I'll admit, I used to be a "self-care" skeptic. I'd hear the girls outside of an exercise class in their "namastay" tanks and Lululemon leggings chatting about how desperately they needed a "self-care" day, and I'd chuckle to myself thinking, how cliche LA.
At the time, I was overstressed all the time-- constantly thinking about what I had to do at work; what emails needed to be respond to; what was left on the "to-do" list. Old bosses can testify to my OCD organization and detailed note taking. I never took a moment to breathe, let alone, invite the idea of it. Unstructured alone time terrified me. I had to be doing something 24/7/365.
It wasn't like I was curing cancer, but I took myself that seriously. My work was important. A decline in ROI's would send me into a tailspin. I dreamt in excel spreadsheet language, actually doing math in my sleep.
Basically, the thing I mocked was the thing I needed most-- some chill out "me" time.
Now that I'm in school working towards being involved in preventative medicine, I laugh at the thought of my former judgemental self who was clearly on a path towards future health problems.
Self-care isn't just hashtag material, although the frequency of its use these days does make it feel more and more like a punchline. It's a buzzword as much as it is a truly valuable and healthy habit to employ.
I'm trying to move away from calling it "self-care" for this reason. To me, it's more of a recentering/self-connection.
I truly believe that the more connected we are with ourselves, the healthier and happier we can be overall.
This has never been truer for me than during pregnancy. I know my body really well. I know when things are off and I don't ignore the signs. I know when I need some TLC, a warm bath and to take a step back and chill out.
This past Saturday, I indulged in just that. The husband is out of town at a bachelor party, so I treated myself to a day of self-connection.
I started the morning with a delicious and nutritious breakfast of sunnyside up eggs on gluten-free toast with a generous slather of grass-fed butter, as well as blueberries (to get those antioxidants in). Then I took a rejuvenating Soul Cycle class, ordered a fiber, fat, protein and fruit smoothie afterward with unsweetened acai, 1/2 banana, hemp protein, chia seeds, cacao chips, peanut butter and almond milk.
My husband made a spa appointment for me prior to leaving town (he is very thoughtful and sweet to me), so I headed straight to Burke Williams where I enjoyed a pregnancy massage, facial and bath. I spent the entire afternoon in a state of zen. No cell phone. No distractions. Just me, myself and I...and the lovely ladies helping a sister out. It was just what I needed (especially with the onset of lower back pains from the extra weight in my belly).
I snacked on fresh fruit and drank copious amounts of water all afternoon-- noticing how nourished and hydrated I felt.
I then met up with a friend and her boyfriend for dinner at Cafe Gratitude, where I inhaled a vegan bowl and smoothie over a lovely and long overdue chat, and went to bed feeling so at peace and grateful.
I think that's the real value in taking time to disconnect and reconnect with ourselves. Whether it's going for a long walk, cooking a healthy meal, or listening to a meditation app-- there are so many things we can do to connect. While a spa day is certainly at the top of my list, it's a luxury. In my everyday life, it is more of an effort to seek out moments to stop moving, but if I didn't do it, I would still be the overstressed lady, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders while mocking everything good for me.
You aren't the only person that benefits from self-connection. Everyone around you does, because gratitude and peace radiate outward. They're infectious. People take notice and gravitate towards the positive energy.
I receive more messages of gratitude at this stage of my life than I ever did in my previous, over-extended existence; more positive notes about my character and the value I add to others' lives. I make it a priority to think about others, but only after my own needs have been met. This allows me to be more present with no agenda or expectations.
Don't get me wrong, I have moments that I need a listening ear, too. But there are specific people who fulfill this for me. I don't rely on the world to meet my emotional needs because they are met.
Self-connection doesn't require an overpriced "but first, adaptogens" tank. It doesn't need $100 yoga pants or a vast assortment of crystals and sage. These things work for some people. I'm certainly not one. Self-connection requires one thing: your attention. That's it.
Tuning in to how you feel, what you need, what's going on with your body and spirit...this can make such a huge difference.
Self-connection keeps me from being consumed by the material world. It forces me to redefine my values, address my weaknesses, improve my strengths, and communicate my needs to the people who need to hear them; especially myself.
Self-connection stops me from making choices that don't serve me, and might actually hinder my health and wellbeing (this includes people who don't add value to my life). It forces me to be real with myself so that I can present an authentic person to the world.
I have no shame. I have no skeletons. I have no fear of being anything less than who I am.
I set healthy boundaries and decide what I want to take on and who I choose to engage with. I'm able to do this because I take the time to connect with myself, rather than fill my life with a million things that distract me from truly being happy and at peace. Even when life gets tough or stressful.
The result is, I'm not available to everyone. I can't make every social event or be the same friend to every person. I don't simply accept what people offer me for their benefit-- even if their intentions are nice and genuine. I don't feel the need to respond to every message that passes my inbox or hit "reply" immediately to the ones I do respond to. As my husband puts it best: "an email, text or phone call is an invitation to a conversation I can choose to join or decline."
Self-connection has given me the greatest power money and job titles can't buy-- control. I mean, real control. Not perfection or wealth or intangible, temporary things. I'm talking about the kind other people and the world can't take from you.
You have the power to be your biggest roadblock or greatest achievement.
The choice is up to you. And it's a daily choice.