Affirmation: I recognize it's important to take time to nurture myself.
Mother's Day is tomorrow. It's a day probably created by Hallmark cards but no matter, most honor it as if it were a national or religious holiday. Everyone has a mother. If we are blessed she's a woman who has nurtured us and guided us towards a life of love and generosity and compassion. She has helped shape us, both intentionally and unintentionally, in a way that has empowered us to lead lives of value and worth; lives that make a positive difference in the world or at least in our world.
I was recently invited by Alice Lutz of Triangle Family Services () to present a self-care workshop for the staff. This organization is seventy seven years old. It is open seven days a week and serves over five thousand people every year. The staff is composed of men and women who assist those who are experiencing family violence, financial crisis and mental health issues. I was honored to be invited. I am in awe of the work the staff does. They are in the trenches serving the neediest of our area. I know it's both rewarding and draining. Because of my experience with Hospice of Wake County and with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, I know firsthand that helping people who are in crisis is both gratifying and overwhelming. My goal, therefore, was to nurture the nurturers. I designed an hour of respite. From the feedback I received it appears to have been well received.
With the help of Blaire Schultz and Monica Shelton, the women who own and operate the Bodhi Tree Holistic Bodywork and Skincare Center (), we presented each staff member with a small vial of lavender oil. Lavender is known for its stress and anxiety reducing effect. We began the hour by placing a tiny bit of oil in the palm of our hands and rubbing them together to create warmth and then gently placing our palms over our eyes and our noses. I invited everyone to sit comfortably, close their eyes and to begin focusing on their breath in order to gather their energy into the room and then into their bodies. After several minutes of breathing, we gently opened our eyes and did one consensual OHM, focusing on the "mmmm" sound at the end. It vibrates through the body and releases stress. The energy in the room had already become calmer and we had only been there for less than ten minutes. We went onto discuss the "tools" different individuals used to care for themselves. There were a wide range of suggestions from listening to music to cooking. My hope was that each person would go home with one new way to nurture themselves. We ended the session with a guided mediation CD and a final OHM. One hour of luxury in the middle of the work day, perhaps I even gave some of the staff the opportunity to take a much needed cat-nap. Everyone was appreciative and as they left they moved a little slower, a little more deliberately than when they had arrived.
When the airline attendant demonstrates the use of oxygen in case of an emergency, the instruction is always to place the oxygen over your mouth and nose and then to help any child who is with you. It's a wonderful analogy for what's needed in order to care for another; we must find a way to care for ourselves first. If we spend all our energy taking care of others and never take the time to take care of us, we will be left without enough oxygen to live. Life is busy. Most people like to be busy. They like to feel they are being productive and in order to produce, one must work. That's good but we must also find some time and some tools that soothe us. They are different for different people and for some, especially working mothers, they need to claim that time and space or the responsibilities of their lives will overwhelm them and let's face it, no one benefits from a grumpy, overwhelmed mother, boss, spouse, coworker or human being.
I want to offer you a few simple suggestions to nurture yourself. Sure there are things like retreats, yoga classes, massages, facials and dinners out but all those are time consuming and costly. If you're able to take advantage of those type of self-care activities, good. Go for it! There are, however, other things of which one can take advantage, small easy steps that soothe.
*Take a few minutes between activities to breathe, perhaps you can even get in a couple of deep breaths and a small prayer.
*Let your time in the car be quiet time. Don't turn on the radio or talk on the phone. North Carolina in the spring is absolutely breathtaking. When I drive without distraction, I can fully embrace the beauty of my surroundings. I can also use that time to reconnect to the Divine, adding a few prayers to my drive makes me calmer and less frenetic.
*I have a small vile of lavender in my purse. Whenever I can I open it and let the aroma sooth me.
*Put some flowers or a pretty plant in your space. There's something about the softness of a flower that can help me relax.
*Take a walk. It's free and it doesn't have to be long. Sometimes just the intention of getting outside for a short time can re-energize you.
*Stretch. It doesn't matter if you do it sitting or standing. Gently move your neck from side to side, shrug and release your shoulders, make circles with your hips, flex your hands and feet. Mini yoga, remember to breathe with the movement.
*Eat mindfully. Say grace. There's power in blessing the food you're about to put into your body. Don't read, don't watch TV, don't do work, take time to savor the food and imagine how it is helping fuel your body for whatever it is you will need to do going forward.
Take some time and think about those small steps you can take that will soothe your body and fill your heart. For all the mothers out there and for all those who "mother" whomever needs caring, may you have a blessed day filled with love and care both from those you care for and especially, from yourself.