I’ve been growing and expanding my business and life in all kinds of ways in the past month, so I was puzzled this morning that I was not feeling happy. Instead I felt like I had a loooong to-do list and I felt tired and grumpy.
So I took a long walk, stared at some ducks, took a long bath, and finally I realized: I had been neglecting to nurture myself.
Challenge and growth can be exciting and propel us forward and give us that delicious feeling of living on our edge.
Or, growth can be tiring and overwhelming and leave us feeling dry and brittle.
The hidden ingredient in whether I enjoy the ever-expanding, ever-new challenge and journey and gift of life is if I’m also taking care of myself.
So I sat down to make a list of things that nurture me. Here is what I came up with.
- Going for a walk in the morning, before launching into work. I go to Laurelhurst Park, sit by the pond and stare at ducks, or lay in the grass and stare at the trees. I get a little exercise, fresh are, and some downtime.
- Taking long baths, with bubbles and candles. Soft light. I used to think this was kind of cliche, but now I find it really is soothing. After bathing with soft light, the normal light seems really harsh. Favorite bubbles: “Skin Milk”, available at Freddies. OK, they’re called “Foaming Bath” now.
- Cleaning up. Maybe it’s my Virgo side, but having a clean and tidy desk, bed, kitchen, etc makes a big difference. I feel calmer and more relaxed when I see everything in order.
Every amount of growth requires some “integration” time. Without that time, the lessons aren’t fully integrated. Downtime lets me mull things over, understand how I’m feeling, listen to myself, and often I get better answers that save me time compared to the typical “go go go” approach I might be in during normal work mode.
When I slow down, I can breathe more. I can relax. Sometimes I do an exercise where I just move slower for 5 minutes. I do this in the kitchen especially, when I’m preparing food. It’s a mindfulness exercise and really shows how habitually hurried I can be.
The “I’ll relax when…” trap.
Our culture is geared toward the “go go go” stuff. So it’s essential to counteract that consciously by building nurturing into your day. I’ve realized I can’t just go on my autopilot “I’ll relax when I finish this project…”. There will always be another urgent project.
Urgency isn’t as effective when there is no nurturing. Our bodies are not machines: they just can’t keep going and going and going and going. That’s why we sleep every night. We need sleep, and the little “activity breaks” throughout the day to be fully alert and aware at the tasks we do want to accomplish.
Cultivating your ideal emotional state.
There is a difference between excitement and joy. Excitement is not sustainable. It’s a heightened state of anticipation. It’s fun, I’m not knocking it, but it’s not where you want to be 24/7. I used to use excitement as my barometer, as my target emotional state. I wanted to be excited every day.
Now I’m cultivating a more sustainable target: inner peace and joy every day. My teacher has a mantra that I also find helpful: “I want to live in and enjoy this moment.” It brings me back to the present moment and reminds me that joy is something I want to experience now, not “after I’ve finished x”.
- What nurtures you? Make a list, and then find one thing that you can incorporate into your day today.
- What is your ideal emotional state (joy, delight, love, peace, surrender, play, open-heartedness, faith, trust)? How often are you in that state? Create a mantra or affirmation that brings you back to that feeling.