As the holidays have wound down on the calendar, they may not have wound down in our persons and our homes. We need to take a moment, or several, and give ourselves time to rest. To breathe. To do nothing at all.
It’s hard to do nothing, isn’t it?
There are very few times I can recall when I set out to just sit and think of nothing that I was able to accomplish that. My mind wanders. It jumps and leaps around, making lists for everything under the sun.
It’s hard to turn that off.
I did manage it in the early days of covid. I’d set up my camp chair on my front lawn, bring my journal and my Kindle, and my prayer shawl. I’d sit in nature, and when I was finished with my readings and any note-taking, I’d just sit for awhile. I didn’t notice the time passing. In a couple of instances, I’d refocus and realize that hours had passed. I saw neighbors, I returned waves to kids passing by. I listened to the birds. I could hear the church bells from a couple of miles away. It was very peaceful, and it was its own reward.
I didn’t feel guilty about spending so much time in unconscious thought. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. There was also a he amount of stress and uncertainty hanging heavily in the air. I was surprised that I settled into quiet thought, but I did not feel guilty. I looked forward to the next time I’d sit out there. For days, even if I didn’t go out, I left my camp chair outside, not folding it up and putting it in the garage, so it would be ready when I was.
First thing about feeling guilty about taking care of your mental health is do not feel guilty. This is not as easy as it sounds. We are ingrained from a very young age to be there for others and to neglect ourselves. This is especially true of women, but men are not excluded from this.
For a long time in recent years, we were bombarded with self-care to the point that now there is a backlash with many saying that we are indulging ourselves and softening. None of this is true. Think back to times that you took care of yourself. Whether it was an extra hour of sleep, a cup of tea, reading a book, or simply just watching the flowers move in the breeze, these slow-downs help us and really do make us better at doing the work we need and want to do.
The few things that I’m going to try to do now that the holidays are over sound simple, but actually doing them takes an effort. Self-care is an effort, but it is well worth it.
1. Enjoy my Christmas tree. It is still up and I love looking at the lights. Whenever I come to my living room for the day, the first thing I do is turn on the Christmas tree.
2. Make lists. They helped me immensely through the worst of my depression and they are not only an important tool, I find them a great mental health tool.
3. Drink more tea.
4. Read more. I do read quite a lot, but I want to be able to tell myself to sit down, take out a book or my Kindle, and enjoy exploring new places and events through books.
5. Keep my dining room table cleaned so we can eat at it. This has always been a problem for us, and I’ve noticed things are much better when the phones are away, the television is off, and we are sitting together for that one meal. (This works for my family. If it doesn’t work for yours, that’s okay.)
Note: This was completed and ready for a last go over before my son came down with covid. So far, his symptoms are mild and he fluctuates from seeming fine to falling asleep on the couch. This has obviously changed our plans for the weekend and the coming week, with most things being cancelled despite all of us being vaccinated. With my oldest contracting covid last week (from work; my second son was exposed at school), my feelings on the intentionally unvaccinated will remain mute for the moment, but there are no guarantees that reticence will last. The point is we need to constantly readdress those things that just happen and reevaluate what our response to them will be. For my daughter who had her weekend plans cancelled through no fault of her own it’s McDonald’s. For me, it’s writing and Diet Coke. For the moment.