It has taken me a long time but I have come to learn that I need to take care of myself. Seems like a fairly simple concept, right? Well it has taken me nearly thirty years to internalize the concept and put it into practice.
What inspired this change in thinking?
It’s fairly simple, really. I wasn’t feeling so great then I made some changes and started feeling much better.
Here are just some of the ways I’m taking care of me:
Go to the Gym
A few years ago I went to the doctor. Some blood work was done, the results weren’t great, and I had a wake up call. So, I started eating better and working out. Three years later I try to make it to the gym 5 – 6 times a week. What started out as a fight for my life turned into a sacred time to work on my physical and mental well being. My body feels great when I make time to go to the gym, my mind feels even better; I am able to think clearer, identify my feelings better, and I find that I am bubbling with a ton of creative energy. The gym was once a chore, now it’s a necessity that I am over the moon about.
I’ve loved to read ever since I can remember. I studied English in college where it was my job to read. Nowadays life is busy and I make excuses not to read. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I feel like I have a million and one other things to do. Recently, I’ve made it a point to read (at least) thirty pages a day. It’s literally on my daily “To Do” list. This means I have to set aside time to sit and be quiet and clear my head and focus on the words in front of me. This “task” has forced me to take a full lunch hour at work, whereas before I might have worked through lunch or taken a shorter lunch in honor of wanting to plow through the day. This bullet point has forced me to set time aside before bed, curl up on my mustard wingback chair, and quiet my mind before bed. I put it on a list to ensure it gets done because I know it’s what I want and need. It makes me happier, it makes me a better writer, it just makes me better.
Loving My Hair and Skin
Ok, so this is embarrassing…I never really used to take care of my hair or skin. I know, I know, some of you are cringing right now. I am cringing right now. I grew up with curly hair that no one seemed to know what to do with, myself included. I had three hairstyles: use a can of hairspray to attain crunchy “curls”, straighten the life out of it, or slick it back into a bun. I never made it a huge point to do anything to my face other than wash my makeup off…sometimes. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to curly hair products. I tried them and saw my hair transform. It was dead and sad and NOT curly and it slowly came back to life. Not too long ago, I switched from a bigger name curly brand to Rizo’s Curls which has taken my hair to the next level, something I never thought possible. I shampoo, condition, “brush” with my fingers, let my hair air dry a bit, then gently add styling product. When it comes to my face, I’ve started to enjoy taking my time with my skin thanks to Brujita Skincare. I end my day by removing my makeup with great care, cleansing my face with one of their phenomenal scrubs, and moisturize with Crema. Twice a week, I use their Conviction mask. With both practices, I am taking care of my outward appearance but I never realized how important both were for my inner appearance. My hair and skin require care and time and when I go through the motions, it’s almost like a calming ritual. I am taking care of me. I am spending quiet time with my thoughts while being gentle with my physical self. What started out as wanting to improve the health of my hair and skin has made me more patient with the parts of me no one sees.
I know I’m in a funk when I cannot write a single word. Oftentimes I get into a funk partly because I haven’t taken the time to write a single word. Writing frees me of the things I subconsciously hang onto even if I’m not writing about those things. The act of allowing the words to enter my mind and then making the conscious effort to put them on paper is enough. Stephen King told me (through his book On Writing, if only I could talk to him IRL) I should try to write every day. I’m trying to but I’ve also allowed myself some grace. Instead of having a daily writing goal, I set a weekly page goal. This ensures that I find time during the week to spend precious minutes with either the blog, the novel, or any of the other little side projects my active mind concocts. I work out my body because it needs it, I read because my mind wants to be entertained and challenged, I take care of my outward appearance because it makes me feel good on the inside, I write because while my mind needs to be fed, it also needs to release. What a disservice it is to a flourishing mind to say: “Hey, these thoughts you want to release, not today. There’s no time for that.” Stifling my mind stifles every other part of me so I make time to let it run wild and free.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? If you know me, you’re probably thinking I feel quite a bit. I am an emotional and passionate person, I always have been. Yes, I cry during commercials or movies. Yes, I am quickly irritated by certain things. However, I’m learning that I’m not so great at allowing myself to feel real things. Lately I’ve discovered that when I feel myself wanting to cry over something I’ve been dealing with, I suppress it; I think: you should be over this already…except, I’m not. I am trying to make it a point to allow myself to feel whatever it is I need to feel, whether it’s sadness or anger or happiness. I just need to ride the wave. I truly believe that feeling honestly will promote even better emotional health and that thing I want to get over, maybe I’ll get through it in a much more healthy way. This is the one that is probably the hardest for me, but I’m working on it.
At the core I’ve learned that taking care of myself means making myself a priority. By doing some/all of the things I’ve listed above I’m saying: You’re worth it; I value you.
Is there anything better?