As a twenty two year old recent college graduate, I (Merlyn, the most recent addition to the LBTR team) am admittedly terrible at self care. When you’re twenty two and new to New York City, it’s easy to feel invincible. I always go to bed late, I pack my schedule with every event I want to go to, and I eat pizza more than any respectable human should. Although all of the above can be (very) fun, it inevitably catches ups to me, and prevents me from feeling like the best version of myself. I want to be mentally and physically happy enough to help myself and help others, and taking the time for self care is the first step towards that. In my search for some words of wisdom and advice on the importance of self care, I asked Michelle Mannix (our fearless LBTR founder and self care queen) how she cultivates a healthy mind, body and soul:
Merlyn: People often neglect self care when they get caught up in hectic schedules and helping others - why do you think it’s important to make time for yourself?
Michelle: For that very reason - getting caught up in hectic schedules essentially means we are losing our consciousness - our ability to be present and grounded and instead letting ourselves get ‘caught up’. The idea of “busy-ness” has so many layers and has become our new default response when often we aren’t really thinking first before even wording that response to someone else or ourselves - which has power on a subconscious level. We need to ask ourselves what are we truly busy with? Is it what really matters? What energy are we bringing to those areas? What energy are we bringing, what action (or in-action)?
Self-care has become another loaded, layered word but it can be anything that makes you feel the way you want to feel. To me if we don’t start with ourselves first - even just by checking in with yourself enough to be truly aware of how you are operating, feeling - then we won’t be in the best position or place to bring the best of ourselves to others, our careers and all our ‘busy-ness.’ You can’t give to others, things, and your busy-ness what you don’t give or have for yourself.
What are some simple ways to take better care of yourself - both your body and mind?
The most simple thing you can do is to first get clear on how you really want to feel in your body and mind. It’s very personal and unique for each and every one of us, and different at all phases in our lives. Getting clear gives you a vision to build off of instead of something to run from. Just last night I read a quote and wrote it down (thank you universe) that speaks to this… ”We can live our lives 1 of 2 ways - out of our circumstances or out of a vision.” - Warner Erhard
From there, and for me, things like being really mindful of the type of food I put into my body are first and foremost - particularly as I navigate (gulp) menopause. Yes I’m old. I see food as medicine, and figuring out what foods make me feel the best are key. It’s also a big yet simple way I can regularly care for, and connect with, my family and friends (cooking for them) and it’s important for me to have my actions and money align with (as much as possible) my value systems - so where I get my food, and how food systems impact the climate are deeply considered. To me that is also part of self-care. Feeling good about my actions in big and small ways.
Moving my body. I feel very fortunate that I can go to The Class by Taryn Toomey a couple of times a week. It’s a mind, body, cathartic experience that has affected my physical body and mental state in profound and real ways. It has also shown me how the simple act of moving your body in a way that speaks to you can change your mental state. In between going to The Class, I make a point of moving my body daily and I call it that (in my planner and in my priorities and goals) as how I do it doesn’t really matter - could be walking to and from work, or power walking through Brooklyn Bridge park, swimming, dancing in my bedroom.
Doing things that make me (you) happy. Even though I’m older, I find I try to approach my life like a kid on summer break. Finding real value in creating my happiness has helped, instead of seeing that as something indulgent. Music makes me happy, being outside, being alone, painting, tidying up, flipping through magazines, going to the movies by myself or in the afternoon, having some cannabis.
How do you prioritize activities like self care and reflection?
By exactly that. Making it a PRIORITY versus some indulgent, far away thing I ‘should’ do. Being clear on the fact that neither take too much time or money, but that they impact everything else helps me truly prioritize activities like these.
But also being flexible. There are months that go by when I don’t ‘technically’ meditate. I say technically because I’m regularly and often still, present, and do mindful activities like cooking, walking - so being able to see that what I’m really seeking (groundedness, gratitude, creativity, connectedness; the ability to pause, make good decisions and show up in the way I want to) is coming to me and being developed in other ways.
It can be super hard to say no sometimes, especially when we really want to participate in or help with something. How do you keep your schedule clear, and cut down on excessive commitments?
I’m an extroverted introvert, and understanding that about myself was key to being able to unlock/unblock myself. Instead of saying no and feeling guilty because I was ‘technically’ available (to them though…. not me), I realized I really need down and alone time in order to show up and be the best version of myself. It’s truly how I recharge and regenerate. Seeing it as vitally important to everything else helps me feel very comfortable just saying “no I’m not free that night.” Or “I can’t - not available.” Just because I’m home doesn‘t mean it’s a lie. I’ve committed myself to probably watching YouTube videos on the couch with Jackson, or perhaps nothing at all (aka heaven).
(Merlyn here again) I love our little convos in the studio, and Michelle’s words always really hit home. What I took away from this interview, is that self care requires reflection. You can’t help yourself if you don’t know what you want and need. Since I never stop to ask myself what kind of lifestyle and habits would make me feel better, I don’t have a foundation for developing a thriving system of self care. So in the upcoming weeks I’m going to start doing a few things differently: asking myself what I need and how I want to feel, and prioritizing the actions that will get me there.