From the time I could wrestle a newspaper open, I was an avid reader of Dear Abby. Kind of embarrassing. Yet there was something reassuring about this daily drop into the human condition, knowing she would always provide a pat answer. When I figured out that “pat” didn’t cut it in the real world, I outgrew Abby. So when the Bee starting carrying Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax, I figured it would be Dear Abby Re-dux. But she’s not. She is always spot on, real deal, cut to the chase and deliver. Who would believe I would glean totally pertinent self-care advice from this writer?
This question was from a reader at ten on the stress scale, wondering “how do I do self-care in an unfixable situation?” Read the column at the link if you wish. Carolyn’s answer is so thoughtful, I’m moved to expand upon it. She covers the obvious and the not so obvious in a basic list for sustaining healthy existence. And when the s—t hits the fan, this is a life jacket for survival. If you’re like most of us, the listed suggestions are often the first to go in those s—t moments. Practicing when life is easy is the best insurance around.
- Sleep. Enough. Many of us believe we need less than we actually do. Lots of research confirming we are a sleep-deprived nation. Turn off the technology at least an hour before bed. Go there when it is your time.
- Good nutrition. We can get obsessive about this one but before we spend a ton of energy, we might just focus on eating when we are hungry. Stop eating when we are not. Drink water. Learn to prepare simple meals. Eat a wide variety of wholesome food, heavy on the items found on the perimeter of the grocery store.
- Exercise. If you are not moving, get in motion thirty to sixty minutes every day. What do you like? Walking, biking, dancing, hop scotch…whatever. Just move it. This can be fine-tuned once the wheels are actually turning. Pushing the heart rate up, yoga, stretching, going to the gym, strength training, consciously breathing, gardening. It’s all good: 30-60 minutes. Every day.
- Art. I love that she included this. Listening to or making music, drawing or painting, singing, creating a collage or altar, knitting or sewing or quilting, artful cooking, arranging flowers, going to a museum or concert or play or film, playing with clay, taking photographs. Bring some beauty in, allow the creative juices to flow, everyone is an artist.
- Sensory comfort. Wow, now we’re talking. I read that, lit the fireplace and nestled a little closer into this velvet couch. Kitty just plopped down on my fuzzy slippers. Get it? I’m big on this one. One of my favorite daily moments? Going to total comfort bed: multi-pillows, down comforter, soft lights, soothing artwork, quiet color. Think texture and color when it comes to décor and food and clothing. Reach out for hugs, stroke a pet, touch somebody. Cover the rest of the sensory bases: bring on the music and quiet conversation and the smell of oatmeal cookies warming in the oven. Hot baths…
- Emotional and spiritual support. This is huge territory. We thrive on both extending and receiving empathy and love: family, friends, loved ones, counselors, teachers. Sometimes in our hurry hurry, nourishing connection is missed: grocery checker, neighbor, curious child, stray dog, any random opening to encounter and be enriched by the mystery. Spiritual support might be a matter of showing up to a class or to church or to god wherever she is for you. For the last two weeks I’ve kept a personal appointment outside in a natural setting for an hour each day. I can feel the vital support to my spirit. Meditating, reading poetry, inspirational writings, journal keeping. Maybe this base is covered in #3 or #4 above.
So the invitation is to consider this simple list and see how it compares to your day yesterday, or what you think may be in store for today. It is never too late to make a course correction. I love how, other than sleep (and there will be a break where this would be possible!) all these bases are covered in Saturday’s Cultivating Instinct. Because as it says in the liner notes “in this supportive environment with a variety of modalities, you attune to your innate body wisdom and establish your own authentic prescription for optimal self-care, stress management and health.” This is an opportunity to tap your basic animal wisdom. After all, a turtle doesn’t need a self-care list…she just knows. Come feel the support and have a good time finding out.