This January to March time is always a rush of non-stop activity at school. The Northeast, dreary winter weather does nothing to help soothe the onslaught of stress. I get so wrapped up in the doing that I don’t even realize I’m hunching my shoulders and holding my breath most of the day. And I love what I do! I love helping children. The helping part is the easy, rewarding part for me. It’s the never-ending to-do list of faculty meetings, parent meetings, assessments, evaluations – check lists upon check lists. I am a very organized person, but the enormous amount of never-ending work has the potential to drown and discourage me. But I won’t let it!
Thank goodness for mid-February. Mid-February is a reminder to breathe, slow down, and show myself some self-love. My wedding anniversary is February 10th. Since our first anniversary 38 years ago, my husband and I have used the 10th to herald in four days of celebration. For us, it is a time to reflect of what we are grateful for; a time to remember that we are each other’s best thing. The 10th also stands as a reminder for me to pause, take a step back and undo some of the knot of work projects. The work is important, but if I don’t take time for myself and show myself some love, the work will ultimately suffer.
Here are 14 ways I’m intentionally showing myself some love this February:
Smile – I notice that when I smile, I feel better. My mood lifts, and it’s contagious! People smile back and I feel connected. When I look in the mirror, I am learning to appreciate my lines, wrinkles, and spots. “This is me; this is my face. Hello! You are loved,” I say to myself and grin.
Laugh – I am a laugher. I cannot help it. I laugh all the time. I didn’t notice that I laugh a lot until friends brought it up. I find joy in many things. I think it is my laughter that keeps me sane, keeps everything in perspective when times are rough. When I’m having a hard time, I often seek out a funny movie to put me back on track. Laughter, as they say, is the best medicine.
Read and Rest – I love to read, but often choose working over reading. I have intentionally eked out some space in my day to read and rest, to read a bit and then ponder what the author is showing me. Words, images, ideas come flowing in, and I take a deep breath. I am connected now to my internal world and it makes me more curious and hopeful.
Peaceful Pen – I cannot seem to find the time during the week to write, so the weekends serve as my time to escape with my pen (or keyboard as the case may be). I wake up early each morning, look out the window past the meadow and woods, think about what is on my mind, and sit down to write for a few hours. I find that this time is essential for me. Without this writing time, I feel incomplete and unhappy. Writing is breathing to me.
Joy in Nature – Nature brings out the best in me. I am fortunate that I live in a place with nature all around: woods, farms, parks, and gardens. I regularly visit these places. When I’m in nature, beauty sinks into my skin, and I am reminded that I am a small part of this big, beautiful planet.
Beautiful Bouquet – I love flowers, all flowers. Okay, I admit tulips are my favorite. Yellow ones. I’m glad for that because roses are very expensive. Roses are beautiful too, but I like something more subtle, like wildflowers in the summer. In February, I stop off before work and buy myself a simple bouquet of tulips for my desk. They last over a week and every time I look at them, the remind me to pause and rest for a moment.
Café Life – I’ve been finding time before and after work stop by local cafes. I choose a different one throughout the week. It is like going on a little adventure. Most times, I have to take out and run, but when there is more time, I sit down and savor my favorite drink, cupping it in my hands and breathing in the aroma.
Sweet Indulgence – Chocolate. I love chocolate. I eat way too much chocolate. Instead of consuming lots of chocolate throughout the day (someone put a bowl of candy in the faculty room)! I’ve decided to show a little self-control and choose one sweet indulgence each week. This is not your run of the mill candy bar. This is a sumptuous, decadent dessert. It something planned, something to look forward to.
Meditate to Rejuvenate – I am learning to slow my monkey mind and meditate. It is not comfortable for me. I’ve been teaching a 4th grader how to meditate to help calm her monkey mind. It wasn’t until meditating with her that I realized how important it is to take a few minutes out of the day to center oneself. After meditating for 5 minutes, my body felt suddenly relaxed, and my mind was refreshed. I didn’t feel overwhelmingly tired with the need for my afternoon coffee.
Step it up! I rush around all day and sit all night. I’ve decided to change my couch potato habit and get up and move. I may stretch, do tai chi, dance in my socks, or practice martial arts with my husband. But my daily activity is walking. I love to walk in the woods, but when I can’t do that, I walk in town to window shop and people gaze.
Artistic Spark – Drawing, painting, weaving, sewing, creating collages is something that has brought me joy since I was young. I don’t need to be the best artist. I just let the materials take me where they want me to go, and I find that as I move my hand, my whole body and mind relaxes. I get into the artistic flow and everything else disappears.
Soak Away Stress – You know those luxurious bathrooms with the deep marble tubs or the beautiful jacuzzi looking over the sea? No – I don’t have either one. But I have a deep need to soak away stress, so I bought myself a little footbath and some fragrant bath salts for my tired feet. At least once a week, I fill up the footbath with warm water, sprinkle in the bath salts, and breathe in lavender and sage.In a few minutes, my feet feel loved.
Make Time for Music – Even though I have not one ounce of musical talent, I love music. I listen, I sing along, I hum throughout the day. The world needs more music. I remember going to a Broadway musical with my mother and refusing to leave when the show was over because I wanted life to be a musical. I was twenty-three at the time! I just don’t understand why we can’t just break out into song. And so – music accompanies me everywhere I go. It helps me think, and it allows me to relax.
Random Act of Kindness – The best way I know to feel joy and love is to spread it to others. Each day, I conscientiously make sure I perform an act of Kindness for someone else. It doesn’t have to be a grand, bold gesture. It can be as simple as a smile!