- in Self-Care
Between surviving and leading a fully humming creative life lies the middle ground of determining your minimum requirements for self-care, a duded-up way of saying what you absolutely must have to stay in touch with your center.
Basic needs, or minimum requirements, are different for each woman, although getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, eating fresh food, being touched, and connecting to something larger than ourselves show up pretty consistently on women’s lists — but again, not on everybody’s.
It can be easy to discount the importance of these basics, because getting enough alone time or napping when you are tired just doesn’t sound as sexy as realizing some fabulous dream.
Yet without these basics, the dreams don’t come true, or you can’t sustain them when they do, or, most tragically, it turns out that you are following not your dreams but rather a script about what you should do. But when you reach a certain stage of commitment to yourself, you find that you are willing to give the amount of attention and energy needed to these basics, because without them, it isn’t your life. You discover that you have less leeway to stray from what is essential.
Give yourself time to find your minimum requirements.
Allow yourself to notice and adjust them. You may start out with ten things and find that all you really need is to get seven hours of sleep, to remember to breathe and listen, and to touch living things.
Of course, minimum requirements change over time and with your situation.
When my dad died, my minimums shrank to taking my vitamins and herbs, drinking water, and taking care of my daughter.
I knew I would reevaluate what I needed after I grieved. The paradox here is your personalized list may be your treasure map home to your center, and sometimes you don’t want or can’t use it. But you can always find where you buried it.
As Laraine said to me a few months after attending a Kripalu retreat with me,
Making conscious what makes me feel good helps me recover more quickly from periods when I am denied these basics and helps me not having them because I know when they will resume.
The list is a good reminder to eat breakfast on the screened porch looking at the birds rather than in the dark kitchen listening to news on the radio or to reach out to friends for help and in the process find out they need help from me.
The daily minimum requirements are a reminder of my strengths and individuality, my right to enjoy life, and the awareness that I am a better person doing what I want.
By writing down your minimum requirements and then paying attention to your list — perhaps posting it where you can see it — you become aware of what you are already doing to maintain your connection to self.
You will also see what trips you up, and you can decide if you want to do anything about it. If you have a fear of self-care — that it will make you a pampered, selfish bitch, for instance — this sort of noticing moves you toward resiliency and taking more responsibility for your life.
If you focus only on the big vision or on all you want to do, you can forget the basics; this focus on the ideal can keep you from getting where you want to go or from having enough energy to enjoy it once you get there.
Are you resisting declaring minimum requirements out of fear that by not thinking big you limit your life’s purpose?
Then you may want to notice how keeping the channel to your wisdom open by tending to your basics beautifully influences your well-being — for the good of all.
Some Sample Minimum Daily Requirements: Mine and Dee’s
Jennifer’s Minimum Requirements
· Meditation, usually first thing in the morning
· Physical movement, especially outdoors
· Creating: writing, arranging flowers, dancing
· Taking herbs and vitamins
· Drinking lots of water; carrying water on errands
· Getting eight hours of sleep
· Hugging and touching other living things like my dogs
· Reading for fun
· Choosing what I want
· Watching for signs of having eaten too much sugar or being under too much stress
· Seeing or talking to my mom and my daughter
· Time alone
· Using the Life Planner or other reflection
· Learning something new
· Time to do nothing
· Making “art messes”
· Spending time in nature with Bob unplugged
· Learning something in-depth
· Travel somewhere new
Dee’s Minimum Requirements
· Enjoying a spiritual moment: drawing, praying, watching the bird feeders, gardening, choosing an angel card
· Moving my body: dancing, doing aerobics, weight lifting, horseback riding, biking
· Eating one meal that is all raw
· Writing in my gratitude journal
· Getting six hours of sleep
· Spending time with my partner: nothing special, just being together
· Hiking in nature
· Having one good connection with a friend or my sisters
· Making time to “catch up” with my business expenses and home budget
· Loving sex
· Spending a few hours in silence
· Having a new experience: seeing a play, visiting a part of the city I’ve never been in, trying out a new recipe, taking a class
· Spending a week living close to the land: no technology allowed
· Going on a retreat, led by a great teacher, with other women
Mindful Minimum Self-Care Questions
Finding your style of balance starts by identifying what it means and looks like for you and then weaving that knowledge into your life by using the Life Planner.
· Without ___________, I lose myself.
Make a list of your basic self-care requirements. Ask those you are intimate with what they observe about you.
The most common are enough sleep; solitude; time with people I love; nature, especially water; connection with a higher Source; creative musing for no particular purpose; unscheduled time away from technology; enough protein; and water.
Give yourself a little time to be really thorough.
· When I feel most connected to my center, I am ____________.
· When I feel most connected to something larger than myself and my agenda, I am ___________.
· My body helps me be connected when it has ___________.
· I could live without ___________ but not for long.
Mindful Balance Questions
· What is my vision of balance? Is there another word besides balance that fits me better?
· Would I know balance, or its equivalent, if it hit me over the head?
· Is my vision humanly possible? Or would I need six arms and to exist in multiple dimensions? If it is, when was the last time I experienced it? Did I truly enjoy it?
· What helps me live inside this vision, embody it, believe it?
· What personal alarms go off when I’m getting out of balance?
Make a list of your melt-down signals.
Mine include itchy skin (a sign that I’ve eaten too much sugar), not meditating, not reading poetry, being dramatic about how much I have to do, and conducting a private conversation that goes something like “I should…,” while my outer conversations include a lot of “I’m sorry I’m late, but…”
· What throws me out of balance during ___________ time of the year?
Examples include winter holidays, tax season, sheep shearing (hey, it’s a busy time), vacation (many people find so-called pleasure trips empty and disorienting), and anniversaries of a death or other loss. Look back to plan ahead.
· How do I usually respond to stress? What choices do I sometimes make?
Your answers could include losing your temper, eating everything in sight, drinking too much ___________, adding an exercise class, praying, reaching out for help.
Excerpted from the new paperback edition of The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year © 2013 by Jennifer Louden. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com.
About the author
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with her first best-selling book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 6 additional books on well-being and whole living: The Couple’s Comfort Book, The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, The Woman’s Retreat Book, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women (The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life in hardcover), The Life Organizer, and A Year of Daily Joy. There are about a million copies of her books in print in 9 languages.
Jennifer has spoken around the U.S., Canada and Europe, written a national magazine column for a Martha Stewart magazine, been profiled or quoted in dozens of major magazines, and appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows, even on Oprah. Jennifer has been teaching retreats and leading workshops since 1992, and creating vibrant on-line communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000. She married the love of her life at 50, and is the very proud mom of Lillian and very proud bonus mom to Aidan.
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