Tag Archives: Self Care

Soul Food: Self Care for Harsh Times

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I’m thinking about self care today for a couple of reasons. Mostly because, despite my best efforts at taking care not to acerbate my chronic back pain, it’s been sporting a big ol’ frowny face on the pain scale for the last several days.

This physical pain has been my constant companion, at some level, for more than thirty years now. I keep it at a tolerable level with mindful bending, proper lifting, and yoga practice. When I feel that first twinge of increasing pain level, I get ahead of it with OTC pain relievers, ice and heat compresses, and self imposed rest. Most times I can stave off the hot throbbing pain that is the worst of it.

In the last few years, these intense flare-ups come more often and last much longer. I have to concede that I’m losing the battle. One of the pearls of wisdom that came with my age is an understanding that it’s good to know my limits, and accept them. I’m more than ready to admit that self care isn’t going to cut it for me any longer. Next steps will involve some level of medical intervention.

Physical first aid is pretty much common knowledge. If you’re bleeding, put a bandage of the wound. If you can’t stop the blood flow, you’ll need stitches. If you sprain your ankle, ice it, wrap it and elevate it. If it doesn’t get better, see a doctor.

Quick—what are the similar steps for emotional self care?

You’re probably thinking a soothing cup of tea, or an adult beverage, maybe a bubble bath, a massage, a day off or a vacation—change your environment, get out in nature. Maybe you include meditation, prayer, or other spiritual activity. Even a brisk walk, a round of golf, shooting some hoops; any good cardio workout helps burn off stress and falls under self care. I know I’m not alone when I indulge in any of these prescriptions to lift my spirits.

But I’m wondering, why do we think of emotional self care the same way we think of physical triage—notice the bleeding and determine if a bandage will do or are stitches necessary? Or more to the point, wait until we are feeling burned out, on edge, irritable or weepy before deciding whether a day off will be enough, or if it’s it going to take an extended vacation in a far away location.

I think self care works much better when modeled after preventative wellness, especially in times of social upheaval when we are bombarded by daily assaults on our state of grace.

I’m thinking about a self care reminder APP. No, not something to download to my smart phone, although there are several of those apps available that might be helpful. I’m talking about downloading the acronym to my brain—APP or Awareness, Prevention and Planning, to help me stay on top of my emotional wellness.

I figure being Aware of my environment, not just the spaces I occupy but the people who occupy them with me, is a good start. Social media is pressing all my buttons lately and the news cycle just keeps feeding in with more grist for the mill.

This is kind of a no-brainer, but it follows that if the news and social media are frying my nerves, the best self care is to Prevent the assault in the first place. In other words, stay off of social media and turn off the news. The world isn’t going to fall apart if I stick my head in the sand for a while. Come to think of it, the world was a much happier place when we didn’t have 24/7 global news cycles and memes to help spread the sorry state of the day.

Of course, I don’t want to be an uninformed ignoramus, so I can Plan my exposure to the interwebs and news cycles in small doses that don’t leave me praying for a speedy arrival of the global warming tsunamis that will wipe out both coastlines, and a cyclone to take out D.C.

But what about real life? I can’t just turn off the day-to-day situations and unpleasant encounters of my actual life. Even though some of the people in my real world are getting on my last nerve I’m not a fan of severing relationships, especially with family members.

Boundaries are good. Guess what, it’s okay to say I’m not interested in hearing your politics because if I do I’ll really just want to punch you in the face, and I’m trying to avoid those unhealthy feelings.

Sometimes, the things that get me down just can’t be avoided. When I’ve reached the end of all my ropes and there’s not enough left to tie a knot and hang on, when I start thinking I’d sooner serve up a plate of vipers than engage with anybody who dares to approach me, I give myself a time out in my She Room.

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Of course, I can’t lock myself up forever and it’s not a good idea to let the she-dragon loose, no matter how satisfying it feels in the moment. Better that I build uplifting, soul feeding activities into my routine, a supplement for my emotional immune system. Nourishing my physical body with healthy food choices, getting enough sleep and some physical activity every day, and then indulging in a little bit of what feeds my soul to keep me from falling down the dark well.

Also, focusing on what I can change instead of obsessing over what I cannot change keeps me grounded in purpose and hope. I can gripe and moan all day long on social media, even puff up my feathers and make impassioned, resounding speeches. It’s like pouring a pitcher of clean water into a polluted lake. But finding what I can do outside my own front door to make a difference in my community, and doing it, helps me feel more hopeful and less defeated.

