Lurking Behind the Curtains at the Talent Show

Self-care provides the tools to dig deeper into mental health and mental well-being.

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Can the problems of the world be solved with self care? Right or wrong, I think they can. Not in the “let’s get a mani-pedi kind of way,” although that has good points, too. No, I’m talking the soul searching kind of self-love.

The tragedy in Florida last week highlights a couple of things for me. We ignore or misunderstand mental health issues, and we have a tendency to latch onto fear and hate when we’re lost and searching for ourselves. Had the young man experienced a world that was more filled with love rather than the hate groups he associated with or had he be given tools to deal with his thoughts — like meditation and journaling — would this tragedy have happened?

Perhaps, but then again, maybe not. We’ll never know the answer to that question. But we can create a world where this sort of event happens less often.

I’ve said many times on here that if we love ourselves then we’re more loving to those around us. It begins to permeate our environment, and it’s a good thing when it does. This entire blog talks about how self-care allows us to be more loving and understanding.

One thing we don’t talk much about in the self-care realm is mental health. Sure, we talk about mindfulness. Inner peace. Calmness. Those are all positive features of mindful self-care and mental well-being. As I’ve said a few times on here, though, sometimes to really have an impact, self-care needs to dig a little deeper. We need to get to know our shadow selves.

I wrote previously that to truly love yourself and care for yourself, you have to accept your whole self — the good, the bad and the ugly. Self-care, when it’s done right, opens the door to let that happen. It gives you the tools to cope with things you don’t like — even if those things are within you. It allows you to look at them honestly without judging yourself. From there, you have the true ability to move forward, to grow or to heal — whatever it is you may need to become a healthier, stronger person.

Self-care has helped me in my own journey in understanding my shadow self. I’ll admit that it has taken some time, but I’m making progress. I fought it in the beginning. Things started coming to light that I didn’t believe or maybe I just didn’t want to believe.

At some point in the process, when I had gotten my body to the place it needed to be, my diet where it needed to be, I was able to open up and investigate the shadows. I began to talk to a counselor to deal with some of the emotional challenges I have had in the past.

I figure if I put that much work into improving the outside, then I need to put at least as much effort into improving the inside. Otherwise it’s just a good paint job on a jalopy.

Now from the beginning, my self-care has included mindfulness and trying to achieve inner peace. Now, it’s going deeper.

My journey has brought to light that I was traumatized in some way. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone. We all suffer some trauma. You simply cannot get through life without it. Human beings are flawed, they make decisions, and sometimes those decisions impact those around us — positively or negatively. The impact varies from person to person and so does the level of trauma, but we all experience it.

Lesson 1: Self-care lets you embrace all aspects of yourself and to accept your shadow elements without judgement.

I’m still in the discovery phase of all this. It seems to be more small, ongoing things instead of some large traumatic incident. Trauma is trauma, though — no matter what form it takes.

I’m not sure how much detail I will share here — I’ll figure that out as I go. What I will share, though, is how self-care is helping me cope with the process. How it led me to a path to improving myself on a level I didn’t even realize I needed.

Trauma, you see, works on the subconscious level. I’m learning that I have developed behaviors (don’t know what those are at this point in the process) that affect various aspects of my life that I’ve struggled with. Where I thought I just had bad luck or that God didn’t like me very much or I had done something that resulted in some very bad karma, I’m starting to see it’s my shadow self lurking behind the curtains at the talent show sabotaging my performance.

Self-care will never erase trauma. I will never fully understand my subconscious or what’s buried there. But I can start to see the emotions certain things bring up and see what behaviors I present as a result of some subconscious messages. From there, I can manage my emotions more. I can change my behaviors. I can grow as a human being, and maybe by sharing some of this, I can help others grow. You see self-care has also given me the strength to be more open about this and try to help others cope with whatever they need to cope with.

Lesson 2: Self-care doesn’t erase trauma, but it can help you manage emotions and change behaviors that result from it.

And although I think of myself as a loving person, I hope this process allows me to become even more loving. If it helps others do the same, then it’s even better. See, I want us to be more than just a loving world. I want the world to be one giant support group. To be a world that loves and cares for one another without preconceptions and judgements rather than just a mass of people who happen to inhabit the same planet.

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How to Jump Start Your Brain

Taking a short break from self care is a form of self care.

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So much about self-care focuses on routines. Make time for this, that or the other – plan your mornings, plan your evenings. Sometimes, though … sometimes we just need to step out of that mindset. Leave behind all of our routines and try something new.

Humans, in my opinion, need variation — at least every once in a while. Some may need it more often, but we all need it on occasion. It jump starts our brain when the battery stalls. Makes us appreciate life again. Helps us grow.

Self-care, as wonderful as it is, can start to feel like a rut. I get up at 5, drink my lemon water, do yoga, eat breakfast and take supplements. I go to work, workout on my lunch break, and eat a protein-packed lunch afterwards. I have healthy snacks at certain times and come home to cook myself dinner. Read a little, meditate (although I’ve fallen off the wagon on that one recently), do my skin care routine and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

It’s a decent life. I ain’t going to lie, but this time a year — these claustrophobic, death mimicking winter months can make even a good life feel less than fresh. That’s for sure. My routine lost its freshness right around Christmas and developed a grungy funk by January.

