conditioner through my roots, once again softening at the smell of the coconuts. I lathered up with my new all-natural soap, a beautiful mixture of lavender and mint. Every movement I made was intentional, patient, and done with love. I appreciated myself for investing in healthy and natural bath products, and I felt gratitude for the opportunity to bathe in warm water in a safe home. Instead of thinking through my day or reliving anxious memories, my mind floated seamlessly through identification of my blessings.
Once out of my shower, I had over an hour before my friend was to arrive. So I brushed my teeth again, swished my dry mouth mouthwash, and applied lavender lotion to my bare skin. Even my dogs, who can be insanely energetic and love to play fight ALL the time, were calm and resting together on the master bed. It was like the entire home was blanketed in peace. I kept catching my image in the bathroom mirror, and smiled every time. I thought I looked so pretty, and so pure, and I was still softly beaming with pride for fully committing to and following through with my self-care activities for the last half an hour.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is self-care. Had I not been intentional about my time and preparation for a commitment, I would have unleashed my anxiety towards being late, been stung with guilt at making her wait, and felt clouded with shame at my lack of timeliness. Had these thoughts been racing through my mind, I wouldn’t have been able to zero in on my exact moment, almost overwhelming with opportunities and beautiful things. I would have been rampaging through my house looking for shoes and a belt, and my dogs would have gotten anxious and riled up running after me through the house. But one decision to take my time because I deserved to prepare myself for the evening with love and patience led to my entire home and my very being feeling truly calm.
A massive example of self-care is one I explained in my anecdote – mindfulness. Mindfulness encompasses the maintenance of our focus on our current state, and nothing else. What we are seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling in this exact very moment. When we feel our minds wander off to our to-do lists, or remember that we have to return that bathing suit by the 17th, or think about what we are going to make for dinner, we are to gently pull our attentions back to this moment. Because when our awareness drifts from our current surroundings, we’re missing it. We’re wasting this precious opportunity to live in this moment, because we’re focused on things that have nothing to do with where we are right now. Most often, these quiet moments of acknowledgement of our environment and what it’s offering to us lead us to feeling peaceful, grateful, and alive. Imagine feeling these things every day, or even multiple times a day! The more that we can be mindful, the happier we are with our lives and our surroundings.
Have you ever attributed stress or tough emotions to a certain location, time in your life, or person, so much so that the memory of that thing feels tainted? For how many of those scenarios can we recognize that it may not have been those “things” that were problematic, but our mindset and our stress that coexisted with their appearance in our lives? For example, I remember my years at a particular dance studio as being purely awful. It was filled with jealous, petty girls who had established cliques and made it clear that I was not welcome. Even the dance teacher played into their status games and assumed a buddy role to all the dancers except a few of us. When I see an old picture of one of those dance recitals, or if one of the dancers posts a status update on Facebook, I get that icky feeling of neglect, unimportance, and rejection.
But what if, in those moments that I was in that environment, I were more intentional about what I wanted to experience and what I wanted to feel? Clearly something kept bringing me back to that dance studio year after year, most likely my love for performing and passion for dance itself. Had I gone into the practice room not preoccupied with wondering what the girls might be saying about me, but about how pretty the twinkly lights looked strung loosely atop the mirrors or how completely overpowering it was when the music pumped out of the massive speakers and directly into my soul, I could have left every practice feeling grateful for that opportunity, instead of crying the entire way home because I barely made it through another class.
This is all self-care, because as you can see, these tactics are meant to ease our suffering. Our mind can do amazing things for us. It wants to protect us. That’s why we feel anxiety and depression – it’s our body’s way of overprotecting or reacting to such intense emotions that we are trying to find a way to rid our bodies of them. If we can learn to hone in on this power of our minds, we can fill our body with intentional feelings of positivity and gratitude through the many forms of self-care. Wouldn’t that be such a great and fulfilling life to live?