When Viv asked me to contribute a segment on self-care, my mind floated away to the land of lofty ideas, like taking a vacation, going on a fancy dinner date, etc. The more I thought, the more I realized that self-care is really a daily act of self-love. It is present in everything we do and in everything we think. I believe that it is actually a mindset. We need love to survive, and with it, we not only survive, we thrive! If we make self-love and self-care a priority each and every day, we have the potential to feel our wholeness and give to both ourselves and others in meaningful, healthy, and nurturing ways.
Self-love is directly tied to self-care and the finding of happiness. I do want to point out that we shouldn’t confuse the act of self-care with being selfish, as there is a distinct difference between the two. I believe that we as a people are evolving and have come a long way in our thinking about this, however, the notion that self-care is selfish still very much exists in our culture. How many times have women (especially caregivers) heard, “Who does she think she is?” or “She’s so selfish putting her needs before her family.” etc. – sometimes we may even hear those words in our own head – socialization is a powerful thing. The distinct difference is that selfish behavior is something done at the expense of others and is hurtful to others. Self-love involves consideration of both the person herself and the people she loves – there is a balance there. Living a life is about giving to oneself and to others. If we don’t give to ourselves, how else can we expect to grow and learn and feel whole? How else can we expect to give to others?
So, let’s get happy! Here are a few things that I try to do in practicing the art of self-love and self-care. I’m actually excited about sharing these ideas with you, as they will make a great list for me to adhere to daily, especially on those days when I don’t feel good or strong inside.
Do what you love and share it
When we are doing what we love, we are doing what we are meant to be doing here on this earth, and part of doing what we love should involve sharing it, to bring something positive and good to others. This kind of sharing can multiply exponentially and have far-reaching, positive outcomes that you are not even aware of. For me, I need to create something each and every day. If I don’t, I start to feel ‘off’, antsy, and sometimes even depressed. I create in the form of photography, digital art, posting to my blog, writing, creating online Photoshop classes, gardening, cooking and baking, playing my flute, and making crafts. I enjoy sharing through outlets like my online Photoshop classes, authoring books, taking photographs for families, feeding my family, and teaching art classes through my children’s school enrichment program.
Delight in simple indulgences
It’s very important to pamper yourself – you know, Calgon baths, rich chocolate take-me-aways and all. For sure! So, what are your little pleasures? Here are some of mine:
chocolate stash, Jamaica Me Crazy coffee, tea made from my very own dried herbs, taking a different route home, The Nate Berkus Show (love his energy and the way he gives and interacts with people), cuddling with the family (including the cat), sitting in front of the woodstove watching the fire (during wintry months of course), listening to my playlists on Spotify, scented candles, sipping wine, enjoying the photography of Sarah Moon, and blog surfing – there are way too many blogs I adore to name here, but just to give you a taste:
Transform routines into something special
Day-in, day-out routines and chores are a part of everyday life, so why not turn them into something that you look forward to as opposed to something that you dislike or even dread. Here are a few things I do to get through the daily grind with a smile smeared across my face:
- Cleaning up after dinner has become a regular American Bandstand around here. For those of you who don’t remember that show hosted by Dick Clark, let me fill you in. Dance like you are on your own little stage in the air!:) Sing, twirl, and git down while you all clear the table and wash them dishes.
- Cook and eat what you love! I especially enjoy making dishes with food that we have preserved from our garden’s harvest – they are like golden tastes of summer during the sometimes harsh Maine winter. Here is a link to one of my latest culinary creations.
- Take a shower with your favorite bar of scented soap. I love Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap!
- Pick up a small treat for yourself while doing the regular grocery shop – perhaps gift yourself with some flowers. I am quite satisfied by a couple milk-chocolate Lindt balls which are conveniently available at the check-out.
Relax your body
What do you do to relax? It’s important to incorporate a form(s) of relaxation into your daily life, for both the sake of your emotional state and your physical health. Here are a few things that I do:
- Hand-sew simple projects
- Take a walk – fortunately I have the Maine woods right outside my door, so this makes for invigorating, soul-soothing trips through the forest, as well as opportunities for nature and landscape photography.
- Massage. Either go get one, or have your partner give it to you (there are excellent books and online resources – Youtube is a great place to check out).
- Aromatherapy. It can be as simple as a scented candle or infused hot bath.
Mind/ body/spirit connections are strong, and having a healthy body can foster both a healthy mind and spirit.
- We try to drink lots of water and eat plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains in our home, choosing local organic vegetables whenever possible (we have our own garden and both summer and winter farm shares). We use healthy cooking oils like olive, canola, safflower, and coconut oils and follow a Mediterranean-style diet where we eat either fish or chicken about once a week, pork on occasion, and red meat a few times a year. We definitely indulge in heavier meals and desserts now and then – everything in moderation, right?
- Exercise. I get tired of the studies that show exercise is only beneficial if you do it X amount of times each week for X amount of minutes each time. These goals are often unattainable for your average person, who does not have that kind of time. I believe it is more important to do 10 minutes a day than nothing at all. Those 10 minutes will have you coming back for more and before you know it, you will be making it a priority to exercise more because it feels so good both physically and mentally. Although my family has a membership to our local Y, we have been finding ways to exercise more at home, in a way that naturally integrates with our lifestyle. My husband purchased some resistance bands that are great for doing strengthening and toning exercises together (plus you can make lots of jokes while you use them – just try and see:). Doing Just Dance for the Wii system with our kids is a nice cardio workout, plus we have fun family time together doing it! Although I don’t take yoga classes anymore, I enjoy practicing what I have learned at home on my mat. And, there is always a hike through the woods ready to be had.
If I am feeling depressed, the best thing I can do is get up off my tush and make an effort to help someone in need. Giving is an amazing cure for the blues and makes you feel so, so good inside. Some things I enjoy doing to get that high that only comes from giving:
- Teaching art classes to kids through a school enrichment/volunteer program
- Volunteering in my children’s classrooms
- Reading to small groups of kids during their school lunchtime
- Visiting people in my community that may be lonely or in need of some connection and caring – I brought small gifts to these friends during the holidays to let them know that someone was thinking of them, loves them, and cares.
A few more ideas on self-care:
- Make time to connect with loved ones – family and/or friends. Make sure these are healthy connections – if someone makes you feel anything less than your best self, or brings out sides of you that you don’t like, try to focus instead on relationships with people that make you feel and connect with your very best self.
- Practice positive self-talk and self-thoughts (this is HUGE). Replace negative self-talk with a positive, weed out/throw away anything that makes you feel ‘less than’, put sticky notes around the house that profess your deep love for yourself, etc. – you get my point – do what works for you.
- Have at least a few minutes of quiet/alone time with yourself each day.
- Have fun!
Bio: Susan Tuttle is a photographer, digital artist, author, and online Photoshop instructor living in rural Maine with her husband and two young children. She is the author of the books Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art with Adobe® Photoshop® Elements (North Light Books, April 2010) and Exhibition 36: Mixed-Media Demonstrations and Explorations (North Light Books, November, 2008). She teaches online digital art and photo manipulation classes with Photoshop and is currently working on her third book, Snap, Click, Create: Creative Photography With Adobe Photoshop Elements and Mixed-Media Techniques, co-authored with photographer and mixed-media artist Chrysti Hydeck http://chrysti.squarespace.com/always-chrysti/, to be released in October, 2012.
NEWS: Susan is giving a brand new online workshop:Replicating Toy Camera + Film Processing Effects With Photoshop – Polaroid, Pinhole, Diana, Fish Eye, Silver Gelatin, Cross Processing, Holga, Expired Polaroid Film, Light Leaks, and Double Exposure