This Valentine’s day, I challenge you to one of the most difficult tasks in our modern world and it’s called, self care.

Self care can be a difficult, sometimes nuanced, thing. We’re brought up in a world where everything is meant to be instant: instant messaging, instant gratification and instant recognition, etc. Naturally, it can be a challenge to take the time for ourselves, especially around Valentine’s day. This is because we’ve just managed to get ourselves through some major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It’s an exciting time full of family and friends but in the months after, we can feel depleted and listless, back to our routines that often leave little to no time to relax and reflect on our lives.

And then comes Valentine’s day. It’s a weird day, one marked by chocolate and red cards and the promise to devote more attention to our our friends and partners. Yet, we rarely take the time on this day to think about ourselves. Perhaps this is because it is easy to feel guilt when we put ourselves first. After all, it’s not the way we are taught to think about our lives. Instead of having a healthy dose of love for our bodies and our minds, we often are taught to ignore, and even demand more of ourselves, body and mind. This is when enough almost never feels like it is enough.

It can be hard to look at our selves with love and compassion, especially when we live in a society where self care isn’t placed at the top of the list. We learn, too often, that we should always consider others above ourselves and our own needs. We also learn that it’s important to stay busy, often to the detriment of our health, and that we should work hard and always be looking for the “next” thing whatever that may be.

So, we hardly slow down. when we look in the mirror, we don’t see someone who is as deserving of attention as the people that we love. Instead, we become our own biggest critics: work harder, sleep less, and never complain. However, this is far from the truth. The person we see when we look in the mirror is the person most deserving of our care. It is the person we see in the mirror, someone often overworked, overtired and overwhelmed, who needs our love, compassion and focus, the most. To combat this, especially on a day like Valentines day, we need to check in with ourselves more consistently. We need to remember that we are enough as we are and we need to celebrate our uniqueness. We are, as we are, will always be worthy of slowing down once in a while. It’s important to treat ourselves to the little things: healthy eating, getting enough sleep, socializing and making room in our calendars to relax.

So, this Valentines day, I challenge you to extend the gratitude and affection to you! I challenge you to find the hour, the minute, or even the second, in your hectic schedule to slow down and take a deep, stomach-filling breath. And then I want you to concentrate on that feeling of fullness, wherever you are and however it feels. Let yourself be as you are, in that moment, and experience it as fully as you can. Set aside your guilt, your responsibilities and your stressors and focus, wholly, on that second. Just be.

In the end, Valentine’s day is a celebration of love. Love in the romantic sense, absolutely, but also love in all its other forms: family, friends, community and also, most importantly, of the self. The self as you see it now, and as you hope it will be, in this moment and all other moments of your life.

Take that hour, take that minute, take that second and breathe.

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