This is self-care
This evening I was cutting up a cucumber to make some infused water, something I haven't done in a few years. I pulled out the mint and slapped it to help release its scent and flavorings and in that moment I became aware of how present I was in noticing it. My thoughts went from a gentle autopilot to full blown present in not just the aroma of mint and cucumber that I was now smelling but the imaginings of what this cold, fresh and naturally infused water would taste like. You see, cucumber-mint is one of my top flavor profiles. It's always light and refreshing. Its taste makes me feel healthy. Its taste and aroma makes me joyful. I like it in water, my vodka, my food, it doesn't matter where, I like it! And in that moment of being so present with the smell and the slicing of the cucumber and the imaginings of the flavors and the feelings I will get when I drink this water, I thought to myself, "this is self-care."
Would I have ever thought of cucumber-mint water as self-care before now? Likely not. Well, maybe my favorite Kettle One Cucumber Mint vodka, but that's a different category of self-care! And that kind is okay too. You see, self-care comes in so many different forms. Sometimes it appears in your life in obvious therapeutic ways, such as therapy, coaching, a bath, a massage or a pedicure. Sometimes it's something as small as washing your makeup off at night. Sometimes it manifests as making a decision to finally throw out that gorgeous rug that you searched for online (for weeks!) before pulling the trigger on the one with the perfect blue tones to compliment your dining room wall color, but you have to toss it out now because your animals have pissed on it so many times that you can no longer bring yourself to keep cleaning it to attempt salvaging it - let's be real, smelling dog or cat pee doesn't bring anyone joy. Sometimes self care surfaces by choosing to give yourself space to be sad when you're feeling overwhelmed and just need to go easy on yourself for a day - even if it feels like it's been too many days. Sometimes self care is reading a book at the park on a sunny day. Sometimes it blaring the music in the car, or maybe even dancing it out at the music show!
The point is that self care can be demonstrated in many different ways. However, it takes awareness and being present for you to recognize when you may need to engage in an act of self-care. Comforting yourself in any form is key to balance and healing. And I believe that awareness is the vital piece that must come before the ability to comfort.
Let's dive into that rug for example - because let's face it, I'm not too pleased with the necessity to get rid of it. I'll take you back for a second. You see, I'm an over-analyzer or a researcher most of the time. The same is true when it comes to bigger purchases. A rug is nowhere near as big of a purchase as a home, a car, or even the dining room set it would sit under. But it still is noticeable as soon as you walk into my home. I have a general interest in home design and it's important to me for this rug to not only be aesthetically appealing, but I know it anchors this space. It anchors this space for this dining room set that I also put a lot of thought and research into when I purchased it - do you see a pattern here...? Again though - that rug is important to me. What I'm realizing is, it's more important to me than anyone else that walks through that door. As it should be - I'm the one that has to see it everyday and enjoy it for larger gatherings. But what I also realize is, I am the only one that has to clean it when I notice that a cat may have peed on it. That sounds bizarre to some. It's weird, my cat doesn't have the worst urine odor... so much so, that I'm not even sure half the time if it's the dog or the cat. AND you can't even see it on the rug, which contradicts most things that I know about urine. Trust me, I've tried many tactics to deter the animals from even stepping on the rug (which are not aesthetically appealing at all, including laying foil over the entire rug at one point). And at this point, when I walk by, if I even think I smell a hint of urine, my entire mood shifts. Sometimes it's only for a brief minute. But y'all, those brief minutes add up. I'm telling you. I think sometimes I smell it in my sleep. Can I also side skirt here for a second and say that I AM a clean person? It's not like I'm just ignoring it most days. My carpet cleaner is the number one appliance used in this house. AND I'M SO TIRED OF IT! But as I said, my mood shifts. And I know it does because I am actively working on being present and not on autopilot. Being aware of my joys and my energy-sucks (no I don't know if that's a real word but I like to make up words!) is the only way I can truly pay attention to my energy alignment. I recently made the decision to move my office space from my firm back to my home office. That decision has been made for about a week. It took only a week for me to finally say to myself, "if I'm going to commit to this, then I need to protect my mindset and my environment. The rug has got to go." Y'all, I would be lying to you if I said I didn't briefly consider just ordering a new one and starting over.... what?! Why would I do that?!
You see, there is no one in the world that cared about that rug in that place more than I did and there is no one in the world that is getting as frustrated with the smell of urine on that rug as much as I am. No one on either end of the spectrum. Regardless if I decide to keep the rug and have to clean it over and over or finally dispose of the rug for good, both are hard choices. But it's a choice that I am actually in control of - no one else. And today, I chose that self-care meant that I needed to protect my mindset over a materialistic desire. Because by not doing so, I was actively not supporting my needs and I need to know I can count on me to take care of me.
Self-care is a choice. It really is. I'll switch gears and give you another example. A less obvious example.
Self-care can show up in your communication with others. We all want to be heard and that can at times be very much a power struggle. When you choose to remain in awareness of your communication style, tone and word selection you will often feel like you left that conversation in a manner that reflected how you needed to care for yourself. I've found myself in many conversations over the past year that I consciously paid attention to how I was showing up on my side of the dialogue. Often that meant that I had choose to not respond with my initial reactions and more often had to choose not to participate in a blame or shame game even when many blaming or shaming words were being lunged in my direction. This choice wasn't because I agreed with the other party, or because I cowered down or because I think of myself any better than anyone else. It was strictly because I knew that was not how I wanted to show up in the conversation. It is self-care to me to respond in a way that I would be proud of when I got off the call. It is self-care to me to put into action the skills that I am learning in therapy. It is self-care for me because I know that in order for me to recognize what is happening in the conversation I have to remain present and self-aware. Y'all, that is self-care! And yes, I have also had a few moments where I did respond with an elevated tone or stood firm in my boundaries, but that was what I consciously chose to do in that moment. It wasn't a reaction. It was a choice. I've certainly reacted in ways that I later apologized for (sometimes minutes later in the conversation, not hours or days), so it's not like I'm preaching perfection here. However, in the majority of even those cases, I still remained in a dialogue that was not indicating blame or shame on the other person.
There can always be some extreme around what some may consider self-care, and to be clear, I'm not talking about performing outrageous acts and calling it self-care. Murder, crime and general violation against others is not self-care. So please, let's avoid that rabbit hole.
Sometimes we just need to tune back in to our lives. Pay attention. Turn off the autopilot. Only then can we actually identify what we are needing in those moments and what we are enjoying and can take a minute to absorb it enough to allow it to bring us joy or comfort us. So I challenge you, what are you noticing that brings you brief moments of joy and are you sitting in it long enough to allow it to soak it (inhale that cucumber-mint aroma!)? What small or short activities are forms of self-care for you that make you feel comforted in your day? Are you overdue for a bath or a massage? What can you re-arrange in your schedule to prioritize yourself this week as a form of self-care? Then how can challenge yourself to give that little thing more frequently on your calendar? You're worth it. The people you want to pour into need a comforted and fulfilled you. Treat yourself with the self-care advice you'd offer to others. Find the little joys in your day. The little joys add up and next thing you know, you're living a joyful life.
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