The brutal winter months always remind me of the importance of walking as a way of staying connected to myself. Mostly because, when the weather is really awful, I can’t get out for a very long walk, and sometimes I can’t get out at all because the sidewalks are simply too treacherous.
Walking is one of those “bottom line” activities that help me feel actively connected to myself. It’s about moving my body, it’s about watching my mind — detaching from it — instead of buying into everything it tells me, it’s about connecting with the people and animals I see on my walks (even if this is only to smile and nod “hello”).
When I don’t get a lot of walking in, I start feeling deprived and stagnant.
Walking is one of the “tent poles” in my daily self-care. Occasionally I’ll run into someone from my neighborhood who says, “I see you walking all over the place!” People have been telling me this for years and years. (And that’s kind of funny, because when I’m out walking, I feel invisible — I feel like “I” disappear and my focus is on my breath, on the world around me, on the next step on the pavement. Apparently I’m pretty visible when I’m feeling invisible — but that’s a topic for another post!)
Another tent pole in my self-care routine is journaling. About five days a week, I need to journal to connect with myself. It’s rare that I miss more than a couple of days in a row of journaling. I have so many filled notebooks I couldn’t even begin to count them, and it’s fairly rare that I actually reread old ones (though it can be extremely beneficial when I do).
Sometimes people ask me how I “make myself” do all this journaling, and I tell them I’ve never once had to “make myself” journal. It’s like the walking — I crave it, because it’s my process of connecting with myself, knowing myself better, and using that knowledge to forge my path in the world. And it goes beyond myself as well — just like with walking, when I commit to doing it, I feel like I’m more connected to the universe, the collective consciousness, the whole of everything.
Sleep — good sleep — is another self-care tent pole, and a truly foundational one. When I struggle to get good sleep (as I have been this week), everything’s a little (or a lot) harder. And I put eating well — in a balanced way that doesn’t overwhelm my system — and staying hydrated in there with the sleep tent pole.
The fourth tent pole for me is “do-nothing time.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m actually doing nothing during this time. It means that I set aside some time every day where my intention is not to do but to be. The truth is, I might be puttering around the house, playing with my cat, or browsing Etsy during this “do-nothing” time. The important thing is that I’m not trying or striving or figuring things out during this time. The intention is presence.
I can reach this “being” place while walking or journaling, too — the difference for me is in the intention of simply being (which is different than the intention of moving my body or connecting with myself). I need to make sure I factor it in daily, even if it’s only fifteen or twenty minutes of “being” time.
So, my self-care tent is up, and there’s a lantern in it. That lantern is quality connection with — and support from — others. The reason I say “quality” connection is because I notice that if I don’t make a point of connecting with people I care about on a level deeper than jumping in and out of Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily happen. And during the weeks I have more depth of connection with loved ones — whatever form it may take, online or “real world” — I feel a LOT better, a lot more nourished and supported, and more able to pass on true support to others.
When I’m feeling drained, at loose ends, or like my life is insanely complicated, it really helps to check and see if one of my “tent poles” and/or my lantern have been consistently absent for a while. My self-care bottom line keeps me sane and reminds me that the only true power I have resides in the present moment, not in the past or the future.
What is your self-care bottom line? What are your absolute musts for taking good care of yourself and staying connected to yourself, on a daily basis? What do you notice about your overall sense of well-being when you practice solid daily self-care versus when you don’t practice it?
Image is “Vintage Raining Shoes1” © Pierrette Guertin | Dreamstime Stock Photos
2 thoughts on “Your self-care bottom line”
This is really great stuff Jill and I find myself nodding in approval with every self-care grounding principle you practice in your own life. I have been walking as a daily practice for almost two years now. It has been daily, or close to it as Mother Nature permits. Like you, I do it for no other reason than it is who I am, much like my writing. It either sets down new roots or helps to establish existing ones. They keep me delicately balanced between staying grounded and flying off into another world of dreams and ambitions. I like to be in both places at the same time 🙂
One thing I haven’t done – until recently – is journal. And although I am not the pen and paper type person (my handwriting is horrific), I have created a document in the cloud that contains daily thoughts that have been prompted by Robyn over at The Sarcastic Muse. She has a 365 days of journaling e-book that she has provided free of charge. It has really helped me get the metaphorical ball rolling. Funny thing is that I usually end up writing about something completely different than the original prompt. The prompt simply gets the fingers moving, the mind churning, and words/emotions on to the page.
The one thing that I really like – if you allow me to, ahem, borrow it – is the do nothing time concept. As you say, not to necessarily do nothing, but to focus on being instead of doing. This is brilliant (and wise) 🙂 I am going to devote some time to this idea in my daily life. I have a sneaky suspicion that the rewards will be overwhelming!
The one other thing that I need in every day to help remain grounded is alone time. Not that I am anti-social being, I just prefer it in short spurts. Having a dedicated time to converse with myself – sometimes through journaling, sometimes through listening to inspiring music, sometimes in complete silence – is essential to my well-being. It helps me to “be” the real me throughout the day.
Great article Jill, thanks for sharing 🙂
Dave, thanks for your great comments! Isn’t walking a wonderful practice? I’m so glad to hear that you, too, reap the benefits of it as part of your daily ritual. That’s really cool about the 365 days of journaling e-book and great that it’s inspiring you to check out journaling! (I notice I often write about something different than I’d planned when I start off with a journaling prompt, too!)
I’m definitely with you on the need for daily alone time. It’s so important to my well-being too, and the intention to have that time is key because it’s so easy to get caught up!
Do let me know what you discover if you try out the “do-nothing time”. I find I feel a lot fuller after I give myself that time. My cat is my “do-nothing time” muse — he’s really good at savoring “just being”! Thanks so much for sharing, Dave. Always good to hear from you! 🙂
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