How do you “self-care”?
Well, the first thing you need to know is “What IS self-care anyway? According to the Googles, it is “doing something that helps your body, mind or soul feel good”.
Oh god, this brings up visions of a bubble bath in a claw-footed tub, a meditation on an Indian-patterned pillow in a sunlit studio, yoga on an open patio overlooking the ocean, and long walks in an old-growth forest. So hippy-dippy, so self-indulgent and unrealistic.
Now, the other day, I was walking on a cool morning along a country road. The road was lined with dandelions. Millions and billions of dandelions. I know Evie and Stella (my Golden Retriever walking companions) thought I was crazy as I slowed down and began to take pictures. Then I reached down to one random flower/weed and plucked it. And you know what we used to do as kids? We would rub the flower under our chin and ask…”Do I like butter?”
If there was yellow pollen on your neck, you did.
Weird. I know, but I did it anyway and the memory was old and sweet, and silly.
That stopping…pausing…and enjoying…I think that’s what is at the heart of self-care.
Sometimes it’s helpful to look at a difficult concept from the angle of–what is the opposite. Self-care is NOT the same as buffering. Now, buffering (emotional buffering) is when you numb your feelings through something like food, shopping, or alcohol. For me, eating a whole bag of Crunchy Cheetos, Netflix marathons, endless TikTok scrolling, and multiple Gin and Tonics are buffering–NOT self-care
So, why do I do this buffering? Because I am living life on autopilot and the plane is not going in the direction that satisfies my soul.
I feel the need to buffer when I’m trying to not FEEL…something. Usually, that something is boredom, tiredness, frustration, worry, or anxiety. I don’t like these feelings. They make me want to eat cinnamon toast (6 slices of toast) or butter pecan ice cream (a pint of butter pecan ice cream. The chewing, the swallowing, the sugar, and the carbs temporarily dull those uncomfortable vibrations.
But then, soon enough, I’ve added self-loathing and depression to the list. (Not a really effective strategy to take care of one’s self–if you ask me.)
Healthy and Grounded
Instead, I think the beginning of self-care is a willingness to identify, and then sit with your feelings, even uncomfortable ones. Maybe I will take care of myself, and feel some uncomfortable vibrations in my body as I take a walk around the block with Stella and Evie. Or, maybe I’ll spend some time getting outside of my own head and getting a more objective perspective by meditating or writing in a lounge chair on the patio. Or, perhaps a “sound bath” with lots of deep breathing is needed as I lay snuggled up under my duvet in bed at 2:00 in the afternoon.
Whatever the self-care experience I choose, at the heart of the practice is an acknowledgment of the feelings that I’m feeling.
It’s only then that I can truly take care of myself and move forward in a way that is full, healthy, and grounded.
So stop, pick a pretty dandelion today. Admire the beautiful yellowness of the flower.
Blow the seeds and make a wish. Rub the blossom under your chin…and then take a couple of big, deep breaths.
Your body and soul will appreciate the soothing, calming process.
Whether you like butter…