Picture this: You’re in the shower. The water is perfectly warm, the room is beginning to steam, the water is cascading down your back, over your head, your face, your chest and down to your feet. Your shoulders relax. Your arms reach out for a bar of soap that smells like lavender. As you wash your body, you feel the nooks and curves of your form beneath your fingertips. You sense the flex in your neck as you lather your upper back; the pressure on your left foot as you shift weight to wash the right. How do you feel? You’ve just dedicated time to taking care of your body; a thing we all take for granted from time to time. Bathing and moisturizing are routines that most of us don’t think of in those terms.
These moments can be thought of as rituals; healing time spent with your body to restore and communicate inwardly.
As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression almost all of my life, I have learned many different skills over the years on how to soothe negative thoughts and cultivate a healthy body image. Only as an adult have I learned through therapy, research, and trial-and-error, that taking care of my skin and body can do amazing things for mental health.
Skin-care is something tangible and personal that one has full control over.
I have found that on the days when it was harder to get out of bed, taking a shower or bath and dedicating the extra five minutes to moisturizing my face and body really helped my state of mind. I felt more relaxed, grounded, and in tune with what my body needed.
An article on PlushCare states: “Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood as well as help your body relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in your brain that is a good counter to feelings of anxiety.” This is where I started to expand my thinking past the benefits of physical touch on mental health. If physical touch from another person is that powerful of a tool in battling stress, anxiety and depression, did my ability to self-soothe by touching my own body have the same power? I began to ponder the benefits of self-touch specifically through skin-care.
In a healthline article written by therapist Rachel Otis, I read about ways in which one can use self-touch to support mental health. Otis outlines different ways in which a person can take notice of their own body, reduce tension, and support their mental health. Otis states, “This can also bring up areas where touch may feel too triggering. It’s important to remember that this is okay! This is an opportunity to be gentle and compassionate with yourself, honoring that this isn’t what your body needs right now,” --a powerful statement about the importance of listening to your body. If you are taking the time to truly nourish and tend to your skin, you are opening your eyes to the inner workings of your body: your needs, points of tension, and points of pleasure. In my mind, skin-care is an easy link to the healing ritual of self-touch. From cleansing to moisturizing to massaging oil into your skin--you are getting in touch with your body’s needs and grounding yourself.
Through self-touch, you are able to pinpoint parts on your body that need some extra love, and fulfill that need. What a beautiful thing!
And the added bonus of using products on your skin founded in nature and long-standing natural remedies? Even better! Personally, I love lathering my body in lavender body oil as soon as I step out of the shower on those days that have been particularly long or stressful. I really enjoy taking the time to massage it into parts of my body that might be sore or feeling extra dry. It can be so satisfying to breathe in the calming aroma while working out sore muscles as you work your way from the neck down. So, find those soothing scents you love! Find those satisfying and soft textures! Then, take care of the body that has carried you so steadfastly through this life.