If there is any social media trend I could start, I’d like it to be just that—instead of putting so much energy into sharing memes and righteous indignation, go out and make one small difference in your community. It can be anything, helping a charity, collecting or distributing food shelf items, cleaning up litter, volunteering for an event—whether for a cause or just for fun and entertainment. It all contributes to a healthy, thriving community, and added up, it’s the small efforts that will bring about the biggest changes.

GET OFF FACEBOOK

Not that I’m going to stop taking bubble baths with candles and glass of wine. Or treating myself to the good chocolate, a date with a friend, a walk in the woods, or wading along a shoreline. I’m not going to stop indulging in the feel good things or waiting until I think I need cheering up. It’s like medicating chronic pain; If I wait until I think I really need it, I’ve waited too long.

 

 

 

 


Simple Witchcraft: Magical Self-Care To Get You Through The Holi-Daze

As published on Medium.


Unless you’ve been living alone on a desert island, you’ve probably noticed that witchcraft is a thing. What you may not know, is that you don’t have to be a witch to stir up a little practical magic, you just need to activate your own personal mojo.

Witch or not, everybody has tried a little magic. When you will the traffic light to turn green as you approach, carry around an image of that boat you want to own some day, or plan the details of a trip you yearn to take, you’re focusing your intention and directing your energy to manifest a desired outcome.

You’ve got the power in you—that’s what witchcrafting is all about. Which is exactly why it’s so important to keep your battery charged. Energy begets energy; you have to have it before you can use it.

Easier said than done with the secular holiday season upon us. There’s shopping, cooking, baking, cleaning, planning, more shopping, more cooking, more baking, then gathering and gifting to be done. How’s a witchy gal supposed to find time for a little R&R—Respite & Ritual?

  • What do we need?
  • Self Care
  • Why?
  • Personal power.
  • When do we need it?
  • Now.
  • How do we get it?

Good question. It’s tough to squeeze in personal care when we’re already pressed for time. If only there was a way to get more hours into the day. Oh wait—there is. Lucky for us, this is the perfect season to harness the energy of time and stretch it out.

Yule is a time of transition. It marks the ending of the dark half of the year and the beginning of the light half. Within that transition is a moment when the hours of night and day are equal and time seems to stand still. Mythologically speaking, the Goddess, having descended into the dark underworld at Samhain, is awaiting the rebirth of the God. She is biding her time.

Time Stretching Spell
You can tap into the energies of Yule to cast a simple spell for stretching time to your advantage. You’ll need popcorn, string (dental floss works well) and a needle with an eye large enough to thread the string through. Before you start popping the corn, take a moment to ground and center yourself. Invite the properties and energy of time to combine with your intent. Pop the corn in a microwave, electric popper or on the stove (Jiffy Pop is perfect for this spell).

As the popcorn expands in it’s container, imagine time expanding within the container of a day. If you think of time as linear, see a straight line between two points begin to curve, waving up and down, making mountains and valleys, getting longer while still beginning and ending at the same points. If you see time on a daily calendar, envision the number of squares increasing on the same page. Or, imagine the face of a clock with extra numbers around the dial.

When the corn is popped, put some on a plate as an offering to Spirit, the deitie(s), ancestors, nature, or the universe, as thanks for their help. Place the offering outdoors. Eat some some of the popcorn yourself, with the intention that you are combining this energy of time expansion with your own personal energy. String the rest to decorate your Yule/Christmas tree, or treat your neighborhood birds by decorating a small tree outside. No hurry though, you have all the time you need and stale popcorn is easier to string.

So now that time is on your side, use it to try these simple, witchy, self-care tips to power through the busy days ahead.

Create a Daily Ritual
Set aside a little time and space just for you. Whether it’s a quiet moment of meditation or prayer in the morning, or a few moments of R&R at the end of the day. Brew a cup of your favorite coffee or tea, stirring in your intentions to feel calm and at ease. You can use sugar to add sweetness to your day, and cream to enrich your experiences. Light a candle while thinking of seeing your way throughout the day.

In the morning, listen to uplifting music; at night choose soothing tunes. You can take the time to read inspirational stories or poems or simply close your eyes and let your thoughts go inward. You can also try listening to a guided visualization for a few minutes.

Take Five
For this one, I like to think of my body as the vessel of the Goddess (God, Spirit, chosen deity. etc.). What I do for my own wellbeing or pleasure, is an offering , something that can be experienced through my flesh and blood. So I remind myself to take short breaks at regular intervals during the day, standing and stretching to relieve tension in my body. I take three to five slow, deep breath, breathing in calmness and contentment. then I exhale stress, anxiety and disappointment. I finish by drinking a glass of water before returning to the work at hand.