What my soul needed was to shake things up. I tried changing my daily routine, but that didn’t cut it. I needed a shakedown — a de-stagnation of my life force.

Is de-stagnation even a word? I don’t know. I’m making it word because that’s what I needed. I needed to ditch my well manicured self-care routine.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten deeper into self-care is that I need to challenge myself more. Push myself harder when I exercise. Read more. Meditate more. I want to grow. Staying the same isn’t an option any more when you focus on yourself. What I knew was that if I didn’t get out of my routine for a day or two, I was going to start falling off the wagon more.

Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to take a short break from your self-care routine. Done mindfully, it can actually help keep you on track.

Come January, I was ready to grow. So I did something I’ve never done before. I booked a short little vacation on my own. I used to travel for work alone all the time and thought nothing of it. It was work, I had to do it, so I did. Never, however, did I travel alone for me and I decided it was about damn time I did.

Now a logical person would have booked a trip somewhere warm and tropical, but I decided on New York instead. Go figure. I had been there once for work, but never for pleasure. New York, though, has always held a special place in my heart.

See, when I was a wee child, I wanted to move to New York and be a dancer. When I hit my teen years, I wanted to move to New York and be in a band. Then I was going to attend college in New York. All because, well you know,“New York City is the place where they said ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.’ ”

Yeah, well I’m not very wild these days — you read my routine. Still, New York is electric. It has that current running through it that other cities don’t have, ya now? It’s sexy and sleek and punk all rolled up into one. Anything could happen there at any given time. It’s an amalgamation of humanity, and that’s what I needed. I needed vibrancy — not peace and quiet.

When I got to the airport, I realized I hadn’t traveled in so long that I had forgotten how to travel. Somehow I got passed TSA without going through TSA and decided I needed to go back. If I could remember how I did that and wrote that little trick down, though, I’m certain I could sell it.

I had also forgotten what it felt like to take off and land in a plane. Most people don’t even acknowledge it, but maybe that’s where some of my mindfulness and presence kicks in. Taking off in one city and landing in another is one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world to me. God I love that feeling. Love it.

Lesson 2: Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, eventually finds its way into your way of being without making an effort.

I had no plan what so ever — there was only one thing on my agenda. I had a ticket to see a singer/songwriter/poet/artist that I like. Until the doors opened for that show, I was going to explore the city. And like every city I visit, I got lost. Completely and utterly lost.

How did I get lost in this world of mobile phone apps that tell us everything? My phone died. Completely and utterly died and my charger was back at the hotel.

I didn’t even know where I was. I walked for 3 hours in 3-inch heels in 30-degree weather.

And it was spectacular.

Everyone’s heard to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. For a few minutes, I’ll admit, I was sucking on that lemon with a puckered face. I was pissed about my phone. I had no idea which direction I was heading. And then I paused. I took a breath and told myself that I was just going to have to talk to people.

Once I relaxed, I got into the groove of it. I stopped and asked several people for directions, which I normally would never do. I got to see several different neighborhoods in the city. I walked right through the middle of some random fashion show on the street. I watched photographers taking photos of trash cans, stopped at falafel stands, and saw that weird steam that blows out from underground that you think only happens in movies. It doesn’t — it actually exists.

I saw old buildings with fire escapes. I adore fire escapes. They’re terribly romantic and nostalgic. They’re part of my ideal vision of New York life. Hot summer nights sitting on the fire escape talking to your neighbors, hearing the city life all around you. That’s part of what I wanted growing up.

I made it over to the Hudson River and walked along the piers — port cities are my favorites. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees out near the water, but I had never loved cold weather so much in my life as I did at the moment. When I hit the end of the pier, I turned and saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time in my life. It caught me by surprise. I didn’t even think about seeing it and had made no plans to see it. But, that’s what New York is all about, ya know? It’s what America is all about, and I’m so glad I saw it.

And yes, I made it to the show. It was out on the piers at night. City lights all around, reflecting on the water. Good music. Good conversation. Good food. It was an intimate venue where you sat with people you didn’t know. The performer was close enough to touch. The view was beautiful. I spoke all evening with a woman who sat at my table, and yet I never caught her name. I even met the artist — you know anything can happen in New York.

The entire trip was magical. It wasn’t just out of my routine, but it was out of my imagination. All those times I thought about moving there, that trip gave me a taste of what I had always imagined. It made those dreams come to life for a very brief moment. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

And you know what, I didn’t exercise once during that trip. Well, if you don’t count the three-hour hike. I ate exactly what I wanted to eat. I went to bed with my makeup on — or maybe not, I can’t really remember that part. But for a couple of days, I completely ditched my entire self-care routine. And now, I’m back at it better than before.

Lesson 3: Make breaking out of your self-care routine part of your routine from time to time if it will help you grow and refocus.

I needed the break as a readjustment. I needed to branch out and do something different just for a day or two. I needed to grow, and in all honesty, helping yourself grow is the best part of self care. It’s the whole point, really. And if you’re someone who absolutely must have a routine, then think of this way. Make getting out of your routine part of your routine from time to time. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Peace and love, ya’ll.