Or, unintentionally cozying up to a new Danish word.
Hello, friends! You may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent from the blog lately. I’ve always strived to share with transparency in this space, so perhaps I’ll start today by telling you that it hasn’t been an easy year for me with regards to writing. I do still write full-time for a living, but it has been challenging for me to write the personal pieces I often share with you here.
Many times I’ve pointed to the block that is still haunting me — yes, you guessed it — telling the full story of my robbery at gunpoint and bus hijacking in Colombia at the end of last year. There’s so much I want to say, but so much pressure (from myself, mostly) to get it right.
It’s fitting I should mention that event now, because that was the beginning of the self-care practices that inspired this post. After the hijacking, my sense of security, my view of the world, my ability to trust myself…all of these things came into question. I suffered from PTSD and sought treatment when it began affecting parts of my life. And while I’ve learned more from it than I can begin to write, perhaps the simplest way to begin to share is to tell you how I learned to take better care of myself.
More recently, like so many of us, I was devastated by the outcome of my country’s election. Not only did some people not share the belief that certain qualities are absolute deal breakers when it comes to a leader, but enough did not that now I am forced to recognize someone I do not respect (in the slightest) as the head of our country. (I find tiny comfort in being a Californian, and in knowing that he did not win the popular vote.) Once I again I return to these principles of self-care to make it through my daily shock, disappointment, and deep concern about the country’s future.
And though it seems minor in comparison to the aforementioned events, I do admittedly sink into a bit of a funk when I return home from extensive travels. I’ve learned this about myself and tended to take 7-10 day trips this year as a result. I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to extend my time in France (more on that later,) so I felt the familiar post-trip blues when I returned home after nearly one month away (one week before the election.) Bring on the self-care yet again!
I know I’m not alone in the challenges we’ve faced in 2016. And even if we don’t share the same political engagement or views, or if you’ve never been a victim of violence or trauma, I know enough to know that everyone has their story and that we all face difficulties. Here’s what works for me when I need that little extra self-love to make it through the day/week/month/year. As always, take from it what works for you…and leave the rest.
oo << those are two hugs for you.
Simple Principles for Self-Care, Grounding, or Recalibrating
(Can be particularly helpful during the holidays, times of political stress, and personal trauma or drama.)
In one word: hygge. (It’s Danish, and you should check out what it means.)
In a few words: Get out of your head.
At my best, I’m thoughtful, insightful, and purpose-driven. At my worst, I’m prone to anxiety, overthinking, and indecision. We all have qualities that define us, those that swing from our best to our worst. At times the variable that does this is external, but often it’s internal.
The middle ground can often be found by quieting our minds a bit. For me, that’s when I can see things more clearly, can make solid decisions from a deeper place that’s truer to myself. For me, most self-care includes reconnecting to parts of myself that are not my overly chatty mind.
So, how to get to this place, or at the very least find more balance? Here are my ten favorite ways.
Engage the senses to be more present. // Candles, tea, and playlists
Lighting a candle or making a cup of tea are two simple actions I used to overlook or take for granted. They’re nearly cliche, no? Yet whether alone or combined, I’ve found they have the ability to alter scent, sight, and warmth in a way that is calming to me.
Sound can also be powerful. I have found great comfort in creating playlists that soothe, energize, or even prompt me to write. To me, these are small changes that ground me in the present moment when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Another exercise in engaging the senses: cooking. If you have the time, slowly savoring a glass of red wine, cooking something comforting (soup is a favorite,) and even fresh flowers have that same effect.
Unplug. // Commence Airplane Mode.
No matter your profession (or personal life,) it seems the pressure to be and stay connected is higher than ever. The worst work days, for me, are those when I feel like I just bounce from one notification to the next, tending to each alert or ping like it’s the most urgent thing that ever happened. Unfortunately, some people will expect you to be “on” all the time — even outside of work hours.
It’s important to me to acknowledge anyone’s communication with me, but I also know that limiting it when necessary is essential to my sanity. Establish a boundary that you cannot be contacted during certain hours. If you need to, use airplane mode or ‘do not disturb’ to create the boundary for you.
