By Rachel Ruff

“This, is the beginning of loving yourself. Welcome home.” -Unknown

At the foundation of any positive energy, there is love. I believe that in order to respect the act of self-care, you must have an underlying love for yourself and your livelihood. The relationship with you and self-love is a lifelong process and journey. 

I am sure you are quite tired of the oversaturated and overwhelming discussion of the current pandemic. Like you, so am I. I am very aware of how exhausting this pandemic has been in every facet of our lives. Because of this notion, it has come to my attention how important it is to be honest with ourselves. We as a society can not be naive to the  real effects a pandemic can have on our overall health and wellbeing. The exhaustion, stress, and anxiety that this pandemic has produced comes with consequences. Maybe you no longer have access to your favorite yoga studio, or got laid off from your job so you can no longer afford therapy. Maybe you have to now work three jobs to make ends meet, which means no time for yourself. Whatever the reason may be, I can sense from the collective that we have all had to sacrifice parts of ourselves to make it through the past year. I know I sure have, and it has had lasting effects on my day-to-day mental health and also self-care routine; something very important to me. Since our world has practically turned upside down, routine in general may seem foreign to you. Many of us have lost a sense of routine and structure and possibly may miss the life you had before the pandemic. With all of that being said, it is clear our society could really utilize a little more time in the self-care department. Not to mention, we truly all DESERVE to give ourselves more grace for quite literally surviving this pandemic thus far. 

February is often referred to as the month of love and also the most unproductive month of the year. Interestingly enough, these two themes can be applied to how you can revamp, recreate, and set intentions towards a self-care routine that best serves you, your needs, and the life you want to live. It is important to preface that each individual possesses specific needs within their self-care routine. Think to yourself for a moment and take note of what you’re currently doing that relates to self-love and self-care. Are you actively incorporating self-care into your life? What does self-care look like to you? How does it show up in your life? Does it show up at all? Are you truly showing up for yourself? 

These questions may be extremely hard for you to answer. And, that is perfectly okay. Personally, I experienced a phase in my life where I completely disregarded any act of self-love or self-care. I completely let myself go. This directly translated into having a nonexistent self-care routine. I was living in auto-pilot and I was not allowing myself to be the main character in my life. As an empath, I can easily let go of myself in order to make others feel secure, loved, and seen. My empathetic heart can create a false reality to how I feel fulfilled. Yes, I am helping others and extending a helping hand to those who desperately need it in my life…but, what about me?

This realization took me years to actually process. I was existing in the name of other people’s happiness and completely forgot about mine. This realization can be very difficult for people to accept. I had to become way more gentle with how I approached myself; even with how I talked to myself in my head. Over time, I realized that self-care is not selfish. It is actually a representation of self-respect. I learned that putting yourself first is OKAY and NECESSARY for inner peace and love for yourself. Once coming to terms with this idea and also accepting it as a problem in my life, I then was able to identify the missing pieces to my self-care routine. I quickly learned that self-care can be really simple. It can look different day to day, week to week, which I find really beautiful. It is an ever changing act of service towards ourselves to better our mental health and wellbeing.

Each day can be an opportunity to take a small step into self-care. The beautiful part of the journey towards self-care is that there is no right or wrong answer. This is a very intuitive practice that can also allow you to further align yourself with your true purpose and higher power. You must have compassion for yourself along the way as well. Some days we might not have time for our entire self-care practices or rituals but even ONE of those rituals or acts of service towards yourself can be really impactful. Simply spending 5 extra minutes in the shower to listen to the rest of your favorite podcast, or burning your favorite candle while you do the dishes can make all the difference some days.

For me, (and my type A personality) I am now extremely committed to the ways in which I show up for myself. Self-care is a grounding mechanism for me and allows me space to come back to myself and show some love for the functional and strong mind, body, and soul that I possess. Routines are not for everyone, although some sort of structure to how you appraoch self-care can really be an empowering tool to acknowledge the worth you hold. Each day I allow myself the space and time to show up for myself. Whether that is meditation, journaling, cooking a yummy meal, watching a good movie, a walk alone outside, telling myself words of affirmation, cleaning my room, a nice hot bath, or whatever it may be; I always make a commitment to myself to really do a few small things each day to brighten my mood and make myself feel GOOD. Day by day, I have noticed how these small acts of kindness towards myself have collectively enhanced the way I view myself. It has allowed me to increasingly become more comfortable with unapologetically loving myself.

 I have learned that we can not expect other people to fill our cups for us; we must do it ourselves. This act of filling up our own cup each day can also enforce a sense of self-worth, which I believe is the most important aspect to self-care. We all embody a very deep and intrinsic value of worth and it is our responsibility to honor that each and every day, no matter what. Take those small steps by really listening to that inner voice and honor those needs. Here is to a month of love, self-connection, and honoring the beautiful human that you are!

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