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Perhaps Self-Care Is Truly About Simplifying our Lives?

Mindfulness educator Celia Landman reveals how to get creative and find ways to prioritize self-care. And perhaps, the solution lies in simplifying our lives.

Taking time to get a manicure or a massage, treating yourself to a spa day, buying a new outfit, or splurging on some indulgent scented candle or expensive moisturizer are all falling under the title of “self-care.” A cucumber mask for your tween and a mini-bottle set of cologne were among the examples of “correct usage of self-care in a sentence,” according to the online Merriam-Webster. But are we mistaking consumption and style for actual care?

Photo: Celia Landman | Courtesy
Photo: Celia Landman | Courtesy

When I left my job, this fall after finding myself experiencing increasing anxiety and agitation, a friend said, “Congratulations on prioritizing self-care.” And I saw that my self-care was as much about what I wanted to include as what I didn’t.

For the last few years, as January has rolled around, I’ve wanted more simplicity and calm in my life. I’ve worked to educate myself to take classes and heal my broken places so I could be a better parent, partner, and contribute to this world that needs so much repair. I thought that if I did more and more to become enough then I would be wise enough to create a life with that elusive simplicity and calm.

Generosity and contribution were priorities for me. I wanted to experience the joy of giving, so I gave my time. I offered free classes in communication. I showed up each week to facilitate a mediation group online. I went to work with dysregulated teens and offered what they were willing to receive. I went on retreats, learned more, consumed more, and all this was in the name of self-care.

This world is a noisy place with lots of asks. When I believe that I need to pick up all the educational opportunities available and continue to self-improve, I can do violence to myself. I forget, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “You are Enough.” What I realized was that no one was going to give me this simplicity and this peace, except myself.


Radical and nourishing acts of self-care

Saying “no” to doing is a radical act of self-care. Making boundaries and limits, and prioritizing my capacity, especially during the holidays, especially as a parent, have a profound impact on my life and the life of my family.

For self-care to be meaningful, it needs to align with what is really important to us. We start to have authentic, meaningful self-care when we look into ourselves.

Follow these steps for creating more nourishing self-care:


1. Be honest with yourself.

Take a moment to think about what you’re really longing for. Is it rest, gentleness, understanding, or a break from the demands of responding to emails and improving yourself? Is it soothing touch or warmth?


2. Find a method of care delivery.

What would be something that nurtured those needs in your life? Is it a nap, someone to listen to you, competent help, time in nature, or a massage?


3. Ask, ask, ask.

Speak out about what would create more care for you. Ask for help, for a break. Let someone know you’re struggling and you need some support, or you’re tired and can’t meet a deadline. Say what’s true for you. This ability gives us agency and can move us from complaining and helplessness into taking action to get what we need more reliably.


4. Bring flexibility to your care plans.

If what you’re thinking of isn’t available, what else would support caring for you? If you can’t take a nap, could you take a walk? Or close your eyes for 10 minutes and listen to music. What else would support you? If you can’t get away for a weekend, can you text a friend and ask them if you can call and talk for a few minutes if you’re going to snap?


Realize that in this world we have lots of ways to care for ourselves. Get creative and find ways to prioritize self-care without setting foot into a salon or buying something. Maybe the solution lies in simplifying our lives.


Celia Landman, MA, is a mindfulness educator offering support to teens and adults. She draws from experiences working with those impacted by trauma, addiction, and anxiety, and creates customized meditation, visualizations, and trainings to reconnect them to their wholeness. She was ordained by Thich Nhat Hahn as a member of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. She is also a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Her new book, When the Whole World Tips: Parenting through Crisis with Mindfulness and Balance (Parallax Press, Nov. 21, 2023), describes how to find balance while navigating seemingly impossible parenting situations. Learn more at celialandman.com.


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