Recently, the lovely and wise Jen Lee wrote about her prescription for strength, sharing a few details of her self-care routine and noting broader principles for tending to your own strength. That post came in the middle of a grey week, where I was feeling stretched thin, trying to do too much and growing frustrated when I ended up tired and frazzled.
I circle back to this theme of self-care every so often, devising recharge programs and lifesavers for myself, musing on the importance of taking care and moving toward balance when life goes off-kilter. My lists tend to include a mix of little treats (new books, chai lattes, hours with favorite movies or good friends) and old-fashioned nourishment (steaming bowls of soup, fresh fruit, hot showers, getting extra sleep). And as arsenals of mood-boosters and sanity restoratives, they play a vital role.
But I like Jen’s idea of operating from a place of strength, of knowing what you need for your physical and emotional health and then making that a consistent practice, even if taking care of yourself feels effortful, or complicated. We all know instinctively what we need to feel well and whole, but we don’t always think about it, or consciously put it into practice. This isn’t self-indulgence (though a little of that is called for every now and again). This is necessary care, especially since most of us are the primary caretakers of our own bodies and souls.
The practices that nourish me and shore me up include the following:
1. Come prepared. Check the weather forecast; bring an extra book; pack snacks (or an umbrella or a cardigan – whatever will likely be needed); keep teabags handy. I feel so much less frazzled when I take time to prepare, even just for the day.
2. Wear good shoes. Living, working and walking in a city, I notice a difference when I wear quality shoes that support my feet.
3. Make time for tea. This ritual warms, comforts and relaxes me; clears my head and prepares me to deal with the world; and yes, provides much-needed caffeine on many mornings.
4. Get enough sleep. I am a night owl by nature, and I hold a 9-to-5 job with a commute. This one is tough, but I am making an effort.
5. Spend time in community. Not just the virtual kind (though I love it and am grateful for it), but the real, face-to-face kind.
6. Make time to journal regularly. When I am edgy or off-kilter, J will ask, “Have you been writing?” The answer is usually no, and it means I need to get back to the page, even if it’s just to rant for 10 minutes. I learn this lesson over and over.
7. Cook nourishing meals, and accept the necessity of takeout sometimes. These are different sides of the same coin. But they are both ways of paying attention to my body and accepting the realities of my schedule. J and I cook dinner together and eat at the table whenever possible, which grounds and relaxes us – but we also know the value of a meal out when needed.
8. Surround myself with good words. Books, blogs, a handful of my favorite magazines: wise, thoughtful, witty and engaging words are the air I breathe.
9. Get outside. Even when it’s freezing, fresh air blows the fog out of my soul – especially in the middle of the workday.
How do you nourish yourself and keep your reserves filled? I’d love to hear your prescription for strength.