I am a high empathy person. Often inappropriately labeled “too sensitive” or “emotionally immature,” I feel the emotions of others and can easily read the emotional climate of a room. This ability came in handy as a social worker. I could tell you in a matter of moments what was going on in a foster family or a family of origin simply be spending time interacting with them.
However being a high empathy person is not as helpful during say – family disputes, faith shifts, facing the extreme emotional reactions of others, standing beside someone in physical pain, or dramatic election seasons. As an emotional sponge it can difficult for me to sift through which emotions are mine and which belong to the people around me.
What follows are 3 Ways to Practice Self-Care and maintain your sanity.
One: Nature. Nature. Nature.
For me nature is an essential element in finding wholeness and healing. In a virtual, technology connected world it is necessary to unplug from the continual input and output of information and rest my spirit. I need fresh air to breathe in deeply. I need the blue sky above me, or the cathedral green ceiling to meet me, and my feet firmly grounded in the dirt.
When I had four children under the age of five there was not much time or space for me to quietly enjoy nature and find my thoughts.
Self-care was elusive. There was no time or money for extravagant mommy alone time
Sunsets however were my daily anchor point.
After dinner I would step out onto our postage stamp sized backyard and I would watch the sun go down. From my perch with mud seeping between my toes and the house in evening chaos behind me, I would witness this daily holy moment making: the sun reaching down between the trees and across rooftops meeting me in my mundane, mothering wonderment.
This was the sacred in the ordinary for me.
Even now – with five children – our family’s daily rhythm seems to halt around sunset. For a moment we are quiet and aware watching the sun come down between the trees from our perch behind those carefully placed family room windows.
I am convinced the man who built this part of our house knew the sunset view available every single night if he set the windows just right.
Nature is a way to witness and capture the holy.
When you first start out on the path or lay out in the yard or take off down the beach- there will be a bunch of “scum to skim off the top.” Your mind will wander fast and furious, but lean into it. Don’t fight the thoughts. Let them come.
And then as they come begin to release each piece of crusty emotional baggage as you take the next step.
Soon you will find yourself with nothing, but the symphony sounds of nature. This is when you have reached a place of divine rest. Take it when it comes. Cherish it. You will need it when the world starts to swirl again.
Repeat step one often.
Two: Create. Create. Create.
I write and take pretty pictures. Some people draw, paint, dance, or even run (running is creating energy isn’t it?). Whatever it is you do which makes your heart soar and come alive- do it well and often.
Retail therapy used to be my thing when I was younger, but I have found shopping to be an empty self-care companion. Filling up my life with more stuff never leads to wholeness. Retail therapy like food is an emotional numbing agent.
Retail therapy simply leads to buying more things we don’t need to fill up a house and life which is already cluttered so we can try to numb our heart and life holes – we are trying to pretend don’t exist within us.
Retail therapy is a cheap substitute for real therapy. Buying all the things we think we need to be OK is a cheap substitute for finding our passions and running with them.
Wanna find the heart holes and empty life spaces and fill them up for good? Find your passion and go create life with it.
Three: Play and Riotous Laughter
One of my favorite past-times is sitting out on the front porch with my people. Yes, we cry here and have serious conversations, BUT we also laugh out loud here.
Riotous laughter is good MEDICINE for a weary soul.
Perhaps where you are in life right now feels like inappropriate timing for laughter and play. “We need to be serious here – this is serious.”
Do you know how many times I have been asked in my life, “ARE YOU EVER SERIOUS?”
And I just want to shout back, “ARE YOU EVER ABLE TO BE FUN? CAN YOU PLAY, LAUGH, OR ENJOY YOURSELF? OR DOES IT HAVE TO BE CAREFULLY SCRIPTED AND SCHEDULED FUN?”
Here’s the thing – I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh. I won’t apologize for laughing. I get to laugh – I almost died. Life is too short to be so darn serious all the time.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” – Victor Borge
The best sound is when new babies find their awkward first giggles. Those belly laughs are the best sound and I anticipate those firsts with joy.
I won’t apologize for laughing. Or encouraging others to find joy through laughter and play even in the midst of difficult, bleeding places.
Find a way to play. Find what makes you laugh and then allow that laughter to bleed into all your sucked dry and hopeless places.
Somewhere in growing up and taking on adult responsibilities we lose the ability to play and enjoy riotous laughter. As writers and artists we have an excuse to daily imagine and play within our craft, but take that out into the world and those “wise grownps” look at us with disapproving faces and speak over us with doubting and shaming words.
I think our laughter and ability to play – frightens them.
How we choose to be ABLE matters.
Self-care in the face of breaking places is an essential step to being wholehearted and healthy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be known as being unable to laugh or play, create and live from my passions, enjoy nature and the people I have been given to love – because I am overwhelmed by the seriousness of adulting.
Adulting should be fun and overflowing with riotous laughter.
These are three ways to practice self-care and be gentle with yourself.
Maybe you have discovered more? Leave me a comment below and let me know.
A Few Tools to Help Your on Your Self-Care Journey
Read a few great books (AFFILIATE LINKS FOLLOW):
- Julia Cameron “The Right to Write”
- Julia Cameron “The Artists Way”
- Gerald May “The Wisdom of Wilderness”
- Pema Chodron “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”
A Few Materials I love for lettering and drawing and journaling (AFFILIATE LINKS FOLLOW):
My Favorite point and shoot camera – A Canon Powershot. (AFFILIATE LINK) I used this camera for years before my upgrade to a big girl camera. A great companion if you want to try to take great photos on the path without the expense and weight of a DSLR.