Last year, I was fortunate enough to discover The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a place in Colorado in which animals (carnivores like lions, tigers, and bears…oh my!) are rescued, often from misinformed people who attempt to keep such animals as pets. I just have to pause here to say…SERIOUSLY??? I can’t help but envision a group of single, 20-something drunk dudes sitting outside in lawn chairs, when one of them says “Know what? Having a lion would be bad-ass!” As to how they acquired the lion, my train of imagination derails at that point.
The animals are taken to an amazing facility of over 700 acres, in which they are nurtured and cared for in a methodical way in order for them to eventually feel safe among the other animals (often first spending a long time in solitude, as some have spent their lives all alone in very small spaces).
This lion certainly looks relaxed and like he feels safe, doesn’t he?
Being in this environment for a few hours made me consider the ways we handle our own nurturing as humans. Yes, there are certainly times when we need “rescuing” from precarious situations, and we are fortunate for that…additionally, I believe if we practice self-care, we find our own personal sanctuary of safety.
What is self-care? As a businesswoman and mom with multiple roles, sometimes I struggle with knowing the answer to this question, as it seems I spend so much time caring for others. The simple answer is that self-care is doing those things that make you feel nurtured, and that recharge you. Self-care is that which makes you feel more…YOU. The tougher question is what does self-care mean to YOU? Which of the following makes you feel happy?
- A warm bath
- Taking a walk or hike in nature
- Snuggling with a pet
- A quiet yoga practice
- Shopping for something special just for you
- Having a massage
- Listening to music
- Calling a friend or family member
- Praying / spiritual practice
- Getting a manicure or pedicure (or giving yourself one!)
- Wandering through an art museum
- Having a “movie marathon” day with no distractions
- Preparing a meal, for yourself and/or someone you love
- A hot cup of tea or coffee in a comfy chair
- Buying yourself fresh flowers
- Other (insert your favorite form(s) of self-care here!)
I had an “a-ha moment” when I was going through a difficult divorce and custody battle years ago, when my son was barely old enough to walk. I was dealing with a lot of stress from shifting into a role of “working single mom” with a child who was so young, and shared my feelings with a friend. I will never forget his words: “In order for you to be a good mom to your son, you need to be good to yourself”. Indeed, when I stopped feeling guilty for doing the things I loved, and treating them as a necessity, my stress was reduced and I could focus on being the best mom I could be.
I wandered the thrift stores in search of hidden treasures (“Ooh, wow…it’s been forever since I’ve seen a Rubik’s cube!”), I gave myself pedicures (I actually enjoy that more than paying someone to do it!), I put on 70’s music and sang at the top of my lungs while I made pasta, and the most important thing to me, I learned, was LAUGHTER. If I didn’t laugh every day, whether it was watching something funny on tv, looking at comedy sketches on youtube, or calling a friend that I knew would always have me in stitches, I felt “off”, and the stress got to me even more. Quite simply, I got in touch with myself, and my needs, and I healed the wounds that needed healing.
How can you create your own sanctuary? Start by re-acquainting yourself with the things you love. Try some things you’ve always wanted to try and see if you love them. Then allow those things you love to “spill into” a feeling of SELF-love. We feel safe when we are cared for, and by caring for ourselves in the best way possible, we are then able to care for others all the better. We heal the parts of us that are wounded.
“Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are.
Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, your peace,
and healing comes when you love yourself.
You give a great gift to the world when you do that.
You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves.
Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine.”
Doing what makes you happy is self-care…avoiding negativity is self-care…surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, support you, and encourage you is self-care…and just taking the time to BE rather than focusing so much energy on what you DO…THAT is the best kind of self-care!
———> This is part of the FYB series “31 Days to Quiet the Voices in Your Head”.
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