Nurturing ourselves is a skill that we can apply to every setback in life, from minor disappointments to major trauma. As humans, we prepare for all kinds of life’s scenarios with food storage, outdoor survival skills, financial preparedness, and spiritual practices. Yet there will be times when no matter how much preparing we do, we may find ourselves inadequately equipped for many of life’s emotional obstacles. Sometimes an emotional obstacle will hit the shores of your life like a tsunami, other times it’s the day-to-day challenges that build up and wear you down.
It took the death of my infant son for me to realize how unskilled I was at nurturing myself (see Nurturing You Part One). I had to take baby steps into this unfamiliar territory of healing a deep emotional wound but I noticed over time that through taking the steps, I had built a self care kit – an arsenal of tools to utilize when life knocked the wind out of my sails. I hope sharing these tips will help alleviate some of the anxieties in your daily life and may even be of some comfort if you find yourself faced with a scenario that feels like more than you can bear.
Have A Good Cry
First and foremost, you have to let it all out. After my son passed, a group of friends sent me a very special book called Tear Soup. The book acknowledges how you first have to grieve any kind of loss in life. You have to empty out the pain little by little before you can fill up with joy again, before you can rebuild after crisis. Here’s an illustrated excerpt, showing that you will need to first make your own pot of Tear Soup. It might be a tiny pot that you need for plain old “not fair” circumstances in life or a big pot for “more than I can bear”, or maybe something in between. No matter what, we each have to come up with our own intuitive recipe for this process. Notice the “cookbooks” on the shelf below the pots. They cover such a wide range of circumstances and that is what is so beautiful and touching about this little gem. It acknowledges that we all have pain and experience so many aspects of it in life.
Keep Letting It All Out
Since one of the stages of grief is anger, I unloaded and processed a lot of feelings in a journal. I love how the journal on the far right has a lion with an open-mouthed roar, surrounded by words like whimper, weep, wail, bellyache, and grumble. It’s human to grumble and moan once in a while, but it’s nice to have a constructive outlet for it so it doesn’t become a more permanent mode of operating and turn into a destructive habit. The flip side of this journal has a list of words about gratitude. The idea is that while you may be feeling something to grumble about, you can still find beauty or something to be grateful for.
Try A New Perspective
I love how the blue journal on the left has an inspirational quote. It reminds me to try and see life, death, and everything in between, from a different perspective. Leonardo Da Vinci was said to have made a habit of viewing things from a minimum of 3 different perspectives. Here are some perspectives to consider: those of children, those of nature, and those of Spirit. Children have a refreshingly innocent perspective on life and just asking them some basic life questions may yield profound answers. Observing nature holds so many clues about this life and I shared several of these healing metaphors in Part One. From the perspective of Spirit, I can only imagine that everything looks radically different and I begin to consider how each trial may hold a treasure or lesson that I couldn’t have learned any other way.
Seek Positive Reminders
The photo above shows some objects people sent me after both my son and my grandmother passed. The transformation of the dragonfly and butterfly are common metaphors for taking leave of this world and serve as additional reminders of the journey of the Spirit. You can have a card with the dragonfly story and key chain sent from the “Story & Cards” tab of the non-profit website www.dragonflyproject.org. They send messages of hope to those who are grieving.
I received the butterfly when I was living in Hawaii after my grandmother passed away. When we moved back to the mainland, we unknowingly left it behind. We also left our wireless router with the man who moved in after us along with a forwarding address so he could send it when he was done using it. Imagine my surprise when months later, a box showed up with not only the router, but this little butterfly as well. It really made my day to see that butterfly again. I felt like Grandma was saying, “I am with you!” and it was as though she had watched over the move.
I loved my grandma dearly and her handwritten letters are treasures I keep referring to on “down” days (or just about any day). Now that she has passed, her uplifting words of encouragement are more precious than ever. I keep several cards from her in my nightstand to read from time to time and they always make me smile. I can still feel her love coming right off the paper. Who loves you like your grandma!?!
Write Encouraging Messages – To Yourself!
Along with important letters, I keep positive quotations and uplifting words around. They may come from scriptures or prayer books, novels, films, or Pinterest! Even Disney movies contain a lot of gems. One of my favorites is from the movie Mulan, and the quote is on one of the cards below.
