As I reached, still half asleep, for my phone on Friday morning to put a guided meditation on, I found a Facebook notice saying “Nathalie is marked safe during the attack in Nice, France”. I remember gasping very loudly.
I could have stayed in a mourning daze for three days as I did last November, with a heavy heart, unable to do anything, just watched the news all the time and played my version of the events in my head, my heart breaking over and over.
Instead, I decided to do all that I had to do, albeit with a breaking heart. I also forced myself to carry on with my daily creative challenges directing my thoughts on other matters regardless of the results. I journaled. I ate clementines. Three ways to feed my mind, body and soul.
I remembered that when life gets tough and our spirit falters, we need to take care of ourselves more than ever. It is so easy to tick items off our to-do list and take care of everybody else before we turn our attention to ourselves.
Overwhelm and burnout often happen when we fail to maintain self-care. Beyond the issue of time, the main problem we have is a lack of definition for our own self-care practice. I know we can find the time, if only a few minutes here or there, but if we have no plan we’ll squander them.
I am a big believer in routines and plans, however loose. A list of options is a plan.
Define your own self-care practice
Using three columns, list all the ways you take care or would like to take care of your mind, body and spirit. For your mind, it might be, reading fiction books, or business books, listen to podcasts, journalling, meditation, mindfulness, affirmations, etc. For your body, it could be, longer (or better) sleep, movement (walk, run, dance, exercise, gym workout, bootcamp, playing with young children, stretch), massage, nail care, napping, taking a bath, creating a comfortable space where you can relax, etc. For your spirit, it may be reading inspirational material (religious or not), going to the ballet/opera/theatre/concert/movies, visiting museums and galleries, going into nature, gardening, cooking, creative activities, etc.
Now look at your three lists and see what items could be part of a daily/weekly/monthly routine. How can you combine some of them to create a morning routine, a lunchtime routine, an evening routine? What could you do once a week or once a month?
Write down these routines to finalise them and commit to them. Be very specific, i.e. What kind of movement practice will you have, for how long? What will you need?
Keep a notebook for ideas so that you can refer to it when you have a few minutes. Jot down the names of books you’d like to read, movies to watch, theatre plays or concert you’d like to attend, recipes you’d like to try. It is essential to keep such a notebook if you want to create a creative practice. When you have a list of ideas to explore, it maximises the time you have for this. This is especially crucial when you only have a few minutes available. The last thing you want is to use the whole of your 15 minutes wondering what you could do.
Create your lists, your routines and your loose plans, stick to them, refer to them, review and tweak them as needed and have your notebook handy all the time. The benefit of your self-care practice will not come from how much time you can give it but from its consistency.