I did an art piece a few months ago. At the time, I was really struggling with some heavy, sludgy depression and I was trying to pour out some of those feelings on paper. Sadly, as cathartic relief it was pretty much a failure. Dwelling on how I feel tends to make it worse.
In any case, finding internal peace and balance has been extraordinarily challenging these past couple months. Although I finished December on a semi-high after the art show, a combination of acute, reoccurring chest pains (undiagnosed, still), ongoing adrenal fatigue, the Engineer’s extra-long work hours, a barrage of illnesses, and Kanoe’s passing all hit hard. Really hard. Left hook, uppercut, go for the heart style hard. Oof. It was maybe even a little worse because I thought I was going to make it through these months without my annual late-winter trip down Depression Lane.
Things are a little better now, and what made the difference is prioritizing self care. It’s a double-edged sword. Spending time on something “unproductive” feels like failure. I’m a person who likes to always move forward, always challenge myself, always see progress. When I can’t keep up my self-imposed pace, immense frustration sets in.
It goes without saying that without that downtime, nothing gets done, but hammering that fact through my numbskull brain… hmmph. I remind myself over and over: Self care does not equal finishing my to do list. Self care does not mean doing everything else for everyone else first. Self care does not mean pushing yourself to unhealthy lengths to attain goals that only matter to you.
I wish I could say I started taking time for myself before I really crashed, but I didn’t. Some of these responses developed out of sheer self-preservation, some after a little self-reflection. All require a little effort – both to make myself do them, and to convince myself that it’s worth it. (It is, despite my mental nemesis.) At this point, some of my self care equals:
taking long baths and trusting myself that taking time to sink into hot water and play on Pinterest is worth it, despite my head reminding me of the myriad of other things I “should” be doing with my “free” time – making art, reading and commenting on blogs, scheduling social media posts, or trying (or trying to learn how) to promote my writing and artwork
eating an actual lunch instead of getting by on a cheese stick or a square of chocolate and cold coffee or nothing at all (although some sources claim chocolate does equal salad 😉 )
keeping a (actual) fresh salad in the fridge (this is actually a new care) so that I can quickly add some to my meal instead of, again, “making do”
indulging in fresh cut flowers for the house
recommitting to to do lists and using my passion planner – knowing that the time spent planning will make taking time easier, even when it feels counter-intuitive to take time to plan taking time – again the “I should be doing something else ‘productive’ ” thought gets in the way!
taking short hikes with the kids when the weather is warm enough to do so. getting out in the sun EVERY day it is out.
asking for adult company when I need it instead of “toughing it out”
eating fresh fruit – I buy it but tend to save it for the kids, eating only scraps and their leftovers.
holding space for myself. trusting my own feelings and reactions instead of assuming I’m “always overreacting.” letting go of fears about what others may think of me
a cup of hot tea and toast with butter and jam at night before bed (I’m always starving at 10 p.m. no matter how much dinner I eat. this relaxes and fills me up so I don’t binge)
practicing self-forgiveness if I don’t reach my goals when I want to
It is interesting to me how many of these things really fall under the category of “general health and happiness,” and yet I often feel guilty doing them: opting to go outside instead of cleaning house, spending money on flowers, and eating fresh fruit.
Using inspirational quotes and setting intentions is a technique that really helps me focus and move forward when I’m really dragging. This week I’m using this one as my phone wallpaper:
I need the reminder that progress is still progress – whether it’s one baby step at a time, or great galloping leaps.
What are your self care habits? Did you develop them in response to life situations or did you preempt difficulties with those rituals? What relaxes you most?
As a side note, I’m feeling particularly vulnerable about this post. I haven’t posted about feeling depressed in a while. I’m not sure if I’m feeling this way because I’m sharing an art piece that was made during a dark time, or if it’s that this is off-topic compared to my regular posts.