“A manicure does not constitute self-care,” I once told a friend. “That is just maintenance.”
Upon further reflection, however, I must qualify my remark: When that manicure is spent nurturing a relationship, it becomes more than a touch-up for my nails. It morphs from maintenance into intentional self-care. Monthly manicures with my daughter, Morgan, have become an anticipated reprieve from my hectic working-mom schedule. The polished nails are fun, but it is the solid hour of connection with my teen I value most. These “mani-dates” are one small action I take to support my emotional wellness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month—though mental and emotional wellness is a topic that should be of principal concern for all of us throughout the year. The isolation, losses, and challenges of COVID-19 have heightened our collective recognition of the importance of optimal mental and emotional health, an awareness which is one small, yet salient upside of the pandemic.
As a society, we must dismantle the stigma and shame surrounding the therapy, counseling and resources that help keep our hearts and souls strong. This is the self-care that nurtures our thoughts, perceptions, and spirits. It is oil in the human engine.
Navigating life’s, often unpredictable, undulating path can be quite stressful, testing our ability to cope. If we want to operate as our “best self” or even just move forward, we need to regularly recharge, like a high-performance Tesla. Prioritizing mental and emotional health will look different for each of us. The hard part is plugging in before the low battery warning light demands attention. What we need are “supercharger” supports for life’s journey. We need people to hold us accountable and other helps to guarantee we are regularly connected to our Power Source.
For me, emotional health starts with regular physical exercise. I have a trainer who expects to see me at early-morning boot camp and I go for long weekend trail runs. Connection is a huge piece of my mental wellness too; this means having after-work hikes, weekend coffee dates with friends, and similar breathing space penciled in on my calendar. Navigating past, particularly brutal seasons, I’ve seen a counselor. I go to church, listen to audio books and am a voracious reader; these platforms help provide new perspectives and are often catalysts for personal growth. Funny movies and chocolate ice-cream are a mandated part of my emotional wellness regimen. Comedies, because I get enough drama in day-to-day life, and ice-cream because…well, isn’t that in everyone’s wellness toolkit?
Life has taught me that if I do not take time to check my oil, recharge and proactively foster mental wellness, I default to survival mode versus living my optimal life. And the world really needs us all to live at the pinnacle of our potential: contributing, encouraging, lifting, leading, loving.
Self-care—mental, physical, and emotional—is critical, and is more contagious than COVID when our own health flows outward, supporting the wellness of those around us.
So, take a moment and do an assessment; pop the hood and check your engine oil—a mental and emotional inventory—in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Where do you need support? Is it time to engage with friends? Prioritize the events and activities that help you recharge. Make a “mani-date” with a friend who just might be your daughter. Maybe pick up a pint of Haagen-Dazs or your favorite tasty indulgence. The overall wellness found in soul-level self-care is truly the sweetest part.
Celeste Palermo is Senior Director, Human Resources at Newmont Corporation and author of two books. You can visit her at www.celestepalermo.com