My son had his very first day of school last week. (Unbeknownst to him, he just started a journey that will last another 13 to 25 years!) Thankfully so far he is simply excited about all of the new experiences and friends and especially his lunch box.
When I was growing up I was able to go home most days for lunch, which was great, but also left me with a bit of ‘lunch box envy’! I remember I did have an awesome Strawberry Shortcake lunch box but never had much opportunity to use it. I can’t imagine how much more I would have wanted to bring a lunch if I had had the fancy ‘bento box’ style lunch box my son now has. I am so tempted to buy one for myself even though I am working from home!
Ironically, I admit that I am now already somewhat dreading the daily task of packing lunches...
On the other hand, my son’s bento box has at least given me some creative and playful inspiration for self-care.
One of our key messages at Intentional Therapist is that self-care needs to be individualized - what works for me isn’t necessarily what is going to work for you, and that is not only okay but also the only way that self-care will truly be meaningful to each of us. Just as no two kids in my son’s class will have the same food in their lunch box. And that’s both okay and the only chance for hope that they will actually eat all their lunch!
We also strongly believe that in addition to a supportive community, heaps of self-compassion, and a good dose of discomfort at times, our self-care as mental health professionals needs a creative and playful element. This helps to both feed our soul and connect us to others.
The beauty of a bento box is that the boundaries are defined but there is flexibility in terms of what you can include in each compartment. And the size of each compartment actually can help to make it easier to come up with ideas of what to put in it. Oddly the compartments make creativity and decision making a little easier. Being forced to 'think inside the box' facilitates 'thinking outside the box'!
What if we thought of building our regular ‘menu’ of self-care practices in the same way as we would fill a bento box? We don’t have to include the same activities and practices every day, and we don’t need to duplicate other people’s practices. But maybe there are some staple categories - like connection, compassion, courage, and creativity - that provide a framework for what we try to attend to most often. With some other activities that we can mix and match and throw in for a treat from time to time, according to whatever size or serving will work best for us. Our bento box provides the consistent structure while we are free to fill our box in whatever creative ways we choose that will best nourish us.
To help get you started on filling your own box, please feel welcome to download and use the template below.
And please let us know - what you are packing in your self-care bento box? (Figuratively or literally!) We would love to hear from you - and can always use some creative new lunch - we mean self-care - ideas! ;)