#selfcare. It’s what we might say when we buy the large mocha with an extra shot of espresso or impulsively buy the dress in the store window. Or if you’re like me, you’ve attempted to squeeze in self-care by watching a movie on the couch while simultaneously using your laptop, or by listening to an audiobook as you’re scrubbing the floor. Both are great forms of multi-tasking, but none of these examples actually achieve authentic care of self.
#Selfcare Vs: #Treatyourself
Oftentimes the culture seems to paint self-care as self-indulgence. Speaking from experience, certain indulgences like a new item of clothing and having a fancy espresso in hand can put a pep in my step. Yet these purchases are not a means of deeply caring for my body, mind, and soul. Multi-tasking while doing something I enjoy doesn’t fit the bill, either.
While he may not have used the term selfcare, St. Paul of the Cross offers us guidance saying,
“Refresh your mind with some innocent recreation and needful rest,” even “if it were only to saunter through the garden or the fields.”
Of course, in the wintertime there are rarely any gardens or wildflower fields to be found, and maybe that wouldn’t be your form of renewal anyway, and that’s where we have to do a little work.
True self-care requires self-discipline, we have to discover what caring for ourselves actually looks like. So while I became more aware of my tendency to do multiple things at once, I decided I wanted to correct my bad habit.
Ways to Care for Yourself
Here is how I am trying to take better care of my body, mind, and soul this year.
Making A Priority
While I am not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, I was noticing how I was longingly looking at books placed all over my house that I have been wanting to read for quite some time. The thought came to me to try to find audiobook versions so that I could get through the books more quickly. But relaxation and rejuvenation didn’t come to mind when I recalled the last time I cleaned the house while trying to keep my headphones in my ears.
As my stack of books around the house started growing, I decided to do something that would provide me the time to actually sit down and savor them. In order for that to happen I had to make reading a priority. I decided to commit to reading for thirty minutes each day. This took self-discipline. I had to pause the washing of the dishes, or opt to sit down instead of jump on the elliptical, but once I got into the habit of doing it, it became a half hour that I protected and anticipated. Before long, I had finished the book on my nightstand, read through my spiritual reading book and the one lent to me from a friend. I already love reading, but once I saw how fast I could go through books when I actually read them, it became even more addictive.
What is Your Form of Self-Care?
Self-care can take on a variety of forms. Maybe your refreshment comes from something more along the lines of what Saint Thomas Aquinas says about sorrow being “alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine.” Or maybe it’s closing your eyes and listening to a relaxing playlist (I highly recommend Debussy’s Clair de Lune).
Journaling or Letter Writing
How often do we put pen to paper these days? When we want to add bread or milk to our grocery list we don’t even need to touch our screen, we can simply ask Siri. But there is something therapeutic in actual handwriting. Huffpost wrote that handwriting can help with memory retention, speeds up physical healing, promotes positivity, and improves overall quality of life. In fact, a study done by the University of California showed that those who keep a nightly gratitude journal were found to have better overall rest!
Cooking is an art form! I do not claim to be a seasoned chef, but I have a growing love and appreciation for it. From intentional meal planning to pulling out a tender filet of salmon from the oven, I think there can be a sense of calm and joy throughout the process. Especially with bread baking! Oh the sweet satisfaction of watching a kneaded ball of dough transform into a beautifully braided and glossy Challah. Plus, there’s the added stress-reliever of punching the dough and kneading it down.
The subtlety of watercolors have the ability to make a wanting blank piece of paper into a masterpiece. I have several friends who are soothed through the peaceful process of this art form, one which can be savored in silence or accompanied with music or an audio book. I recently received the gift of watercolor pencils and have found calm through the soft blending of water and color and experimenting with different designs.
Going For a Walk
It is not news that exercise pumps up endorphins, leaving you with a spring in your step. That being said, I am writing from the Midwest where it is currently -2 degrees outside. It’s not exactly a good day for walking, and to be honest, cold weather isn’t easy for me. But come weather in the twenties and thirties, you’ll find me mustering up the courage to brave the chill, because I know it is always worth it. My daughter and I will bundle up and overcome the snowy hurdles as we change up our scenery from our four walls to the rolling hills and ponds of our neighborhood trails. Every walk we go on, I return home with the good feeling of blood pumping through my veins and renewed energy.
With the changing of the season comes a fresh and exciting opportunity to change up our rhythm of life and incorporate more rest and leisure. With leisure comes wonder, contemplation, and a greater appreciation for the goodness of God’s creation. As author Josef Pieper wrote:
When we really let our minds rest contemplatively on a rose in bud, on a child at play, on a divine mystery, we are rested and quickened as though by a dreamless sleep.
How will you care for yourself today?
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