Updated: Jul 6, 2020
I talk a lot about stress management. I encourage my clients to practice something I call “relentless self care”. I remind them that it is not selfish to care for oneself. Caring for oneself is different than being self-absorbed. Caring well for oneself allows us to care for others well. And that is the whole point.
Women want to care for others. We desire to nurture, and to teach, and to shepherd, and to support, and to create. It is hard for us to do this when we do not feel well. When we are sick and stressed and bitter and wound up all tight, we cannot satisfy our soul’s deep desire to nourish other people.
But first, our cup must be full. Or close to full.
I pretty much suck at this.
I am learning and getting a bit better, but as a mom of four children and a wife and an active member of my church and a businesswoman, caring for myself was not a priority for a time. And now, when I push against my the boundaries, I feel selfish and self-absorbed.
And Beau sometimes calls me selfish and self-absorbed.
This is because I am selfish and self-absorbed.
Are we all? Is no one? What is true sacrifice? Is true sacrifice doing something for others so you will make them think well of you? So that you think better of yourself? So that you check a box?
It is a confusing world to navigate, ladies. I feel you.
Let’s say you want to implement a few inexpensive strategies for self care that do not take you away from your responsibilities.
Here you go.
A regular ol’ epsom salt bath
This is the easiest and most effective strategy to implement. Most people have a bathtub. Most people like to take baths. Epsom salt is cheap, and unless you live in California, water is plentiful.
Simply run the fullest, hottest bath you can stand and soak in it for as long as you can. Add 4 cups of Epsom Salts and any essential oils you want.
If you are stressed: add lavender
If you are sick: add eucalyptus
If you are sore: add orange
If you lack libido: add ylang ylang
If you are exhausted: add grapefruit
Try to do this daily. Self care is not truly self care unless it is a constant practice. Do you run a lovely bath for your children each day and let them play in it until they are pink and happy? Treat yourself the same way. No phones in the bath, please.
Gather some foliage from your yard & create something beautiful
Everyone has accessibility to a green space. Maybe it is your yard. Or your mom’s yard. Or a woman from church’s yard. Or a park under the cover of night. No. Just kidding. Don’t steal.
Women are inherently designed to create. We feel a bit stifled when we cannot create and expand. Indulge me in sharing a passage from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “A Gift from the Sea”:
“…the answer is not in the feverish pursuit of centrifugal activities which only lead in the end to fragmentation. Woman’s life today is tending more and more toward the state William James describes so well in the German word, “Zerrissenheit- torn-to-pieces-hood.” She cannot live perpetually in “Zerrissenheit”. She will be shattered into a thousand pieces. On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day- like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.”
These words are from 1955. How much truer do they ring today? Without carving out a bit of creative, quiet, inwardly attentive time for ourselves, we will be torn to pieces, my dears.
I just use some kitchen shears and whatever old vases or mason jars I have on hand. I go out at any time of the day and carefully select flowers and green cuttings to bring into the home. I have neither a big yard nor a trained eye, but it brings me such joy to walk barefoot onto the grass and observe the whisper of fall, the oppression of summer, the starkness of winter, or the fresh breath of spring. I have many evergreen shrubs and find that these will do, and do well. I just cut them, fill my vessel with water, and place fresh green things all about my house. It is a pause, and it gives me joy.
Last Wednesday, my girlfriend and esthetician told me that she reserves 30 dollars a week to spend on flowers, just for her. It brings her joy. She loves the process of anticipating the trip to the store, of selecting the perfect bunches, of transporting them home, and of gazing on them in passing during the week.
Thirty dollars to fight against being torn to pieces.
You can clip your own flowers for free, or budget for something alive and vibrant. Either way, do it this week.
I have to tell you to do this or you will not do this. You will sit with a phone or a tablet. You will sit in front of the TV. You will sit at the dining room table, pretending not to ignore your children and the guests staying with you while you write your blog post.
Or you will not sit. You will go and go and go and go until you are torn to pieces. Why don’t you sit for awhile? Enjoy some face to face conversation. Watch the birds in your backyard. Let your eyes relax as they follow the swaying limbs of a familiar tree in your garden. Think, even. Solve problems in your head.
Women have no time to just be today. We race from here to there and back again. Then we lie awake, frozen with panic and fear at 1 am, wondering how we will get to sleep and if we will have enough energy to get through the day tomorrow.
If you set aside time to think during the day, I promise you will be less anxious at night. Or any other time you are finally forced to be alone with yourself. Learn to be ok with being alone with your thoughts.
Will you try to practice one of these options? Two? Three? Do you have your own rituals? Please share.
To your mental health,