“Self-care is essential for our health and wellbeing. It is not indulging, or being selfish.”
“Focus on who you are as a human being versus a human doing with a to-do list.”--Kelley Wolfe
Last month I wrote about the dangers of trying to do too much. I suggested that we all experiment with changing our focus from “doing” and instead, move the emphasis to simply “being.” I am curious how that experience was for you? Were you successful in spending more time relaxing, and did you open yourself up to more creativity and fun? I really hope so because one month later, this is still your time!
When we are stressed from working too much we have trouble concentrating, are less productive, and make more mistakes. The more we try to juggle tasks, the less efficient we become at keeping all of the balls in the air. Our creativity suffers, and we have a harder time seeing potential options, opportunities, and solutions. We have more of a tendency to procrastinate, and we can make impulsive decisions without enough consideration. We burn out. Our happiness decreases, and we can be more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Too often we compensate, not by doing what we know to be the right things (eating well, exercising, time in nature, meditating), but by doing activities that make our situation worse such as eating, drinking, and watching television. But there are far better ways to relax. To guarantee that we get enough rest it is imperative to remember that if we don’t set good, appropriate boundaries, it can be too easy to spend our time overworking.
I often find inspiration for my practice in Nature; recently I encountered three wonderful examples of setting boundaries. Because the desert heat here in Tucson has really ramped up this month, two different reptiles have made their annual appearance. In recent weeks, I have come across a desert tortoise as well as a large lizard called a Gila monster. Both leave their burrows for only a short while during the summer after spending most of the year resting. They are some of the most successful reptiles in terms of their survival because of this simple practice. Native cultures view them as wise and spiritual beings which carry good omens. They are unusual to see, move slowly yet methodically, and can cover a surprisingly large amount of ground. Perhaps it is because they rest for such long periods of time before briefly coming out into the world.
A third animal to grace my world has been a mother bobcat and her two adorable newly born kittens. We had started seeing this feline repeatedly a few months ago when we had baby quail in our backyard, and she showed a remarkable amount of perseverance by continually re-entering our lush property after being encouraged to leave to protect the newborn quail. My husband wondered if she might be guarding a food source or thinking of starting a family. And indeed, as we recently discovered, it was the latter. We could only get quick glances at the kittens because they were small and stayed very close to momma, well hidden in our tropical garden. The bobcat family stayed for almost a week and then headed on their way, but two days ago we spotted her again in our backyard so we are on high alert now watching and waiting.
The common characteristic shared by all three animals is that they have very firm boundaries. A tortoise will simply retract into its shell when it is threatened. Their hard top and bottom shells ensure that they remain safe from the dangers of the world. The Gila monster’s strikingly vivid orange color advertises that it has a potent poison in its bite, so most animals and humans know to admire them only from afar. Momma bobcat was able to articulate her boundaries to us very clearly…she simply vocalized a low growl whenever we got too close when watering or trying to catch a photograph. There was no confusion there. “Back off” was her message. She and her offspring needed privacy, and Momma bobcat needed her rest after giving birth and nursing her young ones.
We can be inspired by the examples in Nature and we can adopt similar approaches to make our boundaries clear so that we can rest, recharge, and restore ourselves. Below is a list of suggestions regarding taking time to yourself, to smell the fragrant roses outside right your door. Naturally, it starts with the very important concept of boundaries.
· Have, and maintain, your boundaries.
· Be clear and aligned by prioritizing what’s most important to you.
· Live one day at a time and have faith and patience.
· Create a safe cocoon and nurture yourself with comforting things.
· Spend a few minutes each day in the quiet of Nature.
· Meditate 5-15 minutes a day.
· Give yourself permission to take time to rest, be quiet and just stare out the window. Focus on your breath and feeling at peace.
· Move your body every day.
· Be aware and open to get past your places of resistance. Challenge your negative and untrue thoughts. Get out of your own way.
· Cut back on your expectations, especially of yourself.
· Stay healthy by eating foods that are good for you, and getting a good quality night’s rest of about 8 hours each night.
· Take a nightly lavender Epsom salt bath, light some candles, and play soft, soothing music.
I encourage you to choose one of these “turtle steps” to try each week so you can get some much-needed rest. Remember that the drive to constantly work and achieve has been instilled in us from an early age by our parents, schooling, and culture. Self-care is essential, and is definitely not being self-indulgent or selfish. It is the only way to maintain a balance in our life and stay healthy and happy. Keep in mind, as I can attest to this year, if you don’t make a conscious effort to rest and recharge, life has a way of making you rest by throwing a roadblock your way so you have to slow down and rest.
Consider the examples of the desert tortoise and bobcat. Pull into your shell or softly growl if needed. Take the time you need to rest and embrace Nature’s nectar and bliss. There is nothing like the smell of a fragrant rose, gardenia, or plumeria to lift your spirits. Remember: This is your time.
"To truly flourish, you have to pay attention to your body, taking care of it and meeting its needs." --Christiane Northrup, M.D.
“When I go too fast, life finds a way to hit the brakes, such as stopping me at red lights when I’m rushing to work or dosing me with a cold when life gets too busy. Have a closer look at your experience. Does life ever make you stop and smell the roses?” --Leigh Ann Kittell