Day 6: Part Two: Self Care Strategies Continued
Mindfulness and Solitude
There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes
-That Nich Hanh
This is one of my favorite sayings by That Nich Hanh. What it means is, we have choice over our lives, even when it comes to the not-so-fun chores and tasks we have to do each day. We have a choice to look at the chore or task at hand, and get all spun up and stressed about it (or spend the time while doing the task distracted by other things we have to do), We also have a choice to experience the pleasure of embodiment in doing the task. We wash the dishes in order to experience washing the dishes. The warmth of the water, the slippery bubbles, the satisfaction of turning a clean plate over under running water. These tiny moments are just a few minutes of your day, but hold a treasure of joy and meaning, if we are willing to bring our presence to them. In this way,we can find meaning and fulfillment in even the most mundane parts of our lives.
Some ideas for inviting more mindfulness into our lives:
• Qi Gong
• Grounding/connecting to the Earth
• Deep breathing
Many times, in order to find places for mindfulness, we must have solitude. For some, the word solitude equates to loneliness. But there is a dramatic difference between solitude and loneliness, and we find the difference in making friends with ourselves--which is what self care is all about. When we feel solid in our relationship with self, spending time alone can be a rich, nourishing, and rewarding treat we can give ourselves.
Therapy and Support for Mental Health
Therapy has been stigmatized for a long time as something that only ‘crazy’ people need. My crazy idea is that everybody needs therapy!
As human beings, we all experience a vast emotional landscape that can sometimes feel confusing or overwhelming. Life is complex. Sometimes we need help with our relationships. Sometimes we have trauma or experiences from the past that can make navigating our present emotions difficult. Sometimes we lose a loved one. Sometimes we just have a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad year. When we hurt ourselves, or get sick, we go to the doctor. The same is true for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Having a caring, trusted, neutral person that will listen to our stories, hold space for us to vent, and offer us new tools for our emotional tool boxes is an immense gift we can give ourselves, even if we don’t feel mentally ‘unwell’. Most insurances now cover mental health providers, and more and more therapists are offering sliding scale options or grad-student level counseling for a lower cash rate for those who don’t have coverage.
Need some help finding a good therapist? At TAC, we recommend one of our Partners, the North Carolina Center for Resiliency. Goodtherapy.org is another great resource with a 'Therapist Finder' that you can put all kinds of search critieria in to find a provider that best meets your needs.
Joy, Creativity, and Play
When’s the last time you blew bubbles, or made sidewalk chalk art, or had a pillow fight? Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean the children inside us ever grew up. Making time for play and creativity can significantly reduce stress, and exponentially increase the joy in our lives.
If you have children, you have an instant and never-ending joy fountain! Find the opportunities to play along with your kids. Run after them at Marbles, and challenge them to a giant lego build-off. Play hide and seek in the house. See if the whirly things at the playground still make you dizzy. Make mud pies and have snowball fights. Collaborate on a finger paint masterpiece. Set up a mini obstacle course in your backyard using items you already have laying around. If you don’t have children, please remember that adults are just big kids! You can still play and be creative. Take an art class (even if it’s just a one-time ‘wine and design’ class). Take a walk around the art museum and get inspired. Get yourself a lovely new journal and write. Go to karaoke with your friends. Find the places that spark your creativity and fun, and enjoy them, guilt-free.
Let’s get it out of the way first: social media does *not* count towards filling up your Social Bucket. I promise.
Now, let’s think of things that do. For starters, think of the people on your list that matter most to you. You most likely see these people on a regular basis if they are your spouse/partner, children, close friends and family, etc. Think of the quality of time spent with these people--has it become more route and less meaningful than you’d like? Does it feel daunting when you try to think of how to keep all these connections maintained?
An easy way to bring more fulfillment to our social connections is to bring in ritual. Have a regular thing you do with your bestie every week. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or partner or children. Find something to do in which you get to meet new people (combine bestie and new people time if you’re feeling nervous!). The activities can be the same every time, or completely spontaneous. The goal is giving your yes (your commitment of time and energy) to those most important to you, and building it into your life regularly. Scheduling time to maintain your social relationships may feel like not much fun on the front end, but it can be a great way to maintain your important connections for the longterm.
Let’s talk about Stuff, Baby
Stuff. It’s everywhere. In drawers and closets and bins and piles. In the garage, the driveway, our pockets, the backyard. Owning things puts us in an obligatory relationship with our stuff. Whether it’s a house, a car, clothes, collections, papers, books, etc. We spend time, money, and energy on procuring, upgrading, repairing, maintaining, organizing, storing, and stressing about our stuff. That’s time, money and energy we could be spending on what matters most to us.
Clutter can cause anxiety. According to recent research, clutter in our spaces decreases our ability to focus, process information and make decisions, and increases stress levels and the likelihood of depression. Think of clutter in your home as clutter in your mind. So, the less piles of things you have laying around, the clearer you’ll feel mentally and emotionally.
Marie Kondo and her book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ along with her Netflix series is all the rage right now. I’m a big fan of her work, and I can testify to the magic of developing a new relationship with my stuff. The idea of letting go of anything that doesn't spark joy (and everything that’s left having a reserved place in my home) can ripple outwards to other areas of life as well--and it’s helped me to reevaluate the relationships and obligations that were not joyful or sustaining for me.
So, how much stuff do we actually need? First, let’s take a look at the word ‘need’. It’s a strong word. Byron Katie is fond of saying ‘How do I know I don’t need a thing? Because I don’t already have it.’ While that may sound extreme, the meaning behind it is that many of us already have our basic ‘stuff needs’ met. We have shelter, clothing, food, water, and transportation. The trap we can get ourselves into is convincing ourselves that we ‘need’ something, when in reality we just really, really want it. And what often happens when we buy the thing we ‘needed’, is we have a momentary rush of excitement, which after a short time fades away. When initial excitement of having the thing is gone, we find something else we just have to have, and the cycle continues all over.
A good way of deciding whether or not to buy an item is to ask yourself first: ‘Does this help fill one of my Buckets, or drain it (thinking of your Financial Bucket here is a great idea!)?’ and second ‘Am I prepared to be committed to caring for this item?’ If we look at our stuff in relational terms, and remember the time, money, and energy we devote to having things, it’s easier to decide whether or not we really need to buy that 3rd pair of leather boots that are on sale right now.
Impulse buying: Chase the feeling, not the form. The next time you’re feeling impulsive about a purchase, take a moment to get present with yourself. Ask yourself what is the feeling you’re looking for? Sink into that for a minute. Is it a feeling of comfort, safety, or excitement? Is there a way to give yourself that feeling without buying something? When you change your relationship with your stuff, you open up a whole new world of freedom.
Gift Giving: Presence over presents! Gift giving is a lovely thing we humans do, that should feel good for the giver and the receiver. One of the ways we can combat the clutter and the stress when gift giving, is to remember these tips:
• Give experiences (planned outings, concert tickets, camping trips, spa day, etc)
• Give consumables (meals, nice bottle of wine, locally roasted coffee,tea etc)
• Give hand made (whether made by you, or a local artisan, hand made gifts tend to last longer, and if you make your own gifts, you save money and yourself from the shopping frenzy)
Check your motive. Ask yourself: Does giving this gift feel good to me? Am I giving out of obligation, or a sincere feeling of joyfulness or gratitude? If not, then simply don’t do it.
This reduces the likelihood of the gifts we give being introduced into the waste stream, takes some of the stress and pressure off of gift shopping, and helps us remember our joy.
It is my hope that you’ve received some insights and benefits from this series that can help you on your way to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with yourself. I am deeply grateful for your company in this self-care adventure. Until next time!