By Chivalries as tiny,
A Blossom, or a Book,
The seeds of smiles are planted –
Which blossom in the dark.
Written in the fall of 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. I copied this one down and had it hanging it my apartment for a while – it’s a sweet bit of encouragement to be kind. An affirmation that the slightest action does make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem to in the moment. A reminder that people remember how you make them feel over what your wearing or how your hair looks.
As Annie sang in the musical I watched as a kid – “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
Establishing self-care practices can be difficult. Maybe you’ve moved and have to change your habits, or maybe you’re taking the beginning of a new year as a chance to start being kind to yourself – whatever your reason, you’re onto something great. Caring for yourself is always a good idea, so congrats on making such a wise choice. Now – where to begin?
In a society that shuffles us around from one thing to the next, always telling us – women especially – how to care for other people instead of for ourselves, it can be hard to know what self-care would even be. Think of times in your life that you’ve felt most calm. What were you doing? Where were you? Chances are your cell phone was nowhere near you, maybe you were at a spa or on a beach, maybe you were curled up with a good book or going for a drive. Flip through your rolodex of good memories, and grab onto as many as you can. Now, how can you recreate those as a part of your regular life?
You don’t have to go on vacay or be miles away from your real life to feel relaxed. It can happen in the comfort of your own home, on a yoga mat, in a bath tub – anywhere. It’s an internal thing. Here’s a list of my go-tos:
Take a bath – any time I get to lay down, I feel relaxed. And there’s something about getting clean, really taking the time to lay out and scrub your body, appreciating every little finger and freckle. When I had a bathtub I would always use bath tea – a blend of herbs that you steep yourself in. It’s great for your muscles and the aroma is oh-so-relaxing. Try chamomile, peppermint, marshmallow leaf, rose hip, lavender – really any blend you fancy. I don’t have a bathtub anymore here in China, so I’m scrambling for alternatives – I’m looking for a good masseuse.
Draw/paint a picture. I love to put on some music, take a paintbrush or a pen, and just go for it. It’s a blissful state of flow when you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing but, at the same time, it’s all consuming. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an artist or not, just making shapes and seeing what comes out is freeing and therapeutic – what it looks like doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re doing it.
Drink a cup of tea. The ritual of boiling water, spooning out your tea leaves, letting them steep, and then holding a warm cup is so cozy and comforting. It forces you to slow down and move in tea time, and the health benefits of tea are myriad. As my former employer, tea from Ku Cha is my favorite – their Ginger Puerh is great for detoxing the body, Vanilla Rooibos is like a warm, creamy hug, and all the herbal blends are A1.
My mind is sometimes too active, and writing helps me untangle all my thoughts, sorting through feelings and realizations so I can make sense of it all. Journaling is the first step and then, who knows, once you’ve sorted through the first level you might try other forms.
Buy yourself some flowers. Yesterday on my way home from work I passed a beautiful flower shop and could not stop myself from going in. I was thrilled to leave with two gorgeous flowers for the equivalent of a single American dollar. I know flowers aren’t this cheap everywhere, but, if you can get your hands on even one, it’s like bringing a ray of sunshine into your home. And every time you look at it, you smile, remembering that you bought it for yourself – it’s like a little love note, a little celebration of who you are.
Take a deep breath. One is never enough for me, so I like to meditate or do yoga. These things keep me calm, intentional, and in touch – with my body, my life, the world, with everything.
Read a book. A nice little escape from reality.
Take a walk. Getting the body moving is always a good way to go, and if you let yourself take your time, just wander around, you never know what you’ll stumble on.
Smile. Instant gratification.
Look in the mirror and say, “I love you. You’re beautiful.” It might feel silly at first, but, I swear, it works wonders.
Take yourself out to dinner. Notice it’s not the eating that is the self-care here, it’s the act of taking yourself out. Maybe you go see a play or a concert – whatever. It’s fun to get dressed up, leave the house, and enjoy something nice.
Play a musical instrument. I go for the piano, and every time I sit down I feel so calmly empty after I play. Like I just left all my emotions in the music. It’s a beautiful thing. Here I don’t have a piano, but there’s a street of music stores behind my apartment, and I stop in and play their pianos when I have a craving.
Cook or bake. Maybe it’s from working in a kitchen or baking a lot growing up, but I find these so relaxing. Something about chopping vegetables or stirring up some batter calms me down.