Self care is not a luxury. It took a while, but I finally get it. It’s a necessity, like food and water and breathing.
I’m a midwife and a homeschooling mom of two boys. It’s a life I love, and it takes a lot of juice to keep it up and running. More still to keep it flowing and vibrant.
I no longer expect to be able to pull the energy and peaceful frame of mind I need—for myself and my family—out of thin air. It has to be consciously generated. I’m learning how often, in what ways, and for how long I need to make time for self care and renewal.
As February began, I was feeling tired and irritable and so done with ________ (insert normal life item). Everything was fine by all the usual measures, except that I was losing my spark and my sense of humor.
Thankfully, I had planned a weekend retreat at Kripalu with friends a few months before. It came around at just the right time. I did the JourneyDance program, which I can only describe as radical self-love and reconnection to spirit through dancing like no one is watching (I mean really like no one is watching—like not even you), in a roomful of beautiful people. Besides A LOT of dancing, there were writing prompts and drawing and singing and inspiring talks by the workshop leaders.
It was transformative, and I’m blessed that I was able to take time away and do an amazing program like this for an entire long weekend. That’s not always possible, obviously, or even desirable. For too many women, it’s never an option. (Although for many, “I can’t” really means “I won’t allow myself that gift.”)
The everyday work is finding ways to care for and connect with ourselves inside our busy, blessed lives, and making that commitment. It helps those we love because it means we have more to give, but we are worthy of it in our own right, and that’s reason enough.
Cycles are the nature of things, but that doesn’t have to mean riding a giant roller coaster of near total depletion and emergency refilling. I’d rather ride gentler undulations within the sweet spot of my life. That means paying attention and noticing the subtleties of what’s working and what’s not, and making smaller adjustments as I go.
And maintenance. You could use the garden analogy. Pulling a few weeds and watering each day doesn’t take long and it keeps everything healthy and beautiful. Let it slide and you will have a parched garden overrun with extra, unwanted stuff to clear out, and a lot of catching up to do.
So, I returned from my mega-renewal weekend with these promises to myself:
Solid commitment to morning spiritual practice, not for a few weeks on and then off again, but every day. This means starting the day early, when the kids are still asleep, and doing some combination of prayer, journaling, meditation and movement, ideally for an hour. On the days when I don’t have an hour, I can still do one of these things, even for ten minutes. (And my husband and I started doing a short reading together as part of the morning ritual, which is a great way to nurture our connection.)
Listening to music I love every day and dancing, even if it’s only for one song.
Finding the humor. Asking myself, have I been laughing? If not, something’s off. This may be the best gauge of my mind state.
Getting outside a little every day and not letting cold weather deter me. Building hikes into our homeschool every week.
Checking in with breath and physical sensation for moments throughout the day. This is the remedy for being “out of body,” always up in my head and scattered, chasing distractions everywhere they pop up.
Making more time for connecting with friends and far away loved ones, whether it’s time together in person or a quick phone call to check in.
Recognizing when it’s time for an entire day to myself, not just a few minutes or a couple hours. Making it happen. No mama guilt!
Oh, and I just ordered a hula hoop 🙂
If you can find a JourneyDance class in your area, try it—especially if you’re like me and you spend too much time up in your head, “figuring it out.” Sometimes it’s best to give that a rest and let your body take care of things, getting stuck energy moving and clearing out the debris. Seriously, you can move out weeks or even months’ worth of piled up stress in an hour, without thinking about a damn thing. It’s awesome. (If you can’t find a class, go out dancing with friends or just dance alone in your living room. When’s the last time you really danced? Do it!)
Read the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés if you haven’t already, or read it again if you have. After 20 years, I’ve picked up this potent treasure of feminine psychology/spirituality again, and it’s rocking my world just like it did back then—now on a whole new level. It’s very interesting to see what my 24-year-old self underlined. Chapter 9, Homing: Returning to Oneself and the story Sealskin, Soulskin is especially relevant to self care and rejuvenation, and the fact that we all need it, no matter who we are and regardless of how wonderful or difficult our lives are.
Take care of you ❤
*Side note on the financial accessibility of a Kripalu retreat experience: While a Kripalu trip may be out of reach for people with no funds, transportation, or childcare, it is accessible for more people than might be assumed. There are several types of accommodations at different price points, all of which include meals. Kripalu also gives $500,000 a year in partial scholarships for many programs. Apply for it if you need it, and consider donating to it if you’re able to go on your own resources. You can find more info here and here.
© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016