In a far off land, the bravest of women embark on the ultimate journey- mastering the 9 types of self-care. They take minimal belongings with them and face the terrains of the land in hopes of unlocking everlasting happiness. Their mission is simple- travel to each of the 9 lands, plant a garden and tend to it until the flowers bloom. Each flower belongs to a different land and requires a type of care that only the traveler can provide. The journey is complete when the flowers have blossomed and all 9 gardens are thriving in unison.
Five years ago, I accepted my 9 seeds and I’ll admit that when I first began my self-care journey, it was daunting to think that I would have to be a high functioning adult in 9 different ways (at the same time!). Though I wasn’t born with a green thumb, my gardens have blossomed and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Today, if you decide to accept your 9 seeds, allow me to be your trusty guide to self-care.
What exactly is self-care?
Self-care means taking an active role in your well-being and happiness across multiple facets of your life and protecting them in times of high stress. Contrary to popular belief, self-care means so much more than just putting on a face mask before bed and drinking enough water. While these are great ways to contribute to self-care, living a full and healthy life takes a little more effort.
It takes time, patience and a lot of trial and error before your flowers can bloom or flourish. The process is constant and ever-evolving as you and your needs change over time. I promise there are plenty of pedicures and bubble baths along the way, but the bulk of self-care is internal. It’s a way of life that is unique to you and your definition of happiness.
This type of self-care is probably the most obvious and thanks to fitness influencers, more people than ever are taking their health seriously. Taking care of your body does wonders for your mental health and mood. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly go vegan and start cross-fit, it just means you have to be conscious of what you’re eating and get enough exercise.
On your journey, this flower is the easiest to plant and the hardest to tend. There is always the grunt work of choosing the right foods when tempted and going to the gym when your bed is so inviting. This flower will take much longer to bloom if you don’t give it the extra care it needs. In addition to diet and exercise, be sure you’re getting enough sleep, taking your vitamins and going to your doctor for regular check-ups.
This type of flower is one of the hardest to plant and tend because it requires a lot of courage. Emotional self-care means getting to the root of things that hurt you the most. It takes a lot of honesty and patience for this particular flower to blossom but it can be the most rewarding. Tending to it can mean journaling daily, being creative as a means of self-expression and even going to therapy. If not carefully tended, this flower can weaken slowly over time without losing its color and then suddenly wilt.
Emotional self-care also means dealing with those pesky intrusive thoughts. You know the ones that are overwhelmingly negative and take you down a rabbit hole? Yeah, those. This type of self-care ensures that you’re dealing with feelings of self-doubt, anger, or frustration early and not letting them overtake you. It frees up a lot more mental space and makes room for positive things to be welcomed into your life.
This flower is fickle. It needs just the right amount of attention regularly, but it takes practice to know how much is enough. Creating a strong support system of people who care about you and learning to ask for help will go a long way. This means nurturing your relationships with people you trust and who genuinely want the best for you.
For extroverts, I suggest looking at your social groups and assessing who among them benefits from your positivity and in return pours positivity back into you. Your flower will need lots of attention daily, so identify people who bring joy into your life as opposed to those who don’t. Focus on cultivating stronger bonds with those people.
For introverts, I suggest choosing one more person to add to your social circle. Your flower will need more time in the shade alone than the extrovert but will still need regular tending. Focus on those you consider acquaintances and take small steps towards getting to know them better. Press past your comfort zone and let them get to know you better as well.
I am an ambivert which means I can be the life of the party but I need to recharge my social batteries in between conversations. I had a lot of acquaintances who could have been friends but I was too comfortable being alone to allow people to get to know me. As you can imagine, that got… lonely. Before understanding this part of my personality, my flowers wilted constantly in this garden. I’m proud to say that after 5 years of self-care, I have a new best friend, a group of friends I know has my back and a much more balanced social life.
If ever there were a flower most unique, it would be this one. It is unique to every traveler that takes the journey.
Fair warning, this type of self-care comes with a lot of alone time in order to get to know yourself. This means learning about your personal interests, taking alone time for yourself and even going out somewhere alone. It’s all about being your most authentic self and growing as a person. Personal self-care is falling in love with the person you are and accepting yourself flaws and all.
You can choose to live your life how everyone else expects, but not for very long. I know from personal experience that being anyone other than yourself is exhausting and limiting. This type of self-care requires asking yourself who you are and what YOU want from life. Often times, it includes setting goals for yourself, personal reflection and asking some tough questions to ensure you progress on your path towards personal growth.
This flower if tended to regularly, can give back as much as you put in. For some, it means committing to regular prayer and more visits to religious services. For others, it means meditation and spiritual cleansing. The principle is pretty similar in most cases though. Having a connection to nature or a higher power means taking a step back and realizing how small we are. It puts things into perspective and can be very beneficial when we start to sweat the small things in life.
Having a connection to the world around us is as important as understanding our place in it. Acts of generosity can be a great way to create a connection with things outside of ourselves. Shifting your focus from your everyday life for the benefit of others can give you a sense of purpose or fulfillment. It feels good to help other people! Even if you don’t volunteer every weekend at your local animal shelter, you can still pour back into the world by helping a stranger or just complimenting someone as you pass them by. You never know how your kindness will affect someone.
