Ph.D. in Self-Care
“Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, every day I am more & more on my own side.” – Susan Berry
I like to say it takes a whole village to keep me optimized. Which is why it can be hard to put my finger on a specific action that promotes my overall wellness. When I work with people it’s usually not a single strategy that will promote healing. It’s a whole host of synergistic actions.
Since I first fell in love with Buddhism and yoga, my passion for self-care was evident.
There was such a clear distinction between the Sadie that practiced yoga for 90 minutes and meditated that day and the one who didn’t. Then sleep became invaluable. I saw the clear distinction between the Sadie who received about 4 hours of sleep and the Sadie who had 9 hours. I saw the difference with my level of patience in my relationship. I saw the difference with my level of focus in my day job.
Valuing my self-care meant that I maxed out the number of scholarships available to attend meditation retreats. Valuing my self-care meant that along with working 40+ hours a week, I also spent my Saturday’s cleaning the yoga studio so that I could afford to practice. Valuing my self-care meant declining an invitation so that I could get some sleep.
The first year of our marriage had been a grueling year in my professional life. I was working for Child Protective Services and had been the lead investigator on many high profile cases. We had our honeymoon many months after we were married. We spent ten days in Kauai.
I remember how exhausted and traumatized I was from the work I was doing.
I remember it took days to finally loosen. One night we were sitting together outside listening to the parrots squawk by. At that moment, we realized that we didn’t have to participate in the daily grind. That people all around us on this beautiful island were choosing a different lifestyle. That we could choose this life too.
I came home from this trip and spent every day for an entire month applying for part-time work. This was when I resigned from the State and began working per diem in the Emergency Department (note: we were debt-free by this point).
Hands down one of the best decisions we’ve made.
My life became instantly slower. My spouse and I got to know each other again. Time no longer felt like an elusive notion. We would have moments of realizing that on a random Tuesday morning we had watched a movie, went to the dog park, enjoyed a bike ride and were packing for a backpacking trip the following day. We couldn’t believe that this had become our lives.
Now that we live in Gig Harbor, own a home and are raising two beautiful dogs – our lives are not perfect but they are much more simplified.
I have come to realize that I demonstrate my self-care by honoring values in my life and in one typical day, week, or month I hope to touch on several. These are the self-care activities that dramatically impact my sense of wellbeing. I like to think each category is an intentional deposit into my self-care account.
- Spirit – I start the day two hours before I am expected to do or be anything. In these two hours I will meditate, pray, read & go outside with my dogs. These few hours set my mainframe for the day.
- Movement – Several times a week I move my body in a group class. This is everything for my mental health. Every time I do a burpee, I say a special note of gratitude that I can move my body in this capacity because I know one day it won’t be so pain free…
- Leisure – After working out I always spend time in the sauna & read magazines that I’ve borrowed form the library. This time is important to me because I am not hustling in any fashion. I am simply indulging.
- Growth – I love a challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone. Right now this comes in the form of weekly Toastmaster meetings to practice public speaking. This group is intimidating and impressive. They are also incredibly supportive & encouraging.
- Connection – My mom & sister live in Colorado and when we talk – we talk for hours. But I’ve also had hour long phone conversations with my other parents who live 20 minutes away. Connecting through the phone is remembering how to converse & tell stories. You can’t be distracted while doing so.
- Play – This can be in the form of a board game with my partner, a bike ride, or exploring the wilderness. It’s some type of activity that reminds me of childhood and keeps me from taking myself or life too seriously.
- Community – Through attending Al-Anon meetings and Feminist Book Club. This is another form of self-care that can be overlooked but is so invaluable. Your community is a reflection of you and keeps you connected in a way that is real. To look someone in the eyes and actually connect is like seeing a unicorn in these days. That’s why it’s so magical.
- Sisterhood – I am obsessed with my female friends, several of whom I have grown up with. They truly are my chosen family and I love walking through life with them. It’s mandatory that I see them regularly.
The truth is I’ve moved away from this self-care lifestyle for about three months as I agreed to a new opportunity. During this time I am stressed AF. I haven’t gone to kickboxing, I can’t make Toastmasters, I’ve missed my Al-Anon meetings, I breeze past my spouse and pups as I move from one obligation to the next. I see how quickly I can negate self-care and how much I need to get back to it. I’ve realized self-care is no longer a choice but a necessity. Sometimes it takes a separation to realize you want to get back together.
Self-care, I took you for granted & now I realize I can’t live my life without you.