When it comes to self-care, things are always changing. One of the most important things we humans can do is to take the time to stop and listen to ourselves. Check in with your body – what does it need? What about your mind? Your soul? This past month, every fiber of my being was telling me I needed a change. I needed to try something new. I needed to do something in which I was not the expert or in charge. I needed to expand my horizons and do something productive with my free time.
Over the past 15 years or so, I have been hyper-focused on one goal, one dream. I knew I wanted to be an art therapist when I was 16 years old and I worked very hard to make that happen. I was the over-achieving high school student who volunteered with the art therapist at a local hospice over the summers, who researched graduate schools to know that my undergraduate education could fulfill the prerequisites, and who read non-fiction art therapy literature on vacations for fun. I was invested in my goal and did everything in my power to make it happen.
Over a decade later, I am here. I made it! I opened my own business and am finally working as an art therapist – assisting others in experiencing the healing benefits of art-making. I anticipated this moment my whole life, so it came as a surprise to me that when I finally got there, I was left feeling stagnant with a faint voice in my head asking now what? It’s a funny feeling when you finally reach your goals, especially if you never thought to look past them.
In late April, I was going through the motions of my daily life, making sure that tasks were completed and people were taken care of, but, deep down, I felt uninspired and unproductive. So, I returned to what I know. Self-care. I took a good, hard look at my self-care routines and contemplated what I could adjust to be content again. And, that’s when it struck me… Out of nowhere, I said to myself "I need to do something productive. I’m going to learn Spanish."
And, I did. For the past 32 days, with the same gusto and dedication I put into becoming an art therapist all those years ago, I picked up a new hobby – learning Spanish. I have been watching Spanish lesson videos on YouTube and have been completing daily exercises on the Duolingo app. I have checked out and been reading Spanish children’s books from the library and have been listening to Spanish radio stations and podcasts.
I realize 32 days is not much, but it’s long enough to pick up a new habit and it’s long enough to have made a difference in my mood and motivation. Having a daily practice where I spend some time not being the expert or in charge is surprisingly rejuvenating!
What can you do to give yourself the same freedom? Is there something new that you want to learn, explore, or try, but you haven’t taken the first steps yet because you don’t really know how to do it? I encourage you to stop waiting for the sign and just dive in. Trust that things will still be okay, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Trust that you don’t have to be in control or know what to expect all the time.
Some of my other regular self-care habits have taken the back seat to learning Spanish, but I have not felt unbalanced. I have remained conscious of this shift and will ramp up practice of other routines (like journaling, hiking, or yoga) as my body/mind/soul craves more. What I’m finding this year is that remaining in tune with your body is the surest way to maintain that gentle balance between practicing physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and professional self-care. And, if you don’t know where to start, that’s okay. Just start somewhere.
Check out my blog for more self-care strategies! Feel free to contact me if you'd like some support or guidance on how to develop your own self-care routine or if you'd like to host a self-care workshop.