Today I welcome thirty five and I’m feeling pretty fantastic about it. My excitement about this year is particularly humorous given the level of drama with which I welcomed thirty. LOL. This year, my gift to myself and hopefully to you as well, is to take some time to write about self care, what it looks like to me, and why I consider it of such critical importance.
2017 was a rough year overall and we’ve been over that plenty so I’m not going to rehash it here. You can read the news. As a result of current events and simply all that our daily lives require of us, many of us find ourselves emotionally tapped out on a regular basis. Living in that state doesn’t feel good and also isn’t good for us. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions per se, but I’m determined to take better care of myself this year. I am making myself a priority.
It may sound cliche, or maybe it’s exactly right, but many of the mantras that serve me in this endeavor come from some of my favorite yoga teachers. The first piece of this comes from my teacher Stevie who reminds us that we cannot constantly fill the cups of others if we are pouring from our own half full or nearly empty cup. This resonates deeply with me, especially as a mom. I know logically and I can see firsthand in my life that I am a better mom to my kids when I take care of myself. In this same vein, modeling self care for my kids is important to me. I want them to see that if they choose to become parents someday, it doesn’t equate to forsaking yourself as a servant to others at every opportunity.
Self care looks different for each of us. Those things that are rejuvenating for me may be totally different than what works best for you. I receive emails and messages from readers weekly and sometimes daily begging me to share how I “do it all”, how I seemingly accomplish so much. This is a post I’ll never write because I don’t believe I have any special abilities or strategies…but now that I consider it from the angle of self care, maybe that is my unwitting secret strategy. I carve out time for the things that bring me joy and contentment.
Perhaps the reason I appear so productive in the eyes of an outsider is that many of my hobbies are literally productive. Sewing and knitting literally produce something where there was nothing before. Reading adds another book to my “read” shelf. Sure, I get some small measure of satisfaction from seeing these accomplishments completed, but it is the act of doing them that motivates me in the first place. It is no surprise that my primary hobbies are so relaxing to me – each of them includes all of the elements of activities that elicit the “relaxation response”. This is a real phenomenon backed by research and you can read an excellent article summarizing it here. (I think you may need to be a Seamwork member to see the article but you should be able to do a trial membership. It’s definitely worth a read!)
As an extreme introvert, it’s no surprise that all of my favorite hobbies and activities are things I can do alone. That being said, spending time with my closest friends is absolutely essential to my personal well being. These are the friends who I never have to put on airs with, who are down for dinner out or lounging on the couch with a bottle of wine in our sweats and everything in between. I am endlessly grateful for the many deeply good people I count as my friends, and making time to sustain and grow our friendships is crucial to me. This gratitude for friends is only heightened by the tragedies of losing loved ones far too soon, and handling other personal traumas of the past several years. Spending time in the presence of these wonderful humans reminds me that there are people who have my back, who are with me, and who in turn I would do just about anything for. Making time to see them regularly, basking in the joy of these beautiful connections with them, is indescribably great.
While I don’t want to focus on the negative, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of letting go of toxic friendships. One of the best things about the security that comes with growing older is the power to let go of the things no longer serving you, including “friendships” that don’t really fit that definition. Recognize that people don’t need to be overtly hostile or manipulative to still exert a negative effect on you. If you realize that you are only drained by a connection with someone, let it go.
A final thought to ponder in the realm of self care is that of self compassion and forgiveness. My dear friend and yoga teacher Todd started a recent class with the meditation, “Focus your attention inward, on your heart. Fill your heart with self compassion, and then let it ripple outward.” This is something that I try to practice often, yet is still a major area that many would eloquently label a “growth opportunity” for me. While those on the outside looking in perceive me as highly productive and accomplishing so much, what my mind has planned and hoped for me is usually ten times what I actually achieve. Making space for that difference between my aspirations and reality, allowing myself to be okay with where I am and what didn’t get completed, is something I’m always working on. Being so demanding of myself is definitely a double-edged sword, and I’m working on dulling one of those edges over time.
I’ll leave you with one final favorite meditation from my yoga teacher Kara. She often ends class reminding us that when we step onto our mats and practice yoga, “We cultivate inner peace, which leads to outer peace, world peace. It all starts within ourselves.” Take time for yourself and be kind to yourself. It will make a bigger difference than you realize.