Recently I took a couple days to retreat and recharge. My schedule (aka life) had become saturated with technology, social media, to-do lists and social obligations. I was seeing all the “signs” that I needed to slow down. I was tired, forgetful, easily frustrated and I was getting frequent headaches. I waited longer than I should have, pushing on, but finally (probably minutes before a mental or physical crash) I stopped.
For 2 days, I was alone and almost every choice was intentional. I turned off the computer and only used my phone for talking. I took naps, spent hours in nature both days, read an entire book and wrote pages in my journal. I carefully chose my meals, thinking about what I really wanted to eat and preparing most things from scratch. I sipped my favorite drinks. I watched a movie. I lit candles. I added lavender to my bath. It was a wonderful 48 hours.
I refocused on self-care, made a commitment to nourishment and even wrote out a daily plan of ways I intended to continue some of these rituals in my busier, day to day life.
The first day back in my “real life”, I did pretty well. I took time to journal and read. I drank my morning tea on the deck and watched some birds playing in a tree. The world did not fall apart. The emails in my inbox waited for me. I felt like I was back on track.
Day two had a jam packed schedule of conference calls, deadlines and errands. A few unexpected time-consuming work issues popped up mid-morning and by lunch, the last thing on my mind was self care. I was already slipping. I worked until the night hours, went to bed exhausted and read Facebook posts until I was too sleepy to stay awake.
Self care is easy on retreat. It’s the daily grind that makes it challenging. Whether it is simply old routines that stand in the way or it is a schedule so full of “stuff” that there is literally no time for it, many of us struggle with caring for our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. We do not need any more articles, books or research to tell us that self care is important. We know it is important! What we need is a shift in priority, belief and habit around self care and change like that is HARD.
There is an old Zen saying that goes “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” This message kept rolling through my head the week following my restorative two days of relaxing and retreating.
Day three was a repeat of day two and there was an awareness within me that I had to do something. In a frantic moment, I asked myself “what you do want right now?” The (somewhat surprising) answer that came was “a Coke”. Literally, a Coca Cola. So, I hurried to the kitchen, grabbed a coke and went back to the computer. I guzzled the soda as I answered more emails.
Then, I realized something, mid sentence in a message, and I stopped.
First, most likely my stress wanted that coke. I answered that question in a frantic, rushed state of mind. The Coke provided me no relaxation, no nourishment at all. At this point, I realized that the question I should have asked was this: “what would be nourishing right now?”
Perhaps the instinctual desire for the Coke was really more about taking a break (which I did not do). Maybe it was my body’s reaction to stress, craving something fizzy and sugary. Regardless, the Coke itself was not nourishing and did not make me feel better at all.
This is not a story about a Coke. This is a story about nourishment. Had I asked myself the second question (what would be nourishing right now), I would have realized that what I really needed was a walk around the yard, a few minutes of yoga or maybe even writing in my journal. I needed to breathe. Coke or no Coke, I simply needed to take a break. Even if that break only lasted 10 minutes.
I share this story because since that day, that second question has been a game changer in my daily life. It doesn’t seem that profound or revolutionary, but it is often the little things that make the difference. Simply rephrasing a question or shifting a perspective can have ripple effect.
When I find myself getting irritated or impatient, I ask myself the question. When I feel drained and tired, I ask myself the question. When my body feels sluggish or achy, I ask myself the question. When I notice I am stressed, anxious and in a hurry, the question comes.
What would be nourishing right now?
I have noticed through my roles as coach, volunteer, leader and even just a friend, that people of all ages, all backgrounds, all professions and all lifestyles struggle with self care. However, it seems most challenging for women. Last month, at our Red Tent gathering, the topic that more people suggested than any other for future gatherings was self care. When I started researching the topic, I found literally hundreds of books about it, not to mention dozens of blog posts, articles and videos.
Our next Red Tent gathering is August 18 and we are going to take on this topic of self care, sharing our challenges, our favorite self care rituals and our ideas. We’ll explore nourishment and how to respond to stressful and busy times that seem to choke out any opportunity for self care. As a matter of fact, the Red Tent in itself is an opportunity for self care. Once a month it’s a time to rest, retreat and just be for a few hours with other women needing the same thing. I hope you will join us.