Here at Peak and Valley, we have been interested in topics surrounding self-care/wellness. The term ‘self-care’ specifically is starting to become an overused buzzword in marketing and news outlets. Separating out what self-care means for you personally means ignoring a lot of marketing jargon and messaging. We all have to remember that self- care doesn't have to be expensive or exclusive. Given that,we are introducing an interview series where we ask people what self care and wellness means to them.
Provide a short introduction explaining who you are.
My name is Taylor, I’m 26 years old, if that matters. I work in influencer marketing - I started my job at the beginning of the pandemic and I’m so grateful to have it still. I work with incredible people.
I live in Northwest Arkansas - I specifically call out the region because it’s a distinct part of the state, unlike the rest. I love it here - it gives me the progressive nature of a larger city with the comfort of community. There’s still opportunity for growth and change, so I’m happy to be a resident who can play a part in its future.
I enjoy writing, creating, nature, time at home - I’m an introvert and I suffer from anxiety, so I enjoy autonomous activity, alone and with others. I like to skip small talk and dive into what matters. I can come across as direct and unenthused, which I’m learning can cause hesitancy when getting to know me. Truth is, I’m incredibly sensitive and controlling my external appearance is my way of rooting myself in the present (a coping mechanism).
How do you define self-care?
For me, it starts with being self aware. Self-care takes so many forms because we have different needs, but you have to first know what those needs are. Self-awareness can be intimidating - the admission of what you’re feeling on an emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual level...where to even begin sorting those levels of self out? It is an ongoing process, but once you begin, you start to figure out what works for you.
I also define self-care as giving yourself grace. Actively choosing to go easy on yourself, to acknowledge what you need, and allowing yourself the pleasure of attaining that need. There is nothing selfish about being considerate of yourself. Self-care can be tangible, it can be an act, it can be a thought - it’s a moment to love and comfort yourself.
How do you start your day? If it differs from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
Every single morning I have one cup of coffee from bed (and drink whatever water is on my nightstand from the night before). It’s not much, but it’s something I always look forward to. The warmth is comforting and it gives me time to rise on my own terms. Our dog Tipper is especially cuddly in the morning, so she always crawls right up by my pillow and gets love.
I’m a morning shower person - it’s not until I’m fresh out of the shower and having gone through the motions of “getting ready” that I find energy. At this point, I’ve usually set goals and intentions for the day, professionally and personally.
I work from home, so I roll right into work after my morning “ritual.” If it’s the weekend, I’ve usually had a second cup of coffee in bed. :)
What measures do you take when you feel off-balance/stressed?
I’m trying to get better at acknowledging my stress levels. I don’t like to ask for help - it makes me feel like a burden. I want to handle it all - more to prove to myself than anyone, simply, that I can. Part of me feels the more I do, the closer I am to some attainable version of success. I’m learning how to let go of the guilt I feel when I choose to take it easy. I have a habit of driving my brain to the point of exhaustion.
For me, finding balance often means doing things in which I won’t have to actively think. Cooking dinner, watching a movie, reading, a cup of coffee, working out, surrounding myself with nature- these are activities I can lose myself in. They require only passive thought and we all need that when we’re having a long day. It all goes back to those small moments of self-care to help you pause and realign yourself.
I’m also remembering to practice gratitude throughout the day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but you can’t always abandon what’s making you feel that way. It’s important to me to support myself mentally and one way I do that is to list off things I’m grateful for: my ability to support myself and my little family of three (my partner & our two dogs), the accessibility I have to eat healthy foods and sustain a plant-based diet, my friends. To name a few.
Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I get a good night’s sleep most nights. It might not seem like the standard definition of a ritual, but getting to spend quality time at home with my better half is my place of peace. I get to do that the majority of the time, but when I don’t, I don’t fall asleep easily. When things at home feel in place, I can rest.
I think the need to feel at ease at home before I can sleep stems from spending my early adult years in a constant state of unrest. I didn’t (and wasn’t always able to) create a good environment for myself. As a result, I spent a lot of those years in a really bad mental state wondering what’s next and how to change my situation. Those years make me sad to think back on, but despite being a very difficult time in my life, they’re something I ultimately choose to be thankful for. I am incredibly grateful to love my life at the end of each day and find comfort where I’m at.
What is your idea of beauty? Internal, external, or both?
When I was in 10th grade, I wrote in a journal (I keep them all):
“High school is hard. We worry about how we look, whether we’re attractive. But we forget how beautiful we are by default - our heart for others, the structure of our collarbones, the contagious nature of our smiles. We shouldn’t worry so much.”
I included this sentiment in an essay I had to read for class...I don’t remember the topic. My principal thanked me afterward. I’m sure my face was quite red. My idea of beauty hasn’t changed much. But, standards do not define beauty - there’s no such thing as a standard for beauty. Everyone has the capacity for beauty - it’s multi-faceted, yeah?
I think it starts from within, though. We exude it through our actions toward others. When we’re kind, giving, patient, empathetic, caring, etc.- these qualities in humans are beautiful. You can sense kindness in others and that is what defines us. I feel most beautiful when I make someone’s day, but it’s hard for me to find my voice and be social if I don’t feel good about my external appearance. It’s like I go into hiding.
I’m hard on myself and I’m learning to admit that without feeling uncomfortable. I’ve never defined beauty as one thing for others, yet I hold myself to those very standards I reject. I’ve always struggled with self-acceptance when it comes to appearance. I’m working on being nicer to my physical self - loving my body and all that. You know. It’s a backward-forward motion. I’ll get there, sometimes I won’t. I’m still beautiful. So are you.
What is your philosophy around wellness?
Wellness has been such a funky word in my vocabulary during recent months. Instagram, and perhaps social media in general, has monetized the term. It’s literally a symbol of economic wealth and status. You won’t achieve wellness by wearing a sweater with the word “wellness” embroidered on the front.
Even having the option to indulge in the idea of wellness is rooted in privilege. I think it literally means good health (yep, it does, thanks Google) - we all know good health isn’t accessible for everyone. Good health, in many circumstances, can be simple to achieve. A healthy diet and moderate exercise, right? But what about education, resources, financial stability, mental health care, equal rights and representation...all of these things are interconnected and ultimately play a big role in what health and wellness is, whether they can be achieved.
So I guess my philosophy around wellness is that it’s reliant on an individual’s environment, their foundation. When we think about wellness as veganism, frail bodies, fitness, yoga studios, relaxation, attractiveness - all things I visually see associated with wellness on social media - then what are we saying wellness is? It implies wellness is only achievable for those with enough privilege to seek out the healthiest options in all aspects of life. But what about those who exist in a different socioeconomic sector? Are we not capable of achieving our own form of wellness? And if the answer is no, are we simply okay with wellness not being an achievable state for all?
Let’s redefine wellness. It doesn’t look like anything than an individual feeling their best on all levels of wellbeing.
Thanks for having me here. Introspection is good for the soul. xx