Have you ever thought about what it truly feels like to give yourself space? Physical, mental, spiritual—whatever makes the most sense to you. Self-care is a term that has been thrown around for the latter part of the last decade. So much so that it sometimes feels like another trend that will just come and go. But truly showing up for yourself is a unique feeling. In the past, when I’d tell myself that I was going to do *this specific thing today because it’s good for me*, it always came with guilt and obligation. And when it didn’t happen that day, the guilt grew. It would grow and I would show up less and less for myself because I just wanted to hide from the shame of not being “mature enough” or “adult enough” to take care of myself properly.
It was as though there was this invisible set of rules built by the social construct that said:
“When you enter into your younger adult years, you HAVE to go to the gym, you HAVE to eat healthy, you HAVE to read, you HAVE to make your bed every morning, you HAVE to shower, wash your face, change your clothes, clean your room, do your laundry, etc.”
Somehow, I thought that if I did those things then I was “adulting” correctly. My problem was (and still is) that it felt like an obligation and a struggle. I wasn’t trying to do those things for MYSELF to feel good and cared for. I viewed it as an exterior expectation accompanied by pressure. And believe me, I still struggle to be consistent with these regular, everyday tasks—I mean, who doesn’t? And that realization was one I had to have: I am not this single anomaly of failure that can’t do basic human things. With nearly 8 billion people on this planet, I wasn’t (and couldn’t be) alone in this struggle.
Seeing Self-Care A Little Differently
So that leads me to my next realization. I was never going to let go of the guilt and shame and pressure without reframing my state of mind. Instead of seeing these basic tasks as chores and obligations, I decided to see them as tasks that will help me to feel good. I know that sounds so… generic. But doing things because they ultimately better your life IS showing up for yourself. These small accomplishments—like putting dishes away or even just taking the 10 water cups out of your room—are progress. In doing so, suddenly things feel less chaotic and peace can set in.
This brings me to Mental Health Month. TWLOHA asked us to take at least 20 minutes a day for one month (31 days in May) to do something that involves showing up for ourselves. One, I love a challenge so that was motivating for me, but I can really be all or nothing, which can be both good and bad. Good because it helps me stay committed to something, but if I miss a day, I have a hard time getting back on the horse. And secondly, I turn 30 this month so it felt like a good time to develop some quality habits. Basically, I needed to define what “showing up for myself” really meant.
Here’s what I came up with:
Showing up for myself means allowing a moment to celebrate my (physical, emotional, and mental) being. Showing up for myself means allowing the grace and forgiveness to be human.
My First Week of Doing the Minutes for Mental Health Challenge
Focus: Body + Heart
I spent some time during lunch tending to my plant babies and planting some strawberry seeds—I’m excited to transfer our cucumbers and zucchini babies to a big grow pot. After work, I went to the gym which helps clear my head and makes me feel good.
Focus: Mind + Community
I drove three hours to work and listened to my favorite podcast. I got to have lunch with my co-workers I hadn’t seen in a while! I love these dudes.
Focus: Mind + Body
I got very overwhelmed and just felt done with this day. At 8:45 pm, I decided I needed to decompress so I went to the gym with zero expectations and worked out for about an hour, taking my time. It felt amazing and I didn’t care if I closed my rings or not.
Focus: Mind + Heart + Community
Man, my luck was not here today. I spent so much of my day at the doctor’s office, but in between waiting I found a cute tea shop and enjoyed some boba tea. I tagged the shop on Instagram and proceeded to have an awesome conversation with their designer and left in higher spirits. Later on, I did some yoga. A word that came to mind for me: patience.
Focus: Body + Heart + Community
I did some yoga during lunch. After work, I was so excited to transfer my veggie plant babies into bigger soil beds! It’s been so rewarding watching everything grow from seeds to leafy greens. I have such a newfound appreciation for the ecosystem that exists within my garden. Later, Hazel and I went to Target, one of our favorite things to do together!
Focus: Body + Community
It was such a beautiful day out. My family and I went for a nice walk in Tarpon Springs. We saw some pretty things along the way, including baby pineapples, flowers, and my smiling pup. Also, something new, we found a geocache! Hazel signed all of our names (including our dog Luke’s).
Focus: Body + Community
I spent the day with Hazel. We got a membership at the YMCA and went swimming. It was awesome, we had the pool all to ourselves, waterslides and all! And then we grabbed some acai bowls and later did some crafts making cool glass mushrooms for the garden.
Digging A Little Deeper
As you can see, there are many tangible ways to show up for yourself. Right off the bat, most people might think: working out, taking a shower, taking a nap, doing skin care, etc. Those are great! But I believe that the deeper beauty of this opportunity is having to be completely vulnerable with yourself. It can still be terrifying, but it’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. You have to be honest with yourself, asking every single day, “How did I show up for myself today?” It’s easy to respond with, “Oh, I did this thing.” But to add to the value of this challenge, let’s dig deeper.
Truly consider any benefit you got from this moment you gave to yourself. Did you advocate for yourself? Do you feel lighter? Did you create more space for yourself? Do you feel like you smile a little more when you look in the mirror? A big piece of this is reflection.
For instance, you could tell me that you read a book as a part of your self-care. But what was it about reading that book? Did you feel transported into another world where, for just a moment, none of your stressors or responsibilities existed? Maybe you felt emotions that you haven’t felt in a while and empathized with a character. When you came out of the book, maybe you felt less heavy than when you entered.
While the “what” matters, it’s also about the “why” you chose that activity and the “how” it made you feel.
It’s a great feeling to reflect on what we’ve accomplished. I believe it’s important to do this every now and then, just to prove to ourselves that we can do it. Through the heavy and the light. I can feel the difference in all of this. I can feel it becoming habitual. It feeds my mind, body, and heart. It feels so much less of an obligation than before and more like a treat I can look forward to. I try to remember to give myself grace when I don’t set aside intentional time and focus on how I did, in fact, still do some small, yet impactful thing for myself today.