Monday, April 11, 2011


2 : to promote the growth of
3 a : to furnish or sustain with nutriment : feed

During a Lent devoted to self-care, I've been trying to discern the difference between the things that numb me and the things that nourish me.  As I said in another post, it's not always easy to distinguish between the two.  Something that feels like "me" time can actually just be a mild anesthetic that leaves me more tired than I was before I took the time off.  After some soul-searching and last week's experience with time for myself that left me drained instead of refreshed, I have a short list of the things that nourish my soul - that promote my internal growth and sustain me for my other everyday activities.

Creating: whether it's writing a blog post, jotting a journal entry, doing a sketch or making a collage, creating tops the list of things that nourish my soul.
Art: a trip to the museum, the botanical gardens or even a flip through a magazine chock full of art gives me almost the same mental jolt as creating.
Exercising: I've learned this the hard way.  My body needs to move.  My mind needs my body to move.  Of all the things that nourish me, this one is the hardest.  I'm not a natural at exercising.  I'm no athlete and I prefer to work out alone.  But everything else in my life falls together a bit easier when I make myself get on that treadmill, do the sit-ups, lift the weights.
A Long Bath: it's simply soothing and it's an everyday luxury I can and will indulge in.  It also gives me time and space for...
Meditation: this is more than prayer time for me.  It's time to actually be still physically and mentally.  To set aside what I think, what I want, what I need to do and just listen.  I don't always hear something, but I can feel a difference - it's like taking a deep breath instead of breathing shallowly.

I've also discerned a few gray areas.  Things that do nourish me, but can also be used to avoid life rather than live it more fully.

Reading: how it pains me to put this in the gray area instead of on the nourishing list.  But if I'm completely honest, I know that I use books to avoid my life, my feelings, my to-do list.  Does that mean I'm going to stop reading?  Not a chance.  That would be like deciding I'll just go through tomorrow without breathing.  My solution (for now) is to be very sensitive to what type of book I'm craving.  If I am longing for escape, I try to determine whether that's a good or a bad thing before giving in to the urge.  Sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a book to lose myself in.  Other times, not so much.
Time with friends: as an introvert, I don't typically long for time with other people.  But I've recently noticed that even brief interactions with friends can buoy my spirit on a day when it's sagging.
Naps: I'm not ashamed to say that I nap several times each week.  I think it's just a part of my rhythm of life that I need a break during the day to quiet myself.  But I put this as a gray area because there have been days when my schedule should have precluded the option of a nap, yet I've squeezed one in anyway, sometimes with a whiff of entitlement (something I hate to witness in myself).  Is it wrong to grab a twenty minute nap a few times a week?  No.  Should I expect it?  No.  It won't always be possible.
Blogs: reading other people's blogs is inspiring, encouraging and makes me feel connected.  But it can also be a horrible time drain.  I don't plan to eliminate this entirely from my routine, but I think setting aside a certain amount of time daily for this pursuit might be a workable solution.  Will it leave some posts unread?  Yes, but that's OK.

And then there are the more clear cut areas that I might think are restful, but ultimately stunt my growth rather than aid it.

Facebook: there's no way around the fact that Facebook does little other than eat away at the time I have available to actually live my life.  Some days I am better than others about not scrolling through the feed on my phone.  But it's a battle for me to maintain this day after day.
Computer games: while I don't play games on the computer very often (less than once weekly), I inevitably turn to it when I'm feeling restless.  Whether it's a game on my phone or something else, it's a way to distract myself instead of engaging whatever I'm really thinking or feeling.
Television: I really wanted to put this in the gray area.  I don't watch a ton of TV, but I have a couple of favorite shows.  I like to watch Merlin with the girls - a show we can actually all enjoy.  J and I watch Castle together.  Beyond that, I might watch an episode of Torchwood while folding clothes, but that's about it.  Still, I know there are times when I watch television not to connect with my family, but to just turn my brain off for a while.  I'll be honest: that is not going to change.  I'm not going to turn into someone who never does anything that's just fun for the sake of being fun.  Does watching television nourish me or help me grow?  Absolutely not, but I'm still going to watch it.

All of this has me wondering what self-care looks like for other people.  If you're not particularly creative, how do you take care of your soul?  What things in your day, your week, your month leaving you feeling rested, rejuvenated, undeniably cared for?  Do you even know?  If you do know, do you make time to do these things?

I've had a fairly successful Lent.  Most of the time, I don't actively miss the caffeine, but a brief stomach bug on Friday led me to drink a Coke.  I didn't have to.  I just wanted one.  It. Was. Good.  But I've not had any caffeine since.  And the creating portion of Lent?  That discipline of taking on the task to collage everyday? That's going splendidly.  The more I create, the more I want to create.  And it's leaving me undeniably well nourished (even if I did skip my work out on Thursday...)


Anonymous said...

Let me say first, that I need to take better care of my body. I need to lose weight, I need to eat better and I need to get into a regular exercise routine.

However, I wanted to consider a couple things that I do accomplish to take care of myself. I'm a huge napper. Often more than I really need to. But if I am feeling overwhelmed and depressed, a nap can leave me with an entirely refreshed attitude when I awaken. It can be amazing. I think it's a protective mechanism, like an emergency shut-off valve before I meltdown.

Also, suprisingly, I find my work as a nurse to be a form of self-care. It may seem ironic, since I exhaust myself running up and down the hospital hallways trying to tend to the needs of others for twelve hours at a time, but it is GOOD for me. It is very difficult to ruminate about my own problems when I'm focused on caring for my patients. It's impossible to feel sorry for myself (aside from my sore feet and back) when I am watching them suffer. Additionally, at the end of the shift, if I feel that I've accomplished the core goal of nursing- to ease someone else's suffering, I have an awesome feeling of satisfaction....completely drained, but satisfied. -Christine

EJN said...

What a great question?
Three things: Being Still(coffee, front porch, quiet), Walking or jogging with soul nourishing to just plain fun music, and Browsing through or for books.

WordGirl said...

Christine - I think work as self-care is a great point. I've definitely had jobs in the past that nourished me and made me feel more sane. And no need to point out all of the other things you COULD be doing - I'm right there with you. Just figured thinking about what does care for myself will help point me in the right direction.

Gigi McMurray said...

I'm inspired to ponder the things that nourish me vs the things that numb. Interesting that an item like reading or alone time can be on the same list.