I’m visiting friends in Norway. We hosted a student from Norway for the school year in 2012-2013. What started as giving a Norwegian 17 year old a chance to experience the United States turned into a forever friendship with him and his family. They opened their home to us and are sharing their life with us. As I peak into life in Norway, what I appreciate the most is the pace and the beauty.
Norway is not known for sunny days. The climate is similar to Seattle: lots of rain! It’s been unusually wet this July, record breaking, and we have had the honor of being here to witness it. I wondered how people stay positive here. Norway is known as one of the happiest places to live. I’ve been observing what is different about how the people live here versus at home. I live in a very health conscious area, people are always out on their bikes, running, hiking or walking. It’s the same here except, they do all those things whether it’s raining or clear. The numbers of people getting exercise outside doesn’t change based on the weather. The clothing does. I’ve seen people decked out in rain gear from head to toe out in the rain…even children on a field trip in the pouring rain.
People also seem to enjoy a slower pace of life. Not rapidly moving from activity to activity but enjoying the simple pleasure of sitting and talking, letting fresh air into their home regardless of the outside temperature, blackout shades (long summer days), and of course, daily walks. Being here means I am going at a slower pace and I am learning to accept it and enjoy. I am fond of the sun…I am discovering I can have internal peace without it 🙂
I’m starting out with a bit of an apology for my infrequent posts. I mentioned last summer that I am taking classes until the end of this month (the end is near!!!). The classes are an addition to an already full life. I realized after starting my blog that it was going to have to go on the back burner. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to post at all during this time. I have gotten a few in. I am one of those people who like to be busy but not THAT busy. As a therapist, I frequently remind my clients to do something good for themselves each week. I’m a self-care pusher. If I mean what I say, than I better be doing it. I have to take time to fill up on a nearly daily basis in order to be effective with the time I have. I didn’t intend for this particular blog to be about self care, but here we go again.
Maybe during the holidays it’s helpful to be reminded of our deep need to care for ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us, nor can they. Back to square one, the definition. Self care is anything that you do that feeds your soul, your body, or your mind. It has to be something you connect with, not something someone else connects with. I love getting a massage. You might not like being touched. A massage is simply not going to be self care for you. I like walking, especially outside. You might find that boring or too slow. Walking is not your thing. I like reading the Bible and understanding who God is. You might not care at all about who God is. Reading the Bible isn’t self care for you. Have I made my point? If it’s not something that you enjoy or is meaningful to you, it is not self care.
There are some actions you may have overlooked that count as self care. Things like eating (healthy food that your body needs to function), bathing, sleeping, and exercise. If you read that and realized that you aren’t even doing the basic self-care, we need to talk! If you are just trying to get a handle on self-care, start with the basics. Make sure each day that you set aside time or create a system that allows you to eat healthy food. I believe fast food is better than the chocolate bar you count as lunch. Fast food is not ideal, but we have to be real. A salad with grilled chicken is going to nourish your body better than that chocolate bar. It’s possible that a chocolate bar is part of your self-care because you savor the treat, not because it is a regular part of your diet.
When you shower or take a bath to get clean, comment to yourself that this is a way that you care for your body. As you go to sleep or upon waking, congratulate yourself for making sleep a priority. The benefits are far reaching. Our brain desperately needs REM sleep to process the happenings of the previous day. Studies have shown (and we can all attest) that under-rested people tend to misinterpret the emotions of ourselves and others. We have a harder time dealing with emotion and we tend to be grouchy. I know that first-hand. Under-rested people tend to make more mistakes than those who are well rested. Exercise is well-known to enhance our mood. Those awesome endorphins that our bodies produce when we exercise help us feel better. Exercised bodies are generally healthier bodies. Although it might feel grueling at times, we are helping ourselves to have more energy.
If you have mastered the basics, start adding something extra to your daily or weekly routine. Think about the things you really enjoy. Is it sitting at Starbucks with a friend, relaxing and catching up? Is it curled up under a blanket watching your favorite holiday movie? Do you savor soaking in knowledge? Do you get pumped up watching a sporting event? Maybe for you it’s creating something: in the kitchen, the garage, a studio? If it’s something that takes a bit of time, it might have to be a once a week or twice a month event. Make sure you get at least an hour of self-care, above the basics, each week.
It’s especially important to get self care in our schedule when life gets busy, like right now. It helps us be more balanced. It increases healthy perspective and clarity. We are more effective in the way we live life when we are caring for ourselves versus when we are not. I know this is true. I have experienced times in my life when I have been horrible at self-care. “There just isn’t time!” “This is a ridiculous expectation!” I experience internal chaos when I am low on self-care. I cannot think as clearly, I am more likely to get defensive; I throw my skills out the wind and say, “Screw it!” All hell seems to break loose eventually. The times when I have been the unhealthiest emotionally are the times when I have not taken very good care of me. When a few days go by and I haven’t done much to care for myself, I stop and tell myself I’m headed for a train wreck. Do I want that? No! I find inspiration to take care of myself when I realize the consequences of ignoring my needs are tragic. Self-care is a need…not a luxury.