Washing Dishes as an Act of Self-Care

dirty dishes

There’s a lot of talk out there these days about the importance of self-care.

Gotta put that oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that self-care is vitally important. Most of our negative habits with food stem from a conscious or sub-conscious desire to avoid uncomfortable feelings such as overwhelm, boredom or stress. For sure, true self-care is the way we prevent this, and thus, reduce the likelihood that we’ll fall into those old habits.

I’m a big fan of self-care.

However, I think that we’re coming at the self-care conversation all wrong.

Too often we’re thinking about self-care as another thing we have to add to our already overwhelming To Do list. Now, in addition to all the other stuff we have to get done, we also have to make time for the pedicure, massage or spa day with the girls because we’re making self-care a priority. It all sounds great, but really it just ends up stressing us out more because we know we should be doing it, but we feel like we never have the time (or money) to check that box.

But, here’s the thing. To me, self-care is not about pampering (although I think pampering is lovely). Self-care is about cultivating connection.

  1. Connection within yourself (the mind, body and soul) AND
  2. Connection with something greater that you are a part of (the energy of the universe, Mother Nature, Shakti, whatever name you want to give it).

This could look like meditation, time spent in nature, creative endeavours (making music, painting, writing, singing, knitting), yoga, or movement of some kind. Anything that leaves you feeling more alive, more awake, more connected to yourself and to something greater.

This is important because, when we’re disconnected – not aligned to our truest, deepest self and to something greater than ourselves – we’re easily taken off course by external factors like other people or situations.

This is when the deadline at work, or the fight with our partner, or the birthday party are able to derail our intention to make healthy choices. We’re not aligned, so we’re easily moved off course.

But, when we spend time practicing, cultivating and strengthening that deep sense of connection on a daily basis, then when the external factors of life bombard us (as they will), we’re ready and we can stand in that place of strength and power and weather the storm.

Think of it like a tree. A tree with thin, shallow roots is easily blown over by a strong wind, or washed away by a heavy storm.

But a tree that has grown a strong set of roots that reach deep into the earth is fine when the wind blows. It can easily withstand the strongest winds and the harshest rains.

Think of self-care as the way you grow a deep and complex root system for yourself. You do that work every day to grow and spread those roots and then when you’re pushed, you’re not easy to budge.

“But I don’t have time!” I hear you say. And that’s okay.

If we believe that self-care is less about pampering and more about cultivating and practicing connection, then suddenly our idea of what self-care looks like changes. You can actually make many daily chores or tasks a time for practicing self-care:

  • Washing the dishes
  • Ironing
  • Eating
  • Walking the dog
  • Meal prep
  • Washing the car
  • Folding laundry
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Gardening
  • Caring for your kids

When you conduct these activities in a present and mindful way, being slow and deliberate, and when you change your perception of them from chores to an act of service to your “dharma” (your divine role in the universe – aka your purpose) then, in the doing of them, you are cultivating connection within yourself, and to something greater. Thus, washing the dishes or mowing the lawn becomes an act of self-care.

Consider: “I wash the dishes, not because I HAVE to, or because everyone else left them for me to do because they don’t appreciate how hard I work, etc., etc.” But, “I wash the dishes because washing the dishes is a practice that beautifully aligns with my dharma (creating a clean, healthy home; caring for my family; etc.).”

In this way, washing the dishes becomes spiritual work.

In this way, washing the dishes becomes an act of self-care because, it’s in real life, every single day, that we fulfill our life’s purpose and discover that connection that truly recharges us – not at a spa.


Posted in

Sara Best


  1. Simone on August 16, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Thank you! This post makes so much sense and has helped me to better understand self-care and dharma.

  2. Regina on August 17, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Perfect reading to start my day:) thank you

  3. Heidi Joseph on December 4, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Wow! What a paradigm switch self care….actually taking care to do what I need to do to make me happy fulfilled and a sense of accomplishment! Instead of thinking of chores as demeaning, a waste of my time, or mundane. Brilliant.

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