Do you have a clear sense of the things that nourish and support you through both the joys and the challenges of life?
With the holiday season already underway, now is the perfect time to pause and center deeply into those things that nourish and support you on a daily basis, into self-care.
It wasn’t that many years ago that I really didn’t know what self-care meant.
For myself, at least. It seemed that some of the people I knew had it figured out. They would talk of long baths, of going to the spa, of taking a weekend at the beach, of hours spent in meditation, etc, etc. I would kind of look at them, eyes glazed.
For one, I typically didn’t have money for a visit to the spa or a weekend at the beach.
For another, I found things like long baths and long meditations boring, not nourishing.
When asked what I did for self-care, I really didn’t have an answer.
Yes, I tried to eat well, I exercised, I was aware of the necessity of good sleep. That was about as far as it went. Other than going on long hikes (not possible on a daily basis when living in the city), I was clueless regarding what nourished and supported me.
Then, abruptly, I entered a time of extreme emotional upheaval.
Literally overnight, all the anxiety, panic, overwhelm, fear, terror, and grief that I had spent the first 29 years of my life avoiding at all costs became unavoidable.
I had no skills for handling any of the emotions, any of the pain.
Sometimes going for a run or (very) long walk would help. Mostly, though, I spent more time than I like to admit on the floor, in a fetal position, shaking and crying, completely falling apart.
My friends would tell me to take care of myself, to do some self-care.
I didn’t know what that meant. I knew hot baths really didn’t do much for me. What else was there? What worked for me?
Fortunately, with the help of several mentors, colleagues, and wise friends, I began to learn what did (and does) work for me.
Plus, I began to develop an approach to self-care and to meeting my own pain that is flexible, sustainable, and that evolves with me as I grow and evolve.
Further, as I became more and more skilled at meeting my own pain and overwhelm, I also became more and more skilled at meeting the pain and overwhelm of others.
And… at helping them to also develop an approach to self-care that nourished and supported them on a daily basis.
Now, nearly 10 years following the ‘breaking apart’ incident, I have mad self-care skills.
I use the word ‘skills’ intentionally.
What I call self-care isn’t a to-do list.
Rather, it is a set of skills that grow and deepen as I grow and deepen.
Skills like deep-listening (to my body, to nature, to spirit). Skills that help me shift my perspective when I’m overwhelmed or in pain. Skills that are constantly being refined; that are evolving and deepening as I learn more about myself and the things that nourish and support me.
Yes, I do have a list of things I know nourish and support me.
But, that is just the beginning. And, I have arrived at this list through the skills of deep-listening, knowing how to connect into my body, and through paying attention throughout the day to the people, places, situations, events… where I feel connected, relaxed, and calm.
In no particular order, here are some of the things that nourish, feed, and support me today:
- being in nature, wandering, sitting with a tree, listening to water, watching the clouds move across the sky, listening to birdsong…
- being in ritual and sacred space, especially with other women
- spending time at my altar, meditating, listening, singing
- snuggling with my husband
- having one-on-one conversations with people I love
- writing in my journal
- making soup; baking pumpkin bread
- noticing and meeting sensations (of discomfort OR comfort) as they arise in my body
So, I ask again, what does self-care mean to you?
What nourishes and supports you though both the joys and the challenges (and the holidays!!!) of life?
I’d love to hear what works for you; leave a comment below!
Emma McCreary says
This is really clear. I find myself in a similar “melting down” place. Before this year, my self-care consisted of regular meaningful interactions with a carefully built up community of similarly woo-woo friends, regularly taking personal growth type workshops or attending groups, and living in a reinforced bubble of happy-goodness and possibility. It was great!
Then I moved to a town where I know very few people, there are not a lot of those workshops or groups available, and I spend most mornings inside of a prison (one of the worst psychic-emotional environment you can imagine). And lo and behold, I am not doing very well. 🙁
So, back to the drawing board.
Yes. Back to the drawing board. I can really relate to what you are describing… how all of the systems can be in place (within a certain time or environment) but then, something changes and they either aren’t there anymore or they don’t work anymore. You made a huge change and it will likely take a bit to re-orient and discover what self-care means to you here, in this new place, in this time. I’m sending you tons of support and love as you rebuild your self-care systems and discover what nourishes and supports you now.
Emma Arbogast says
OK, after observing myself for the past few days, I’ve decided a good thing to put on my self-care list are some mental perspective shifts.
1. Remember that I’m an adult now.
So therefore I can make my own choices. I can ask for what I want and/or need or figure out how to get it, without throwing a tantrum or exaggerating the issue or wanting someone else to rescue me. I can calmly figure things out and take care of what needs to be done.
2. Ask myself “which me” needs self-care. Adult me? Or some child version of me? Cause the self-care routine is really different for helping inner child parts having meltdowns. And it could be both, it could be that the reason the child part is having a meltdown is because my adult self is too tired to be paying attention to it, etc. But distinguishing which state/part needs care is essential. And that’s kind of the definition of inner boundaries.
3. Remember that I’m not actually alone in a world of hostile people anymore.
Basically it’s just checking with myself to see if I’m having an extra-special horrible no good day/week/etc because I’ve slipped into some past traumatized state rather than remembering that my present and future is determined by my choices right now, not what happened in the past.
Brilliant! I love the mental perspective shifts you are describing! <3