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In a few short weeks, we welcome fall.
We’re collectively making our way through one of the most difficult times of our lives.
Like many, my 2020 has been full of grief, loss, bad news, and uncertain times.
As a feeler, carrying emotions is easy, but releasing them is another story. Asking for help doesn’t come natural to me either—I cringe at the mere thought of it. My instinct is to suck it up, feel the pain, grief, and loss and move on like a little dysfunctional “Engine That Could.”
While it’s not healthy to hold onto strong emotions permanently, recognizing this inherited condition to bottle up and carry onward is, believe it or not, a forward progress.
What was once viewed as a healthy defense mechanism trait is now a work in progress. Thank God for therapy, right?
Knowing this about myself, I have to work extra hard to achieve self-care. I have to be intentional about checking in with myself and my needs. I recognize when the bearing gets heavy and actively choose to do healthy things to release and replenish in ways that are meaningful.
The result? I found joy in the haze of difficult times. Here’s how I found it:
1. Heart happy work
Where I put my energy completely shifted when Covid-19 hit the world. I shut down all of my “fun” projects and focused on my full-time job in social work. At the time, my dying dad was with stage four cancer. My brain could not handle anything more. I had to work to bring income and wanted to be there for my dad.
My dad’s passing, three months ago, was a big loss to our family. And although we will never be the same, each day, and little by little, I feel a little more strength to piece myself back together.
With the encouragement from my emotional support system and multiple gentle nudges from the universe, I was led to hit the play button on work that I had paused earlier in the year that was meaningful to me—this meant picking back up on projects, writing, seeing clients again through my part-time business, and getting back to my volunteer work.
2. Decluttering spaces is life
Do you know the kitchen drawer? The kitchen drawer—the one that barely opens without a Chinese food menu sliding to the back and into the cabinet below it? Well, it’s organized now. The extra plastic silverware we’ve been saving for when all the others disappear has a designated space now, and the extra ketchup and soy sauce packets are organized.
I didn’t throw them out because I don’t like to waste things. My point is, the drawer smoothly opens and closes now and nothing gets stuck.
Decluttering started with my bedroom closet earlier this summer. I discovered a skirt I forgot I owned—and that still fits. I moved onto the coat closet, bathroom cabinets, and then went down from there. Donating bags of items I no longer used and getting rid of damaged items has been freeing.
3. New shows on Netflix
A 50/50 blend of productivity and relaxation describes the perfect weekend to me.
Sometimes, relaxation means lying in bed to watch a good show. I’ve watched some of the shows that have been in my cue for months and months. Most of them are stand-ups (because laughing is good for the soul) and shows that I might not have picked on my own, but my sister and my friends highly recommended them.
I allowed myself time to relax, and I plan to do more of it in the future.
Alright, I admit it. I tried yoga about seven or nine times before I stopped.
As an off and on runner, I prefer to get sweaty and drive my heart rate up as soon as 20 seconds into my exercise routine. Don’t get me wrong, I still hit the pavement when I want to, but yoga surprised me this time.
It’s been a different kind of workout this go-around and what I’ve needed most at this time.
5. Going on nature adventures
Earlier this summer, I gave myself permission to go on a weeklong solo trip. I booked a yurt about two hours away from home on a riverfront property—I kayaked, I hiked, I swam, I read, I prayed, and I journaled.
That trip was one month after my dad had passed away. I cried, I wrote poems like a madwoman, I laughed, and I danced alone in my yurt with a glass of wine in hand. I didn’t think about other’s needs, what to cook, or what I had to do. I was free—I only thought about what I needed and wanted. Talk about a recharge—I had valuable alone time.
Since then, I have taken little weekend day trips to connect with nature and practice gratitude—I hiked to waterfalls, did grounding exercises in the mud, and hugged trees along the way. I saw bears in the trails and laughed with a girlfriend about it. I practiced yoga lakefront with my husband and took deep breaths of natural air.
Ah, connecting with nature has been a true gift.
I hope this list gives you some ideas for self-care during this unforeseeably difficult year for many of us.
I hope you find meaningful ways to take care of yourself.
What is bringing you joy right now?