This flower grows only in the harshest conditions and needs to be challenged to fully bloom. The more you feed it, the larger it grows! Intellectual self-care requires challenging yourself to learn more every day. Whether at work or home, this type of self-care can ward off feelings of stagnation and keep you out of a rut. When you go too long without being challenged, you risk becoming complacent in your current state which can kill your ambition.
Everyday ways to practice intellectual self-care are learning a new language, picking up an instrument, or doing the daily crossword. On a grander scale, this could mean learning a new skill at work to get to your next goal. The purpose is to continue progressing.
This pretty flower is picky! It requires the neatest trimming and the utmost consistency to blossom. Residential self-care is all about creating a clean and sanitary space that is unique to you. Your environment can be a pivotal factor in your productivity, and overall mood. It promotes free-flowing thought and peace of mind and when designed with purpose, the spaces you occupy most can be used to uplift you.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious, tidying your living area can make you feel calmer. Rearranging your living space can also give the feeling of a fresh start after a stressful time. Your home is your sanctuary and should make you happy when you’re in it.
If you’re not incredibly organized, like me, it can be irritating to get into the habit. I had the hardest time learning to master this, and to this day it still takes me weeks to put away my laundry. But when I was particularly down, I took the time to organize my room. I threw out my blackout curtains in exchange for bright pink ones that let the sun in. I also filled my walls with inspiring quotes and put a diffuser with lavender oil next to my bed to help me sleep. Sometimes creating your own safe haven is what you need to ease the pressure of everyday life.
This is the flower most easily wilted on your journey because many people are misguided on how to treat it. I’ll the Grinch this Christmas and say that adulting and paying bills are the best gifts to yourself. I cringe every time I see a post about a reckless shopping spree as a form of self-care. This advice is given with good intentions, but masking fiscal irresponsibility as self-care can be dangerous.
Spending a lot of money recklessly can be a sign that there’s something else you’re not dealing with. If this flower is weakening, it’s a good sign your violets are wilting in the emotional self-care garden. It could mean that there is a greater sign you’re no acknowledging. maybe you’re stressed out and need a break, or maybe your over-spending to fill a void.
I know from personal experience that not having a budget can cause more stress than its worth in the long run. If you want to treat yourself, budget some guilt-free money aside to splurge. You won’t always stick to your budget down to the cent and that’s okay. But there’s nothing like spending guilt-free money with the peace of mind of knowing your bills are paid!
The last flower is seldom planted successfully. We live in a world where the “hustle mentality” is everything and most adults experience guilt when they’re not being productive. We have all had a job at some point that we hate but still stick with because we have greater goals in mind. Or maybe you’ve had a job you love that’s sucking the life out of you. Regardless, many are proud workaholics sacrificing their mental and physical health to constantly be available.
Hi, my name is Haven and I’m a recovering workaholic. The last job I had was my absolute favorite! I was one of the best and I constantly earned recognition and praise on a corporate level. I was also burned out, stressed, and sickly because my job was so demanding. It was addicting being so successful and I learned the hard way that neglecting my body and mental health for my job came with a hefty price.
Professional self-care is one of the hardest types of self-care to practice when everyone competes for that next big promotion. Sacrificing time with your family, your health and your mental peace will begin to have a toll on you that you may not be able to come back from.
Setting strong boundaries at work and practicing other types of self-care will help with work-life balance. This means taking time off when you’re sick, taking mental health days when you need them, and learning to leave your work AT WORK.
Protect your days off and time away from your work just as you would any meeting or project. Be sure you are unplugging and taking the proper time to recharge. You may have to do so kicking and screaming but, trust me, it’s for your own good.
Tips for success!
- Be Consistent: One of the keys to having all of your gardens thrive at the same time is consistency. Tending to your needs regularly will help keep you balanced and make it more difficult for life to bring you down. It will also help you identify when there’s a need for change. If there is a stretch of time where you feel anxious, overwhelmed or even depressed, it’s safe to bet that one of the gardens you planted is suffering. I have a personal checklist I run through to make sure I’m not neglecting myself in any way.
- Adapt: Differences in background, personality, and needs affect how each person practices self-care. Adapting to your ever-changing needs is vital to your success as well. The process can be long and sometimes frustrating. Along the way, some flowers may wilt, but eventually, you will find the right balance.
- Know Yourself: Self-awareness is at the center of long-lasting self-care. You have to get to know yourself and your definition of happiness. Be honest with yourself when something is not working for you.
- Commit to putting yourself first: Self-care can sometimes end up being last on the list of priorities. It’s a busy world and it seems like the to-do list gets longer each day. Don’t fall into the trap of putting off your well-being. Commit to taking care of yourself so you can tackle each day with confidence. Don’t have time? Make time!
Self-care is hard. It takes discipline, patience, self-love, and many years of practice. But In the end, it’s worth the effort and even a recovering pessimist like me can plant an entire garden!
I am happy to have been your guide. Now it’s time to put in the work. If you found this helpful, share it with a friend to invite them on the journey!