Self-care and self-nurturing are vital to our emotional balance and mental well-being. During times of stress, it’s even more important. We can’t pour from an empty cup, and we can’t drive on an empty tank. Believe me, I know. I tried, and it didn't turn out well. There’s a wealth of information these days about self-care, including lists of activities and other suggestions. How is this post different from those? What is self-nurturing? How is it different from self-care? How will knowing that distinction amplify your emotional balance and mental well-being?
What Is Self-Nurturing, and How Is It Different from Self-Care?
Self-nurturing, to me, is a mindset that includes how we view ourselves and how we treat ourselves. It’s the way we talk to ourselves, what we think of ourselves. A self-care routine is one way we self-nurture, but we can go through the motions of self-care with guilt and shame. We can go get that mani-pedi and feel unnecessarily guilty for taking the time. We can get that massage but be consumed with our body image, spending the entire time preoccupied and far from truly relaxing and caring for ourselves. Are these things really what self-care is about? Some think so, but my thoughts on the matter run much deeper.
Some people consider simple daily tasks like showering and brushing our teeth to be self-care. While that is taking care of our basic human needs, it isn’t what people normally think of as a self-care activity. Those basic tasks, though, can be performed in a very self-nurturing way depending on what’s happening in our mind and heart. Everyday activities transform into self-nurturing activities when done with gentle love, mindfully focused on the activity.
Self-care is an activity we plan and schedule. Self-nurturing is an attitude and mindset. We can perform a task of self-care and not give a thought to self-nurturing. However, self-nurturing is available to us 24 hours a day and can be infused into all our activities.
One time I saw a young girl very gently and slowly combing her hair. She glanced in the mirror, moving the comb through her hair from her crown to the ends with each stroke. It was such a gentle scene that I was captivated, and it brought warmth to my heart to observe her nurturing herself. In that moment, I reflected on the way I would rip a comb through my hair, angrily tugging at knots. I thought carefully about why I did that, and I didn’t care for the answer at all. I began to gently care for myself in a more loving way. I began to nurture myself. It was a breakthrough moment.
I began to approach other activities that way, and it helped my emotional well-being tremendously. I began to sit and each my lunch rather than grab bites on the go. Before taking my first bite, I sat for a moment of reflection, breathing and saying a meaningful prayer rather than a hurried thank-you. I sat with friends to converse.
My morning routine was also touched with nurturing. Things as simple as, when I poured my tea, listening to the water trickle into the vessel, observing the color, breathing in the aroma, feeling the warmth of the poured tea on my hands, and slowly savoring that first sip. I then began a nightly routine, and guess what? I began to sleep better too!
This was all especially helpful because things normally considered self-care weren’t in my budget. It was a benefit during 2020 to know how to self-nurture and self-care at home when businesses that would normally provide self-care services were closed.
Without a good relationship with ourselves, emotional balance and healthy, gentle boundaries are impossible. Changing our internal dialogue creates a huge shift toward emotional, mental, and even physical well-being. I know, I tried. The results were astounding.
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