By: Kristin Fisher
For many years, I never knew how to nurture myself. Sure, I took vacations, took time out time to get together with girlfriends, treated myself to a pedicure occasionally, but my life was still filled with constant busy-ness and as a result, anxiety and stress. While these are all good activities, they weren’t enough to manage the constant craziness I felt in my head. I would justify that I’m a busy working mom of four, managing a household, and I’m in a temporary phase of life that would end, and I could finally relax a bit when I reached the next phase of life. But, years later, what I found was that each phase, while different, still had the same crazy feel to it and I still felt constantly overwhelmed!
To be quite honest, I felt angry and resentful a lot of the time and I didn’t like who I was becoming. I also realized I was doing more unhealthy things to manage my life stress (avoiding, drinking more, eating more comfort foods, feeling sorry for myself etc.) then healthy ones. It’s taken some work, a little therapy, a little spiritual realignment, but I finally realized that I needed to appreciate where I am right now in life, taking time each day to connect with myself and practice self-compassion. When I do this DAILY for myself, I find that I don’t feel nearly as overwhelmed, I have a better perspective on my life situations, and ultimately, less anxiety and resentment. I’ll share with you some of what has helped me find a little peace amid the chaos of life and maybe you can take a try a few too!
Have a regular centering practice of some kind. Find something you do daily by yourself that allows you to become quiet and contemplative. Turn off all technology that could be a distraction. This might be a daily walk, mindfulness meditation, journal writing, time alone looking out the window with a cup of tea etc. I have set a time for myself each morning to read a spiritual devotional and allow myself to be quiet. Sometimes I will journal about my thoughts on what I’ve just read, other times, I sit in front of the window looking out at my yard, allowing myself to be thankful for what I have. This helps me sort through the ups and downs of everyday life. I find I have a positive outlook and feel re-energized.
Seek Community and cultivate valuable relationships in your life. We are hard wired to connect to others. When we do this, we feel less alone in our struggles. Community can uplift us in our hard times, and the opportunity to uplift and support others in times of struggle gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. Find a group that is likeminded in your passions and take a bold step to join in or intentionally set aside time to connect in relationships. This practice is something I’ve struggled to do. But when I actually take the time to do this, I find the reward well beyond the sacrifice of time and effort.
Spend time in nature. It turns out that being in nature is excellent for mental health! Time in the natural world boosts mood and decreases depression. When was the last time you really spent time admiring the leaves or bark on a tree that you pass by so often? How did it make you feel to stop long enough to admire the landscape of fresh dew along the path in front of you, or the sky? I love to take time to intentionally engage my senses when I’m outside, smelling the pine, feeling the sun on my back etc. I find it very calming and I feel truly invigorated!
Practice being present. When you have a hectic day, or feel stressed or overwhelmed, slow down and just allow yourself to be present. Observe your body’s response to these feelings, your breath, how you feel, and where you feel this most in your body. Allow yourself to be curious and accepting of what you are experiencing. So often we push away anything we feel emotionally uncomfortable with, but when we do this, we aren’t truly connecting with ourselves. Pay attention to what you are feeling, try to name it and practice acceptance. You’ll find that allowing yourself to feel your feelings is enlightening and enriching. It’s hard to explain why this is. I was so used to pushing away anything that felt emotionally strong, but when I allowed myself to be present with my feelings, I felt more emotional lightness and more alive.
Engage on a spiritual level. Even a short 10-minute time to pray, meditate or sit quietly can create energy and a sense of calm and peace within ourselves. For me personally this has made an enormous difference in allowing myself to feel centered each day. When I don’t take the time to do this for myself, I notice that there is a level of chaos inside myself that stays with me through the day.
Practice gratitude. Give thanks for even the smallest of blessings in life. When we choose to focus on the good things in our daily life, we find sense of perspective and contentment. I have found being grateful for the trivial things in my life uplift me greatly in the moment, like the hot cup of coffee on a chilly day!
Take time for self-care. We all know how we feel when we don’t take time to eat well or get enough sleep. Develop a relaxing sleep routine and be consistent. Fitting in time for physical activity isn’t just good for physical health, it gets our natural endorphins kicking, increasing our mood and confidence! Who doesn’t want more of that! But, it does take discipline. I found that blocking my schedule for even 15 – 30 minutes a day helped. Eventually, doing this became a healthy habit that I miss if I don’t do it!
Keep balance in life. If we don’t pay attention, life becomes like a sprint. Take time to play, to relax and self-nurture. Are there passions in your life that you let go? Take your vacation days and mental health days to self-nurture. When I find that I’m getting into the routine rut, I plan something fun to do for the upcoming weekend that gives me something to look forward to! If I’m feeling a little burnt out, I will schedule that pedicure and allow myself to enjoy every second of it! Self-nurturing doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, it just needs to be a priority!
Practice self-compassion. We are hardest on ourselves. When I started to really pay attention to my self-talk, I was quite surprised at how much I beat myself up! No wonder I could never feel good enough! When we criticize ourselves, we’re essentially at war with ourselves. Practicing self-acceptance and compassion brings us to peace within ourselves and quiets our inner critical voice.