Cultivating Habits of Self Care

Personally, I’ve never been that into the whole notion of “self care”, which has become such a big buzzword in many circles over the last few years. Sometimes I feel that people use this concept as an excuse to be a bit selfish with their time or other resources. However, over the past year, I unintentionally began to develop my own daily ritual of “self care,” and despite my skepticism, I have to admit that this habit has had an enormous positive impact on my life. So, what is this daily practice of self-care that has made such a difference for me? Why, afternoon tea, of course!

I’ve always been a big tea-drinker, but for most of my life, I approached tea-drinking as something that simply accompanied whatever task I was already doing; I drank tea at my desk at work or while I was in the studio. But as I began to get to know my British mother-in-law better, I was struck by her daily observance of “afternoon teatime.”

This ritual was not just about making and drinking tea (always black tea, often accompanied by some type of sweet snack), it was also a chance for my mother-in-law to stop whatever she was doing (probably gardening or painting in her studio) and to slow down. It was a time to pause, however briefly, and maybe read a book or watch a bit of TV. At first, this ritual felt so foreign to me in our current “hustle” culture where we feel the pressure of constantly being on the go. It also felt almost extravagantly self-indulgent—could I really carve 30 minutes or an hour out of my busy day to just RELAX?? Surely not.

But somehow, little by little, I began to adopt this practice for myself, until it has become so much a part of my day, that it now feels almost “non-negotiable”. Of course, I don’t necessarily get to stop whatever I am doing in the middle of the afternoon in order to have my teatime, so for me, “afternoon tea” usually takes place in the early evening around 5pm, after I’m home from work. As soon as I get home, I make myself a small pot of black tea, usually Earl Grey or some type of flavored black tea, which I purchase from my local British tea shop, Taste of Britain). I always serve my tea with a little milk and sugar, also usually accompanied by a piece of chocolate, and I use this time to read a book or journal (although occasionally I will indulge in a little TV-watching!).

What has truly astounded me however is how much this small daily ritual has changed the entire outlook of my day. I look forward to it from the moment I wake up in the morning, and no matter how stressful or frustrating my day has been, I find that this brief time of “slowing down” enables me to relax and reset before the evening. My stress level has gone down dramatically, my overall mood has improved, and my husband is eternally grateful that I discovered this little routine, because I am able to be more truly “present” for him in the evenings.

In our culture which is admittedly obsessed with “striving” and where we are encouraged to find our self-worth through our work, status, or number of social media followers, I would invite you to think about what ways you might “slow down” during your busy day to take a few moments for yourself. At first, it might feel selfish, but if taking better care of yourself enables you to function better, then ultimately you can serve others better. I love this quote by Anne Lamott, which I think pretty much sums it all up: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

So, for those of you who already do this, what are your favorite habits of self care? I’d love to hear them, so please take a moment and leave a comment below!