Self care seems to be a buzzword for women looking to find the strength to "bounce back" and re-energize themselves. No matter the circumstances, when you're on overload, fraying, swaying or just all fired up from adrenaline, most experts suggest taking some time to pamper yourself.
A little well-deserved R&R sounds easy, right? Yet if essential ingredients are missing, pampering merely skims the surface, instead of sinking into our bones with some real healing power. Essentially, it doesn't serve its purpose. And truthfully, our perception of pampering is a bit of a myth: We tend to think of it as going only skin deep. Now, indulging our senses by putting on the right shade of lipstick does work wonders. It adds color, brightens energy and puts you in touch with your body for a fleeting moment. And it is necessary, because self care is about the body. So what is the problem with calling a pedicure or a shopping spree adequate "self care"?
"Spoiling" yourself (which, by the way, is an ironic word for the act of taking care of ourselves) requires three crucial elements to be effective and have a lasting positive impact. The first element is awareness. When you apply that new shade of lipstick, are you paying attention to what it means? Or is it more of the "splash of color, splash of scent and dash out the door" mentality? Maybe you feel guilty for devoting a few extra minutes to yourself. There is an integral part of our culture that has consistently downplayed a woman's deep seated need to take care of herself.
The world of beauty is a multi million dollar industry; there are so many products made to ensure "insta-gorgeous". But there is also, frustratingly, a hugely negative message that insists a woman is shallow or self centered when she spends time taking care of herself and her appearance. And for many women, resentment has built up over the years. Why is this? As much as we say beauty is only skin deep, our society constantly rewards people for looking good — not feeling good. This is a huge conundrum that has women afraid to peek beneath their own skin, as well as simultaneously required and afraid to devote time to their appearance. Essentially, their moments of primping are devoted to pleasing, rather than for pleasure.
The act of pampering may be wrapped up to look like a luxury beyond your means (think elaborate spa days), but it is actually an essential you can't afford to go without. Unconvinced? Let me explain. Your body is your earthly container, without which you could not enjoy the pleasures of dancing, eating, hugging, or having sex. However, habitually for many women, the body serves merely an end to a means: getting thinner, fitter or being the always-willing go-to girl. There is a detrimental demand cycle that happens between you and your body. Do you take your vessel for granted? Take a baby step forward by honoring your body with a day of rest (and pampering!) when exhaustion begins to surface, rather than pushing through the refusal to be weak.
This brings us to the second essential element of true pampering.
In order to fully benefit from being pampered, you have to do something that actually connects with your personal desires. Something that hits your hot spot. A manicure may be a wonderful experience, but if it doesn't give you that inner glow, then perhaps it is time to sense your way into what does. Find your personal pamper switch and turn it on — it could be something as simple as listening when your body says "I need a drink of water", or "I feel like moving. Let's walk." Indulging does not have to come with a high dollar cost. And hey: A spa day can happen at home! Send the family out, take a bubble bath, journal or paint. Devote as much time to planning your treatment as you would to planning for your child's party. Refuse to feel guilty for it.
The ritual of self healing requires being present in your body, so you experience what is happening in the moment. This third ingredient takes pampering beyond the superficial placebo. Taking time to unwind long enough to feel what you feel, and believe you are worthy of this indulgence. This is essential, yet hard to tap into, because many of us fear that we are not good enough or that we don't deserve to have an experience that rewards us.
But here's the thing: Your body is not just a house. It holds all the wiring that makes you tick: your brain, your heart and your intuition. In order to work and function seamlessly, you need to engage your gut feeling and be good to your body and mind. When you pamper yourself and listen inward, you re-calibrate your machinery to a gentle purr.
Not sure where to start? Time to be in silence with your sensations is the most powerful kickoff you can give to yourself, by yourself. Even on an outing or spa day with girlfriends, take time to be present in your own space and needs. Avoid talking throughout the experience, as it creates a barrier that shuts up the necessary silence and introspection. Allow yourself to breathe in the experience deeply.
To experience the true benefit of treating yourself well, engage your body and all your senses. Ask yourself open ended questions like, If I had it all my way, what would I do to reward my body and soul? Be wild and adventurous in your answer! Create a personal "Treat Jar" full of indulgent ideas, and add new ones whenever the thought strikes. Every time your body asks for a little attention, pull out a wish from your jar. If the idea works within your allotted time frame and budget, use the idea. If it sounds delicious but is just beyond today's budget, spend 10 minutes visualizing yourself having that experience and expand your self worth container to know that this dream will happen when you're ready for it. Journal about it and set an intention.
Become aware of your physical needs, too. That can be enormously gratifying. Begin paying attention to your body on a whole new level. Rejoice in your physical presence, and add a practice of five minutes of gratitude daily for all the ways your body indulges and supports you. Other excellent ways to deepen your relationship include: listening to music while dancing alone, free writing and guided visualizations. Remember the song, "I Sing The Body Electric"? Take a cue from that and lean into the pull that touches you. Your body and your being deserve some freewheeling joy without guilt. What will you do to care for yourself today?
This story was provided by our content partner, YourTango, a digital media company dedicated to love and relationships. No matter what love stage our users are in — single, taken, engaged, married, starting over, or complicated — we help them live their best love lives. Written by Jen Duchene.
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