Now that a lot of us are breaking from work for a little while, during the rush that is the holidays, let’s make sure we remember to spend time caring for ourselves, re-charging in ways that make sense to our wellbeing and spirits.
It doesn’t really look like winter right now where I am, in the GTA, though the days are certainly getting colder. I have to zip my coat up all the way to the top to cover my neck against the wind, but I haven’t yet been forced to dust off my snow-fighting gear.
What’s most apparent these days in our seemingly shy winter, however, is how little of the sun we get to see. We can count on our giant star to do her work year-round no matter what. The sun goes into hiding at around 5pm, when I get home from work, and I’m suddenly alone with my feelings in a darkness that feels cumbersome and persistent.
As the days get shorter and my feelings heavier, I feel the need to take on the responsibility of checking in with myself. This responsibility acquires even greater importance when these feelings are situated in family and holiday contexts that can exacerbate stress. I see you, trying and surviving and juggling and thriving everyday, working with all that’s stacked against you.
It’s so important to honour these feelings in your own way because they come from a deeper place inside you. I’ve realized that, for me, this mindfulness is wholly connected to any self-care I do. Both a starting point and a practice in and of itself, the power in being mindful of your feelings—the body’s response, what the mind starts to do—cannot be overstated. The power of prioritizing your safety and wellbeing cannot be overstated.
I need to carve out space to pause, leaving room both for the spontaneous to occur and for rest. Resting (or doing nothing) has specialness to it. Rest is radical in a society that demands you to keep moving and producing, pressuring you into quantifiable contributions that support specific systems.
This pressure I feel, to make “good use” of my time, makes sense to capitalism, but it lulls me into forgetfulness. The more I worry about how to contribute, how to keep up, the less I remember to make space for myself to self-soothe and care. In the ways I deliberately set my alarm to get dressed and go to work, to complete tasks and do them well, I must deliberately seek (and define) wellness.
For however many breaths I am still, I begin to feel emotionally productive, centered. This is one way I check in with myself, by breathing, to remember I have a body and to remember its miracle. In a few breaths, I’m brought back to it. I find that when I focus on my breathing even momentarily it has a restorative quality to it. Anything that helps to deepen or lengthen my relationship to my body is part of my self-care.
Lately, I’ve been anointing my wrists and the back of my ears with essential lavender oil. Sometimes I even dab it on my temples to relieve headaches. It’s one of the ultimate healing herbs, next to sage, ginger, and chamomile. In the evenings, I’ve gotten into the habit of squeezing half a lime into a mug of boiling water and adding raw honey, drinking this hot tonic sometimes more than once in a night.
The heat soothes my throat, even if there’s no throat pain, and the lime and honey feel cleansing. I’ll usually make a second for my mom and anyone else in my kitchen needing something. I compare lavender to a daydream; it soothes me easily, stimulating both sleep and contentment. Lavender, like honey, is ancient medicine. Breath is also a form of medicine.
Somehow, being mindful of your breathing even for a single inhale and exhale, redirects your attention to an act so deceptively small the realization of its power is astounding. In a few seconds, my mind focuses on the rise and fall of my chest, and the revelation of having a body strikes me as curious and profound. More and more, I follow my curiosities, because I’ve been starting to feel I can trust them.
Apart from stress reduction, self-care is also about additions. It relies on an active commitment to yourself and your process, journey, or path. As you already know, it involves radically valuing your time, energy, and space—figuring out what “boundaries” means for you, and establishing them. Self-care is as much a personal project as it is a political one.
If I remember that I matter, that my intelligent body and soft mind matter, and that my soul is alive and like a fire, the darkness feels much less omnipresent. And when I realize that the darkness is actually always there, I’m ready, burning.Tags: breathe, breathing, Fiorella Morzi, lavender, mindfulness, real talk, Yuli Scheidt