What Self-Care Is Not

elaina m. avalos, self-care sunday, elaina avalos, live well be well

At one time in my life, I thought I defined self-care fairly well. I thought I knew what I needed to ensure I was taking care of myself – first. Recently, my therapist (yes, I go to therapy and yes I’m proud to say this) asked me what I did for self-care. I couldn’t answer her question. I found this annoying. Her question wasn’t annoying – the fact that I couldn’t answer the question is what annoyed me. It has been a few weeks since the last time she asked me that. It took me several weeks and a few major realizations to figure out some of those things on my self-care list.

I think we can tend to have rote answers when it comes to defining self-care. But we’re all freaking different as individuals. What works for me, may not work for you. Self-care is not defined for you. You define what that means and what that looks like. You may learn through the experiences of others, but at the end of the day, you have to take the time to sift through the craziness of life, to figure out what it is that works for you.


Before I moved to the town I live in now, my self-care routine was much easier to define. I hiked at least once a week on a nearby trail. I went to the beach about once a week. I cooked awesome meals for myself on the weekend because I adore cooking. I sat on my patio or back deck and enjoyed hours of being outside soaking in the warm or cool air, breezes, and the beauty of my tree-filled yard. I grilled. I walked along the river. I took bubble baths with lights low and candles burning. When I lived in the super quaint downtown – that was the colonial capital of North Carolina, I didn’t have a yard and my condo complex didn’t have grass. So twice a day, I walked the dog along the Neuse River, enjoying the fresh air, spring flowers or the white-capped river during nor-easters. I slowed down enough, that I found delight and joy in the dumbest things. But that was self-care too.

Another way I incorporated a little self-care into my weekly routine was to buy flowers – for myself. This was a weekly ritual. It’s not as easy to do here. This might sound weird, but it’s hard to find fresh flowers here. Unless it’s roses and carnations. Even at our farmer’s markets, they’re few and far between. If I’m lucky, I can get a hold of some sunflowers or zinnias. Last year, I found one farmer that had a ton of wild flowers and I spent a ridiculous amount of money buying up as much as I could. When I lived at home in California, Trader Joe’s and Vons sold daffodil bundles in the spring for $1.50-ish. I bought them every week. At my Joshua Tree farmer’s market, which I walked to from my house, an old hippy sold beautiful bunches of wildflowers. I never left the market without flowers. In the fall, I bought “pumpkin trees” from him. I’ve longed for those every autumn since. The flowers I bought were next to my bed, in my office, and around my home. They brought pops of color and joy to my window sill while I washed dishes. In my cave-like offices in large aircraft hangars where I worked, they were a little bit of the outside (I love being outdoors) brightening my day.

But I can’t get a hold of fresh flowers like the ones I used to. And yesterday I’d decided I had enough. So I drove almost 1.5 hours south, to get what I wanted from Trader Joe’s. Is driving 1.5 hours for fresh flowers weird? Probably, but I’m a happy camper. I bought up a bunch! I will take some time today to put them in bud vases and set them out around my apartment. I’ll take one vase to work with me, tomorrow.

I can tell you what self-care is not. Self-care is not a fill-in-the-blank answer that works for everyone. Self-care may look like manicures and bubble baths. Or it could be weeding in your garden, reading your favorite book again for the millionth time, or not getting out of bed on Sunday and watching your favorite movies all day. I can also tell you that self-care is not always easy to define. But it’s worth the time exploring. We are no good to others and we can’t fully live out our calling in life, in my opinion, if we’re not taking care of ourselves first.

So while it might sound crazy to you, yesterday I drove a total of three hours for flowers. And today, their sweet sent and bright colors are giving me constant joy. That is self-care, to me.

How do you define self-care? Do you do anything random (like drive 1.5 for flowers), that might sound weird to others?

2 thoughts on “What Self-Care Is Not

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