I laugh looking back at the days where not having a wifi connection used to give me anxiety. Now I’m like…please take me to an island where no service is standard — brain break needed. Sometimes you have to create that for yourself.
Collect compliments. // Create and refer back to a “smile file.”
This might be the cheesiest thing someone ever suggested to me, but it might also be the wisest.
I’m not suggesting you should take notes every time someone says something nice about you, but if someone makes an effort to recognize you or genuinely share something kind, the act of cataloging it alone makes it more likely to stick. And you can refer back to it on the days you’re not feeling like you’re getting anywhere in life (because we all have those.)
Write stream-of-consciousness. // Get it out.
A ritual that has only recently begun to change my outlook, I came across “Morning Pages” while searching for tools to help me with writing. I’ve found that it has much farther reaching benefits for me.
The idea is that somewhere in your morning routine, you sit down to handwrite three pages (confession: sometimes I only do one) of freeform flow. You write as fast as your hand can write, without internal editing or even re-reading. I have found that this not only jumpstarts creativity but also clears the mind and helps you find your voice. It also allows you to get the barrage of thoughts that crowd your mind onto paper and out of your way.
Practice letting go. // A bit of yoga + meditation.
It’s simple: practice yoga and meditation. They’re proven ways to clear the mind and connect mind, body, and spirit so that you can face the day with strong intention. To me, the best part about both (aside from the way they make me feel,) is that they can be performed either in solitude or in a community, depending on what you need at the moment. Enough has been said about the benefits of both that it to me it’s a no-brainer (pun intended.) I truly don’t know where I’d be right now without my yoga practice. Whether part of your daily routine or used as needed, it should be regarded as essential for wellbeing.
Slow down. // Take a bath, read a book.
It’s not really about fixing your cuticles or detoxing your skin, ladies. It’s about taking the time to do activities that might seem indulgent, but really just are forcing you to slow down. Speak more slowly, walk more slowly, sip more slowly, read more slowly, kiss more slowly. Sanity –> regained.
Pamper yourself. // Comfort + confidence.
Envelop yourself in a soft fabric. Take a nap. Sit in the sunshine. Take care of your skin. Ladies, put on some lipstick (lingerie works, too.) Or if you’re male (hi, guys) or not feeling fancy, a pair of slippers or even changing into a favorite shirt can do the trick. The simple act of doing something small to improve not just to your environment but your comfort or confidence…is not to be overlooked.
Make lists. // Collect words that resonate.
Another form of getting out what’s on your mind, making lists can be an incredibly therapeutic exercise with a wide range of possibilities. I keep a notebook on me at all times, in which I collect thoughts ranging from to-do lists to quotes that resonate or even just words that I like. Lists are your friend.
Go for a walk. // Just do it.
The simplest, most obvious solutions are often the best. There’s nothing like taking a long walk to energize your spirit and, yes, clear your mind. I also tend to have the best ideas when I’m walking. Getting lost or going for an aimless stroll (à la flâneur) is most recommended (Google maps will guide you home if you cannot. Just make sure your phone isn’t still on airplane mode ;)) I also use walks to call people I have been meaning to catch up with (remember how we used to call people?) or simply be outside and enjoy the world around me.
Surround yourself with lovely people. // Infallible.
When all else fails, surround yourself with good people. Throw a dinner party. Invite a friend out to that restaurant you’ve been dying to try. Reach out to someone you miss or want to get to know. This is my favorite remedy of all, and even if you’re alone, seeking human connection might be a stressful initial investment — but it’s one that pays off the most in the long run.
Make a list of your five favorite humans, and initiate plans or conversations with them. Done.
Combining any of the above activities, or planning a whole day full of them, seems like such a luxury at times. Yet I do my best work and, most of all, I am the best version of myself to the people I care about when I care for myself first.
This world is speeding up by the day, and false connectivity through screens only seems to be increasing. Isn’t it lovely to return to the core of who we are in the simplest of ways?
I’ll close with this simple definition of the Danish word hygge: the art of building sanctuary and community.
P.S. The best items depicted above are free. But here are a few luxuries I have come to love and rely on in this difficult past year: