I guess I’m fortunate that I haven’t had too many seasons in life that were so chaotic I was stripped of nearly all my reserves. And if I had any reserves right now, I’d be grateful for that. It’s not just been an awful year. It’s been a slow building depletion of the last few years. Thank God I’m good with self-care because I can usually get the energy I need on most days to stay relatively healthy and well. But I recently realized that the reserve tank is empty. On the days I don’t have quite what I need, I simply stall and sometimes putter out.
This is helpful to realize. To name and sit with.
I’m not sure if I can build up reserves right now. That feels too lofty and I don’t have energy for lofty goals. It’s time to be practical and focus on what is right in front of me. So if you are at all with me, I thought maybe it might be helpful to share how I am doing that.
- Take care of my physical self. Eat well and get enough sleep. Don’t drink too much alcohol, as tempting as that is. Move and strengthen my body. (Having a very active dog with adorably pleading eyes helps.) I didn’t make huge changes to my physical self-care. But I found small ways to improve how I care for my body. I might not be able to change what I am going through, but my body can help me to better endure the stress and strain.
- Know what has to be done and what can wait. Bills need to get paid. Garbage needs to be taken out. House does not need to be spotless. Animals need to be fed. Projects do not need to be started. Plans can be postponed. Annoying friend can wait. Being clear on my non-negotiables vs. negotiables helps me adjust my schedule as needed.
- Always make time for what feeds my soul, even if it’s just for five minutes here and there, and do it multiple times throughout the day. Earlier I spent a few minutes sitting on my porch, eyes closed, listening to the rain fall. It was cathartic. I use my breathing app to remind me to take deep breaths, one minute at a time. I fill my bird feeders and watch them be used as I drink my morning coffee. I stare at the dusk sky. I listen to music that gives me hope. I read poems that name my heartache. I knit because it’s meditative. I write. These moments do many things: help me to recalibrate, remind me of who I am, ground me. Collectively the moments make a big difference.
- Be accountable. It’s easy to fall off the path on a good day. When life is chaotic, it’s nearly impossible to stay on the path unless I track what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I set small, attainable goals (I’ve already mentioned most) and track my progress. I don’t beat myself up when I fall short. But I experience much more success when I set goals and track my progress than if I were to just try to do my best.
- Practice love and gratitude. It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to hate. It’s easy to divide. It’s easy to be entitled. Love and gratitude require intentionality. I have people who are easy to love and things that are easy to be thankful for. I challenge myself to love those who are not easy to love and be thankful for tasks I’d rather not be thankful for. My experience is that while energy gets depleted, there is something magical about it too. I’m not exactly sure what happens – more energy or better use of energy or what – but it’s the equivalent of physical self-care for my mind and heart. Love and gratitude do something wonderful. And when I am depleted, there can’t be enough wonderfulness in my life.
Maybe there are other things but I feel like those five are the primary ways I have avoided getting consumed by what is going on. So far.
Now I need a nap. I guess that should’ve been number six – nap often.