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The whole airline safety rule applies in everyday life: put your oxygen mask on before aiding another. 

Wellness is a ripple: the better we take care of ourselves, the better we take care of our friends and family. But for some reason, we bring our cars in for maintenance every couple of months and forget to do it for ourselves. During my 15 years of practice I’ve been reminding my massage therapy clients to plan routine maintenance for themselves, but it’s still hard for me to practice personally. I’m a 43-year-old new mom with a baby born during the pandemic. My fuse is often short and my ability to plan ahead for myself is often limited to the needs of my daughter. 

Why is this so hard to invest time and money into self-care for ourselves? According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the leading psychologist in her field, it all boils down to self-compassion. Real self-care requires us to not only recognize and accept our imperfections, but also do something to improve ourselves. Research shows that self-compassion reduces negative psychological symptoms that result from stressful situations. That could look like getting some exercise, napping, eating well, calling a friend, not calling a friend, or getting our nails done. 

In her book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Kristin Neff says, “If you are continually judging and criticizing yourself while trying to be kind to others, you are drawing artificial boundaries and distinctions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation.” This is especially apropos as we emerge from a pandemic where most of us have felt isolated or lonely at some point. 

For me lately, self-compassion has looked like giving myself some grace for how I feel and look after eight months of breastfeeding and ten months of sleep deprivation. There is a voice inside my head that is hard to turn off when it points out the lingering acne on my forehead, the worsening wrinkle carving itself a home between my eyebrows, and the sunken look of my eyes in my thinning face. I acknowledged these imperfections and asked myself what I could do to improve these parts that grimly stared back at me in the mirror. After a bit of research, I decided a facial would be my self-care ticket. 

I visited esthetician and proprietor Jennifer Zrubek at JLounge Spa. After carefully assessing my skin and talking with me about ways I wanted to improve my skin, she decided on a microdermabrasion facial. The process was not only focused on removing the dead skin cells, but also my negative self-talk. The peaceful hour-long experience brought my own awareness to the muscles in my face I forget to appreciate and lovingly care for when I’m wrapped up in the appearance of my skin. The customized facial used artisan-crafted products with pure organic botanicals. Their aromatherapy scents of rose and citrus both decreased my anxiety and lifted my mood. I walked in my front door and my husband said, “Your skin is glowing!” I could see it myself and loved the way my skin looks naturally plumped without any fillers. 

I felt revived.

I’m not sure who said it, but I love the quote, “Don’t let anyone rent space in your head unless they are a good tenant.” Wellness means kicking out the bad tenants that only criticize and finding ones instead that accept our imperfections and show us ways to improve. 

By Amanda McCracken

Bio: Amanda McCracken is a freelance writer, massage therapist, and running coach. When she’s not running trails, she enjoys spending free time with her new family. You can find her writing here: http://www.amandajmccracken.com/

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