I incorporate self-cleaning into my life by making space for simple activities that filter out distractions and clear my mind and heart. Between work, raising two tiny humans, maintaining a healthy marriage and burning the midnight oil on passion projects, I have to layer my self-cleaning onto the existing framework of my life. These little rituals force a time for me to reflect and practice restorative self-care.
It is not selfish. Read that again: self-cleaning is not selfish. Fulfilling the commitment of a wife, mother, friend, coworker require a lot of giving, and self-cleaning is essential maintenance. Each of the moments I create for myself are solely mine by intention. For me, self-cleaning allows for a tidying of priorities, a check-in with my conscious mind and my inner life. A friendly wake-up call to reset where I’m at. I think of self-cleaning as self-care’s mindful friend. Getting a massage can be restorative to your body, but using that message to actively dust out your mind and clear the distractions is also self-cleaning.
These moments are all a part of a carefully planned and stress tested system to keep me productive, happy, and emotionally available to those who need me. Here are the moments I have made for myself:
Hot lemon water in the morning
Mornings at my house are complete chaos. Getting four scatterbrains out the door, dressed and fed, is a herculean feat. Once everyone is dropped off where they need to go, I sit in the parking lot at work and reach for my hot lemon water. A quick google search will let you know all the health reasons this habit is good for you: aids digestion increases energy, evens skin tone, balances pH levels ect., ect. It’s one of those magical cure-alls. But those benefits, real or imagined, are all ancillary to this experience:
I smell the lemons, feel the warm cup, see the steam, focus on my breathe and savor the sensation. It’s meditative and only works when I tune my senses into the act of drinking the soothing lemon water. This quiet time triggers a wave of calm, allowing me to focus. I slow my breathing and home in on my goals for the day, pushing out any self-doubt or criticism. Even if that calm steady focus dissipates as I walk into my first meeting of the day, I will have had a moment that was all mine.
Stretching in my car before I head into work
After my lemon water is done I take a few moments to stretch my upper body. I carry my stress in my shoulders and neck and have to regularly adjust myself so I don’t sit with a huge kink in my back. I use this time to thank my body all that it did for me yesterday and for the day to come. I visualize each tiny back, neck, shoulder and arm muscle stretching, expanding and contracting in time with my breath. When my body is adjusted I find my priorities for the day can also align.
I need the bedtime stories as much as my kids do. No matter how difficult they were that day we get a mutual time-out to just be with each other. I am restored by the safety and comfort they feel when around me, as well as the primal human contact of holding their bodies. I get to feel their weight as they lean against me, smell their hair, hear their breath. We read books that help to underscore that feeling of restoration and gratitude.
I wrote “Pat on the Back”, a book of parental affirmations disguised as a children’s book, for just this purpose. It’s something I can enjoy with my children while also affirming myself. A little recharge before I begin the final phase of my evening. Without this, I’m likely to just veg out with some ice cream and Hulu. Calming my inner critic is easiest when I have a sleepy toddler and baby cuddling me.
The majority of my evenings are spent writing. I write for specific purposes and also as a form of release. Cleaning out the miscellaneous thoughts in my head by getting them down on “paper” (google docs, actually) is addictive. Great ideas emerge from that free-form writing, perhaps sparking future projects, essays, books even… sometimes. But more often, feeling my shoulders lower from the cathartic release of clearing out the mental load is enough. I’m a person who finds it easier to first write my feelings before verbalizing them. Seeing my mental mess in clean black and white makes room in my mind to refocus on my priorities.
Night time shower & pamper time
The final moment I spend self-cleaning is while I transition to bed, and involves actual physical cleaning. After becoming a parent I completely changed my morning and evening routines. I started showering at night and no longer am forced to rush through my skin and hair care routines. Those were, and are, my biggest form of physical self-care and I felt the emotional pain of temporarily losing them when kids entered the picture. Showering at night, I can indulge and spend the time using a dry brush or doing a fancy lymphatic massage with my jade gua sha tool. I clean, soak, moisturize, mask without interruption, or worse, the anxiety of interruption.
You’ll notice, each of those moments represent a transition in my day. It’s taking advantage of the space between the to-do list, transient moments where I would typically waste time being distracted by “what’s next?”. I encourage everyone to write down their daily routine and see where there are moments they can set aside for self-cleaning. Small cleansing moments can have huge impacts on your mental health.
Megan Baxter lives in Austin, TX. She constantly succeeds and fails at maintaining a healthy work life balance between her day job as a UX Design lead at IBM, being an author, illustrator and publisher of her children’s book, Pat on the Back, building her family’s dream home in the hills, and raising two children on tacos and queso.
patonthebacks.com @patsonthebacks | meganebaxter.com @meganebaxter