A New Twist on the Gratitude List
It’s easy to forget all the good things in our lives when we’re feeling rushed and overwhelmed with responsibility, but you can toss the tedious gratitude list out with the trash. Instead manifest some positive energy using a platform like Pinterest or Instagram to curate images of favorite things you’re grateful for. Include pictures of loved ones, vacation spots, pets, and hobbies (you can make it a secret board on Pinterest so you won’t be sharing personal images with the whole world). When you’re feeling down, take a moment to swipe through this visual reminder of all you have to be thankful for.

Give Your To-Do List a Magical Boost
Take your To Do lists to the next level with my Ta Done! list. Early in December I write down everything I have to accomplish for the holidays— things like baking cookies for the exchange, decorating the tree, shopping for gifts, planning a Solstice ritual. I’m a bit of an artsy-fartsy sorta witch, so I jazz my list up with colored markers, and doodles. I draw a check box alongside each task on the list and X it out when completed. Sometimes, I draw a hash-line through the box if I’m making progress but not quite done. If a task becomes urgent (code for I’ve procrastinated too long), I circle the box in red. When I complete tasks I shout, “Ta Done!” and do a little dance. Shouting and dancing, or chanting, clapping, and ringing of bells is the magical part. You’ll find if you do this your lists become easier and easier to complete.

And don’t throw your Ta Da! lists out when you’re done. I clip mine together and save them. Anytime I want to feel a sense of accomplishment, I just get out my lists and pat myself on the back for all I’ve accomplished.

Give and Take
Even if a witch could be all things to all people, she’s wise enough to know it’s not worth it. Honor your limitations, ask for help, and learn to say, “No thank you.” Don’t place crazy expectations on yourself during the holiday madness, or waste time worrying about everything that has to be done (does it really?). Take time to enjoy the moments and give the gift of your presence.

Joyous Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you.
Blessed Be and Journey Well!



Grounding

I spent a few very pleasant hours this sunny autumn afternoon grounding myself in nature. It’s something I don’t do as often as I’d like, or should. If only I would remember how good it is for me to get away from my work/the tech screens and out of my head.

Being outside, whether rain or shine, working or playing, draws my energy back down into my body, to my lower chakras. It reminds me that I am a spiritual being very much captive in a limited human form. The limitations mean I need rest, I need reconnection with my source energy. I need to ground.

Today I spent my time outdoors harvesting herbs from my garden gone wild—mint, culinary sage and native prairie sage, gently cleaning them, stripping any browned or spotted leaves and layering the best of my crop into my drying basket.

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My back porch makes the perfect drying room, facing the south and west it gets toasty warm in the late afternoon. The two exterior walls are brick, so it holds the heat for hours after dusk. With only one window out of range of any direct sunlight, the herbs can dry naturally on top of the high wardrobe without any discoloration caused by oxidation.

My back porch smells sooooo good, spicy and savory scents filling the 10×10 space. Dried Bee Balm and Mint

There was a previous crop of mint and bee balm in the basket all dried and waiting to be bottled. I can’t explain why I derive so much joy from seeing these natural, organically grown herbs filling up baskets, coffee filters and jars, but I suspect it comes from active connection to the web of life.

It’s magical, when you think about it. Shoots poking up through the dirt from scattered seeds or roots that laid dormant through a frigid northern winter. Coming to life, reaching for the light, budding, flowering and, eventually, dying back again. There is comfort in knowing they will return and live again next year.

The cycle of life, the manifestation of energy transformed through seasons.

Connecting with nature helps me internalize and accept the Five Remembrances:

am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no way to escape having ill-health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

 – Buddha

At face value, I suppose those words can be quite depressing, but their truth is inevitable. I am like the herbs I harvest and forage, here for a time, vital when conditions are favorable, but time passes and so it behooves me to stay present and enjoy the now.

A dear friend passed away earlier this week after first beating cancer several years ago, but then being stricken by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. It was a long but valiant leaving; I don’t believe I ever saw him without a smile on his face and a cheerful disposition at the ready. I’m sure he had difficult moments and moments when he was being difficult, but in the loving care of his wife he continued to enjoy social engagement to the last. I’m guessing he didn’t waste time worrying about what was to come, but endeavored to stay grounded in the present.

He is now transformed; his spirit is free of the body that progressively limited his final years. He lives on in the memory of his wife and sons, his grandchildren, father and brother and his many friends.

Rest in Peace Mikey. May your spirit soar and your memory be eternal.

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