Put them in random places – a drawer here and there, in a bag or purse, or tucked inside a book. What words are soothing and inspiring for you? Write them down in a journal or on index cards. You can also include lists on the cards. For example, you may want to list some challenges you have already overcome, or goals you have already achieved. These will serve as reminders that you have within you the capacity to overcome, and encourage you to dream once again. In addition to making your own cards, there are many card decks available that contain uplifting messages on one side with a suggestion, or practice to implement the message, on the other. The ones below are from a card deck called “Inspiration” by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Between cards, letters, and journals, you’ll have plenty of options for keeping yourself surrounded by positive messages that help you focus on the direction you are trying to go.
Connecting with nature is one of the most soothing things we can do for ourselves. Going for a walk and breathing fresh air will move the lymphatic system, encourage processing of waste (including toxic emotions), get life-enhancing oxygen into our lungs, and hopefully – get a little Vitamin D onto our skin. Healing sunshine, cleansing fresh air, and natural vistas provide a calm for the senses and support for our physical and mental health. Research into nature deficit disorder and horticultural therapy indicate that we require a connection to nature in order to be happy, healthy, and function optimally.
The sounds and fragrances in nature also provide healing benefits. When you can’t be outside, try bringing some of your favorite natural fragrances indoors.
If you like to burn candles, look for natural waxes (such as beeswax or soy candles) with cotton wicks and scented with essential oils. Many commercial candles burn carcinogens into the air, so look for ones that will not be harmful to inhale. Alternately, just rub a few drops of essential oil on your wrists, dab some behind your ears, or add some drops to a bath. You can even sprinkle some onto a pillow to induce calm and rest. Lavender is credited with removing nervous tension and relieving pain. Some therapeutic benefits of orange oil include uplifting, anti-depressant-like properties that are soothing to the mind. Essential oils benefit the body and spirit in a wide variety of ways. So if you have an interest in natural health and know that you are prone to experiencing calm or joy via fragrance, you may want to have some favorites in your own self-care kit.
Listen To Healing Sounds
The trickle of a waterfall, crashing surf on the ocean, and birdsong are a few natural sound delights. The benefits of sound therapy are clinically proven to enhance our relaxation, sleep, and moods. But once again, if you can’t get to the soothing sounds of nature, bring them to you via a “nature sounds” music collection or…
Make Or Listen To Uplifting Music
Music we love puts us in an up-beat mood. It makes working out more fun and assists our parties and celebrations. Countless studies have been done on the positive effects of classical music on plants, animals, and people.
Everyone has a song or two (or ten) that gets their toes tapping and fingers snapping. We smile or sing along and feel happier when we hear these songs. Research has confirmed that listening to classical and uplifiting music can boost our immunity, improve focus, help control pain, reduce anxiety, and elevate positive feelings. Just like the old fashioned mixed tape, we can assemble a music collection specifically dedicated to songs that make us happy and inspire us.
Resurrect a Childhood Dream
A lot of life’s anxieties come from putting the things that really make us feel alive onto the back burner. We never quite get around to the activites that bring us the most joy. I love to draw, paint, and write. My paint set-up takes a little more time, so I always have pencils nearby for sketching in case I don’t have time for painting. I used to think writing took up a great deal of time until a writing instructor taught me how to set a timer and just write, anything that came to mind, if only for 5 minutes. It got things flowing and before I knew it I was trained to actively engage in joyful activites, even if they were only in five or ten minute increments.
Start a Self Care Fund
Many families today (including mine) live on a budget. One way to indulge in some favorite self-care activities that aren’t free, is to start a little self care fund. My daughter and I like to go on mommy-daughter dates and one of our favorites is to a local tea room. It doesn’t take much saved up spare change for us to enjoy a tea party together. Sipping a warm cup of tea on a cold day somehow makes time slow down and allows for precious, focused interaction and girl time. She seems to understand and appreciate this ritual of ours and it has the same calming effect on her as it does on me.
There’s a saying that the time to dig a well is before you are thirsty. The same idea applies to self care; don’t wait for life to knock you down before you start to build yourself up. Perhaps you can start a TLC fund today, set that timer for 5 minutes to devote to an activity you enjoy, or just go outside on a brisk walk and take a deep breath of fresh air. Assemble your self care kit and keep it by your bedside or other dedicated space.
Over time, these habits will build and grow into more positive changes and your life will increase in joy and beauty – simply because you decided to focus on it and know that you are worth it!
My most fervent wish is that no one would have to experience disappointment, sorrow, pain, or loss…
But in case you do, perhaps you’ll come back to this post and try one or two of the tips to help yourself feel better.
If you have any tips, tools, or resources that you have used to get yourself through a down day, a slump, or a crisis, please feel free to share them in the comments below.