One of my biggest priorities for the new year is to integrate more self-care into my daily round – to learn to make acts of self-kindness less of a production and more about establishing a foundation of self-care as my habitual mode of being.
You’ve probably already noticed that the whole theme of “self-care” is trending hard right now, as it so often does after the excess of the holiday season. Maybe you’re even getting a little sick of the term "self-care" and just how much it’s saturating our awareness, synonymous with other trendy expressions like “clean eating” and “fitfam” and “good vibes only.”
Certainly there’s no shame in embracing these phrases as a means of empowerment – in fact, it’s actually pretty cool these types of buzzwords are carving out a place in the mainstream. What I think happens, however, when we’re over-exposed to terms originally intended to evoke something powerful is that we begin to lose some of our connection to the meaning of those words.
I know we’ve talked a lot about self-care over the past year. As co-creatresses of a business whose philosophy is to make self-care simple, joyful and inclusive as possible, it’s important for us revisit this topic frequently, to define and redefine what exactly self-care means for us.
For one, we’ll never allege that a bath bomb or face mask alone will magically erase all those uncomfortable feelings that make self-care so important. Those types of feelings are good; they challenge us to grow and evolve, even at times when they feel impossible to manage.
What we are trying to do is highlight the fact that self-care doesn’t need to be complicated.
As I focus the start of this new year finding ways to make self-care a more natural, instinctive part of my day-to-day routine, I am becoming increasingly aware that it can be found in even the most unexpected places. I used to think self-care necessitated an elaborate production – not just a regular soak in the bath, but one requiring candles or incense, the most serene music imaginable and the splendour of zero interruptions whatsoever.
But honestly, how realistic – or even healthy – is this belief that things need to be flawlessly executed to be able to serve us? There have literally been occasions in the past when I’ve spent more time arranging the scenery of my bathroom to transmit a vision of self-care (to be quickly snapped in a photo) than I have actually relishing the fruits of my labour.
With this kind of mindset, it becomes easy to think we’re failing at self-care. It becomes elusive, unattainable, something overly complicated and out of reach.
I think many of us can agree that 2017 was a challenging year. For me personally, there was a lot of time spent navigating some big life changes, and very little time remaining to channel towards mindful self-care. By the time the holidays were through, I was exhausted, spent and painfully unclear about how to reclaim the self-care practice I’d become so fragmented from over the past months. Not only was I depleted (and arguably still am, although slowly building my reserves), I was beating myself up over this fact.
How oh how could I have failed myself so dramatically? And how could I possibly lay any claim on a business aimed at supporting self-care when it had become so painfully absent from my own daily round?
I was exclaiming this to a close girlfriend of mine on New Year’s Day when her response prompted the biggest a-ha moment I’d had all year: yes, 2017 required a tremendous amount of energy focused on things that didn’t outwardly qualify as self-care; yes, it was exhausting and overwhelming, and yes, I may have lost touch with the self-care practice I’d worked so hard at building.
But in spite of it all, I didn’t deserve to beat myself up for being a failure. I did what needed doing during a time that demanded more of me than I was accustomed to giving, and I managed to forge my way through it (as so many of us did over the past year). We must acknowledge this, and then: move on.
Which left the question: how, exactly, do I reclaim self-care in a way that’s positive and sustainable, joyful and inclusive, and above all else, simple?
There was a time when I religiously kept a daily gratitude journal to capture all the small and simple things that served to uplift and inspire me – a practice that benefitted me most on days when it was easy to get carried away by emotions and forget that there’s something more real and meaningful beneath those waves of anger or sadness or discomfort.
It occurred to me the other day: why not adapt this same practice to self-care? Rather, why not end (or begin, if you’re a morning person!) each day identifying the small but essential ways I’ve been kind to myself.
Looking at it this way, self-care becomes much more simplified. Sure, it can be pretty (soaking in a bath infused with French pink clay and dried red roses), but there’s certainly no requisite.
Re-framed in this way, self-care is:
- Ordering a new blade for my Nutribullet
- Hanging the shelves that have been sitting on the floor since early last month
- Spending my lunch break walking amongst the trees
- Finding new mineral make-up on sale
- Flipping through the cookbook I thrifted last fall and marking the recipes I want to try
- Listening to the “Ask Herbal Health Expert Susan Weed” podcast while I prep dinner
- Organizing my closet
- Organizing my pantry
- Slowly easing back into Yoga with Adriene
- Hanging a new strand of twinkle lights in the bedroom
As I begin to identify the various ways I’ve chosen to be kind to myself, something has started to shift. There’s a new sense of empowerment. I’ve chosen to reclaim self-care in a way that serves me, and it feels extraordinary.
I dare you, friends, try challenging yourselves in the same way. We can do this together by celebrating the small and beautiful ways we choose to be kind to ourselves.
It's time we reclaim self-care.