I’ve been wanting to write this post forever. I’ve started it in my head countless times. I kept stopping though, I could never get it out. I want to say so much and I want to say it well.
It’s just that the message is so much more important than simply, “You have to take care of yourself.” And yet, that is the message. I hope that saying something will be better than saying nothing at all. I hope that you will read this and that it will touch you to make a change in your life, a change that you very much deserve.
It’s been a month and a half since I found my way out of the darkness, again. The past few years have been a roller coaster in every way. The only constant has been my lack of self care. Sure, there were a few times when I stepped up my game and did something positive or healthy for myself; but all of those attempts fizzled quickly.
The thing about self care is that it’s a massive undertaking. It’s not about one thing, or even a series of short term efforts. It’s about a lot of things: a permanent, holistic picture of healthiness, happiness, fullness, and balance. When I “woke up” at the beginning of this year, it wasn’t so much a matter of wanting to, as it was a matter of necessity. I was literally slowly dying.
Over the past six weeks, everything has changed. It had been so hard to take care of myself for so long, because I fell into the trap that a lot of women (and men) fall into–I believed that I mattered the least. It’s a natural belief, easy to fall into, especially when you are a mother or a caretaker. It’s instinctual to a degree, to want to put your babies or loved ones in front of yourself in every way.
The unfortunate thing is that ultimately, and almost always, it ends in disaster. When we do not take care of ourselves, we fall apart. Our health suffers and our mind suffers. We run ourselves ragged trying to do everything, and be everything, for every one; and even if that works for a little while, eventually, it always falls apart.
Sometimes we think that by neglecting ourselves, we are serving others; but that is not the truth. When we are broken, the love and the care that we give to others is inadequate at best. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
I have found that there are five key areas of nourishment when it comes to self care. If we can meet these five areas, truly and completely, then we are, indeed taking care of ourselves. When we are our best selves, we can also care wholly for the people that we love. In order to effectively, love and care for the people and things in our lives, we must first love and care for ourselves.
There are five areas of nourishment for self care:
Emotional: First, we must be nourished emotionally. Self-love and emotional wellness are the very basis of self care. If we do not love ourselves, everything else in our lives will be out of balance. The challenge of emotional nourishment often comes down to our beliefs about what we, ourselves, deserve.
When I started my journey of self care, I struggled intensely. For a long time I would start only to stop again quickly thereafter. I finally found lasting success when I began using my self-love mantra, “I deserve to be happy and healthy.” When I feel like I can not (or should not) reach personal success, I repeat my mantra to myself. It empowers me to keep going.
Physical & Nutritional: These two go hand-in-hand. Physical and nutritional wellness are the bedrock foundation on which wellness is built. For some people, these things come naturally. Regular physical activity and a healthy balanced diet are staples in some peoples lives. For others, however, it’s just the opposite. Sedentary lifestyles equate to constant aches and pains. The diet consists of almost entirely unhealthy, processed garbage food.
I could write a novel on this bullet point alone, but for now, I’ll simply say two things.
Exercise–You must do something that stretches your muscles and elevates your heartbeat every day. A brisk walk, a dance party in the living room, a ten minute yoga video on YouTube. Any of these things will suffice. Further, you must exercise hard–until you sweat–between one and three times a week. If you think this sounds impossible, start with a mere fraction of what I am recommending and go from there. It is not impossible. Wherever you are today, just start. Even if you have long forgotten its magic, your body is still a wonderful, powerful temple. It is waiting for you to reclaim it.
Diet–Imagine that your body is a garden. If you want it to grow and flourish, it needs certain things. It’s very simple. We all know that gardens need water, sunlight, and rich soil to grow. Our bodies are similar. We need water, vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber. There are many ways to achieve this, thousands of diet plans in the world. But most basically, what we need is real, organic food. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat (in moderation or not at all). It’s that simple. Everything else, other than the things that I’ve described here, is garbage. With very few exceptions, all processed food is garbage, loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Cigarettes, alcohol, and drug abuse–would you pour battery acid all over your garden?
Spiritual: Once we are emotionally, physically, and nutritionally nourished, we can turn attention to our spiritual lives. Spiritual nourishment comes from a whole host of areas, and for each person, it means something different. For many, religion plays a part in soothing the spirit. For others, time spent alone in nature is critical to spiritual health. Almost everyone can benefit from art–reading nourishing books, listening to touching music, visiting a museum, watching a moving play, and so on.
When it comes to spiritual nourishment, it’s really simple. Do whatever it is that makes your spirit come alive.
Interpersonal: Relationships are the final piece of this puzzle. Ten years ago, I was in an amazing place in my life. I had just overcome anxiety and depression. I had lost seventy pounds. I was living a life that I had always dreamed of living. At that time, I absolutely loved helping people. I was building my career on my ability and desire to help people. What happened next, however, I never could have anticipated. My desire to help people almost killed me.
I was so blinded by my desire to help that I dove into it headfirst without caution. Both in my professional life and in my personal life. I was so committed to helping and healing others, that I completely forgot about me. I fell so hard and so quickly into a trap and I never, for a moment, realized that in trying to help, I–myself–would be destroyed.
