When left to my own devices, I am a simple creature. I am quiet and can (and often prefer to, when afforded the opportunity) go for a full day or more without any human contact. I like dimly lit, uncluttered, serene spaces. Small rooms give me comfort. I like to immerse myself in nature, in beauty, in physical exercise, meditation, reading, and creative activity. And, generally speaking, I have a low threshold for much else. Most other kinds of stimulation are unwelcome. Bright lights, loud, crowded, disorderly spaces. Overly abrasive, aggressive, chaotic, and confrontational people. Traffic. All feel like an assault of sorts. A violation of my harmonious inner space. Environments that may produce in me feelings of tremendous anxiety, overwhelm, even to the point of disorientation—that is, an inability to focus, a kind of numbness or shutting down, an unwillingness to carry on.
Indeed, following an extremely stressful encounter, like a fight, or a prolonged period of work-related stress, I invariably enter a cycle of rest. A retreat into my cocoon, I call it. Where I allow myself all the mental and physical rest I need: extra sleep, lighter, gentler forms of exercise, healthy food, mindful cooking, plenty of meditation, reading, journaling, and extra time in nature.
Over the past few months, it’s really hit me just how much time I spend coping with the demands of daily life. A lot. A real lot. I dedicate a huge portion of my life to soothing myself. To rejuvenating my energies and reclaiming my inner balance. I imagine, based on my recent reading, that much of this need for self-soothing can be attributed to sensitivity (to being a highly sensitive person, or HSP). The fact that I’m easily rattled by the encounters of everyday life, whether I show it outwardly or not. And the older I get, the better able I am to interpret the inner cues to slow down. And dedicate the necessary time and effort to helping myself. Here are some thoughts on the importance of rejuvenation and the art of building soothing, or rejuvenating, activities into our daily lives.
To seek rejuvenation is a need, not a shortcoming.
It took me a long time to understand that I need to build self-care routines into my daily life. And even longer to fully grasp (which I still work on) that the need for self-care, nurturing, mindful, or soothing activities is not something to eventually be overcome. That is, it’s not temporary. I won’t outgrow it. Evolve beyond it. Become stronger than it. Somehow defy my own sensitivity. Because I shouldn’t be this way…except I always have been. And I’m always going to be. How much easier it is when I give myself a lending hand.
Honor your routines, and make them sacred.
Like many creative folks, I imagine, I am a very much a creature of routine when they’re my routines. (All other-imposed routines are immediately suspect and must be eradicated or modified to conform to my natural tendencies when possible.) Morning and bedtime routines, for example, are sacred. When done correctly, they usher me slowly (via either coffee or herbal tea, soft music, and deep breathing) into the next phase. If I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I start my bedtime routine early, usually with a bubble bath and a glass of wine. Likewise, if I wake early, I generally add a workout to my schedule. These routines are not only essential to my well-being, but I also enjoy them very much. A kind of structure I actually look forward to. They bring me peace. Comfort. Joy. Renewal.
Take your time.
I used to think that “low” or “low-energy” periods were a thing to be avoided. Rushed through. Be positive. Don’t linger in your negative emotions. Now, I’m not so sure about that. I’ve noticed that, for me, periods of low energy seem significant. As if my brain is trying to tell me something. You’re overwhelmed. Stop. And take care of yourself. These aren’t feelings to be ignored. Or phases to be rushed through. Indeed, I have found there’s tremendous value in retreating—as much as I can, of course—and in allowing myself to simply be a little low. It’s when I fight those feelings or tell myself that I need to fix them that I create within myself feelings of discord and distress. But when I use that time constructively—to rest, to create, to meditate more, to do less whenever possible—my mood and my energy levels rejuvenate much faster.
Do what comes naturally.
Several years ago, when mindfulness and self-care techniques really started becoming trendy, I tried experimenting with pre-scripted routines: Wake up. Have tea. Meditate with legs crossed and palms open. Journal for 20 minutes. All of which was helpful. And provided me with a solid foundation for the routines I have today. Which, of course, have become far more personalized over time. If it feels more natural for you to meditate laying down or with your legs outstretched, do that. Sit in silence instead of listening to music. Journal some days and not others. Be high energy when you feel high energy. Be creative. Experiment. Build routines that feel good and that you look forward to doing.
Acknowledge that you’ve helped yourself.
This is the final dimension that, for me, cannot be overlooked. The inner experience of helping ourselves. Which is inevitably an emotional one. Indeed, I’ve long felt, based on my own inner experiences, that I can almost divide myself in two: the one who speaks, acts, does for better or worse and the one who rises up when I need help. The strong and sturdy one. The one who takes care of me, feels tenderly toward me, or rather, tells me when I need to treat myself with greater tenderness and compassion. I imagine her as a center. A nurturer. A spring. A will. And getting to know her has made–and continues to make–an extraordinary difference.