There’s been a lot of gratitude, participation and conversations around this series and we’re so grateful for the thoughtful responses. When Emily Henderson shared a post from our series and a “thank you” on her Facebook feed, I replied with a quick comment that said, “We practice what we preach.” I wanted to re-emphasize that self-care takes practice and guts. For me, it’s like waking up on a cold morning — I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m in my warm, protected space and just want to stay there. Then, as consciousness creeps in, I remember I’m a mom and I’ve got a lunch to pack and breakfast to make. Before I made self-care a priority, these rituals took the place of any activities to nurture myself. While I’m happy to take care of my daughter in a loving and nurturing way, the day would just become a period of time with a long to-do list that would leave me exhausted when I turned in at night.
One of our favorite companies, Aveda, recently reached out to Grace and I and wanted to be a part of this series. After we pinched ourselves, we realized it was a great fit that made total sense because we essentially work with all of the same self-care ideas, Ayurvedic practices and products that their business is built on. Grace has been an Aveda fan since high school and my aunt runs two Aveda salons in Florida. When I stayed with Aunt Laura during a recent trip to Florida, my daughter peeked out from the bathroom to ask about soap for the shower. Aunt Laura smiled and told her, “We don’t use soap, honey,” and told her to use any of the Aveda products in there as “soap.” I took a peek into the shower and was in spa heaven. Of course, I left with a suitcase filled with Aveda products. We’re so happy to announce that, thanks to Aveda’s support, we’ll be continuing this series through the end of the year!
I’ve gotten good at internal care thanks to meditation and breath work, but my external body care practices were pretty much nonexistent. I grew up taking external beauty routines, makeup and even putting on lotion as a sign of vanity and privilege. The word “pamper” still makes me a little uncomfortable. As an adult, I totally realize that this reaction is just because my childhood was about survival, not enjoying things like treating yourself. Shame was pretty much running my life until five years ago. Now, I appreciate all my body does for me every. single. day.
Every morning, I do two things for myself that leave me ready for anything that comes my way during the day — cleaning cat boxes, tantrums from a 10-year-old with no Internet access, and other challenging situations. My first ritual is to sit at my table, have my coffee, and do the painting exercise from lesson one. I just work with gouache and water and make circles of color without even thinking. As I move into the bathroom/get-dressed mode, I sit in my fun green floral chair in my office and I do a skin brushing ritual with some amazing oils that leave a scent in my office that keeps me relaxed all day. After I have my coffee and have to move into the start of my day, my mind naturally starts racing, mostly in a good way, and while I’m brushing I take the time to let those thoughts race on by, but I observe them — I no longer rush to scribble them down on paper that will get lost in the pile of all of the other lists. The wonderful thing about my brushing routine (for me) is it takes time. I literally let the oils and the aromatherapy effect sink into my skin while I watch all of my thoughts drift by like clouds. It’s like letting your tea steep to that perfect flavor you only know through practice and observing the color of the tea.
If you think about our external body as connected to our health — beyond the standard practices of a healthy diet and regular exercise — our skin is our largest organ of our body and covers an area of about 20 square feet. It protects us from harmful microbes, helps regulate our body temperature, and allows us to experience the sensations of touch, heat and cold. Most of us take care of our skin in obvious hygienic ways, but treating your skin and senses to a dedicated ritual that encompasses meditation trains your brain to remember the calming effect of specific sensations.
Please join us and our new collaborator, Aveda, each Tuesday at 1 pm for some self-exploration + exercises to build good habits and instill positive self-care into your everyday routine. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work on this content side-by-side with a company that shares our values and has such a thoughtful approach to self-care and beauty.
Click through for this week’s 10-minute exercise and a special giveaway from Aveda. –Grace and Caitlin
We’ll be learning more about the specific beneficial properties of essential oils and scents next week, so you can connect this ritual with some historical and cultural context. For this week’s exercise, though, we’re simply going to focus on establishing a ritual for yourself and exploring the sense of touch. This exercise will incorporate Patience and Purpose from our previous lessons.
As an incentive to take this time for self-care, Aveda has generously offered to treat three readers to their tulasāra™ awakening ritual kits. To enter the giveaway, just leave a positive comment in the comment section and they’ll randomly pick three readers and send off the kit. I personally started out with the exercise below and moved over to the Aveda practice because it added elements of the science behind the essential oils and the aromatherapy benefits.
I just bought my first home and had to give up my semi-regular full-body massage sessions, so my massage therapist recommended some self-massage techniques beginning with the face and head. My brain was already trained from her work to know that when this scent pops up, it’s time to relax, so the aromatherapy element of this ritual was very important to me.
This act of self-care will take 10 minutes, refresh your senses and help integrate your internal self-care practice with a tactile, external one. I recommend you try this first in the morning as you move into “getting ready/dressed/bathroom” mode. It’s wonderful at night, too, but staring your day out with this ritual preps your brain to experience a healthy, protective layer between you and the stress of the day.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- a quiet place with no interruptions (Turn off your phone notifications. You can use your phone’s timer if you’d like. I do.)
- a bowl
- olive oil
Step 1: Take a seat and place the bowl — filled with two tablespoons of olive oil — nearby. Lay the towel across your lap.
Step 2: Take five deep breaths through your nose, exhaling through your mouth loud enough that you can hear it. This helps your brain “hear” the intention of releasing. That means, if you keep practicing, every time your brain hears the sound of you releasing your breath, it will slip into relaxation mode at an increasingly faster pace.
Step 3: Using your fingertips, drum lightly all around your face as you count to 30. When I say “drum,” I mean like you would do on a countertop if you were impatient :) Pay attention to any areas where you hold stress — for me it’s my jaw area.
Step 4: Flatten your palms, and lightly run your palms and fingertips of both hands over your face and neck simultaneously for two minutes. It’s helpful if you count to 60 two times. You’ll most likely feel strange, impatient or otherwise weird. That’s when you take that deep nose breath and loudly exhale through your mouth. Again, you’re telling your brain to chill out and signaling to it you’re in control.
Step 4: Dip one set of fingers into the oil. As you raise your oiled fingertips from the bowl, cup your other hand underneath it to catch any oil. Lightly drizzle the oil from your fingertips onto your other palm. Rub your hands together to warm the oil and to experience the simple sensation of touch.
Step 5: Starting at the space in between your eyes, make a heart shape motion to cover the face with the oil down to your chin. Continue to massage the oil deeply into your skin. Don’t forget to get your ears and neck. Follow any desires to stretch your jaw or neck. You’re releasing tension, so let your body react accordingly.
Step 6: As you’re massaging your face and neck, a ton of thoughts will come into your head. “This is stupid,” was one of my repeats. If this happens, literally nod your head to acknowledge the thought and then imagine it as a cloud and watch it drift away. You can even name it and silently say something like, “Oh hey, Ms. Doubt! Thanks for stopping by. See you later.” Again, it sounds silly, but you are training your brain to manage thoughts before they become emotions and feel like they are who you are, which they are not.
Note: Feel to move on to your shoulders or arms if you feel the urge or if you think it will help you pass the time until this becomes a good habit.