By the time I finally realized what had happened, I was so far gone that I was unrecognizable. My life had fallen apart into a million broken pieces. One day I looked in the mirror and I had no idea who I was. It’s taken me a year and a half to slowly crawl out of that hole. I can finally see the light again.
My point regarding interpersonal relationships is that you have to be extremely careful about who you allow into your life and how. Not every person can be helped. Not every person wants to be helped. It is critical that you choose relationships that nourish you, build you up, and empower you to be your best self. Do not settle for anything less–whether in friendships, romantic relationships, colleagues, or acquaintances. Never, never settle. You do not have to tolerate toxicity in your life, ever.
When I first started therapy, again, I received some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. She said, when you are talking to yourself, speak as though you are talking to your children or to your best friend–to someone who you love very, very much. It took me awhile to fully come around to it, to truly embrace it. I still stumble occasionally, but mostly I am here now. I treat my self with the love and care that I deserve. And thereby, I can love and care for the people around me with a full, strong, nourished heart–which is the greatest love that can be given.
Every morning when you wake up, think of the best compliment that you could ever receive–and then give it to yourself. Say it in your mind. Say it out loud. Say it again, and again, and again. Then say it again at lunchtime. And again when you’re getting ready for bed. Not just today or tomorrow, but every day. Then watch the magic in your life unfold. ♥
Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.
You can’t help anybody when you’re dead.
I took our Christmas tree down on Sunday. I knew it would be difficult. If you’ve ever done it, you know that it’s a “pain-in-the-ass” task. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how emotionally difficult it would be.
Aside from the usual magic of a Christmas tree and all of the beautiful, warm memories that are created around it; this year’s tree represented something bigger and deeper for me. It became a symbol for what I am capable of, for the life that I am capable of creating for myself and for my children.
Several times while I was unwinding the lights, and pulling the sparkling balls from the branches, I found myself crying. It halted me at moments; but I coaxed myself–remembering that it wasn’t the sad ending of one thing, but rather the beautiful beginning of many things.
I snapped these photographs of Marina in front of the tree a few weeks before Christmas. I’m so grateful to have them, to freeze those precious moments in time. That cute, little tree–that sweet, baby girl.
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.
If you have a deep scar, that is a door,
if you have an old, old story, that is a door.
If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.
If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
–Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
It’s the middle of December and I’m not sure what to make of it. These days I find myself choosing words carefully. As a younger version of myself, I shared words freely. I let them flow from me with abandon. Now, when I open my heart, I want to be careful about what comes out, also, about who gets in.
I’ve started reading one of my favorite books again, Women Who Run With the Wolves. Hence, the quote at the top of this post. It is a personal bible of sorts. In my opinion, every woman should read it. It’s not an easy read, but like all truly good things, it is worth it.
To get back to December, and my not knowing what to make of it — I didn’t create a desktop calendar this month. At the moment, I need less to know what the date is, and more to remember to be brave. And so here you have it, another free desktop background for you to enjoy. I hope that it serves as a reminder to you, as a light when you need it.
To download it, simply click on the link below that best suits your screen size. Then right click and choose ‘set as desktop background.’ Enjoy!
The autumn that is ending has been one of my favorites to date. It’s always been my favorite season, full of magic and warmth, but this one was more illuminating & empowering than any that have come before it.
This past summer was a tumultuous one for me. Through all of that, I prayed hard for a sign from God. Then one day, I looked behind me and I saw this. There it was, loud and clear, exactly what I needed: Slow down. As summer came to a close, the tumult began to fade and peace set in. I had my sign.
I took the autumn “off” in a lot of ways. I rested. I reflected. I prayed. I walked slowly through nature. I took photographs. I laughed. I cried. I listened. I shared.
In the silence of what came next, in the reflecting, I found wisdom.
I realized that there are two types of people in the world: people who are afraid to say no and people who are not afraid to say no.
I spent my entire life being the former, always afraid to say no; afraid to disappoint; afraid to upset — even when it came at my own expense. And then, one day, I said enough. What a thing it is to feel empowered to say no, any time, any place, to any one. It is a gift, a gift to myself and now I will walk happily through the rest of my life carrying no in my hands, never afraid to use it whenever I need it.
And most importantly, now, when I say no, I never, ever feel guilty. For my no is my gift to myself and I trust myself to know well-enough when it is the right time to say it.
I hope that you are well, friends. Here in northern New Jersey, autumn is quickly turning into winter. The bright, warm colors in these photographs are quickly fading, even in my memory. Winter has never been an easy thing for me, as you well know if you’ve been reading here awhile. Yet, this week all of the autumn decorations have been coming down and in their place Christmas has been popping up and bringing fresh hope with it.
Last night, the children and I were driving home. The sun had set and Christmas lights were glowing brightly in the front yards that we passed. Candles were burning warmly in the windows. I felt a surge of warmth in my heart, a deep, profound gladness for all of the people sitting safely & happily inside of their homes. Most of all, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for my own multitude of blessings. Perhaps this winter will not be as cold as the ones that came before it. Perhaps magic will live on and shine bright. Perhaps peace & love will reign supreme. ♥