Polytheists, pagans, and animists, as a general rule, are not people involve with traditions based on mortification of the flesh. We don’t make martyrs.
However, we do live in a culture which encourages overwork, under-reward, constantly being “on,” controlled substances either to keep us up (nicotine, a slew of prescription drugs) or are promoted to help us “cope” with stress (alcohol, anti-depressants), and discourages vacation and rest time. It’s a sure-fire method to wear out the population.
Add to that the extra stress which comes from fighting for causes which engage us and hold our passion. It can be easy to throw all our internal resources to these actions because we want to, but no one can keep up that kind of pace. We need sleep. We need down time. We need to be able to take a step back, be receptive, and take in what sustains us.
Since I’ve seen more than a few people talking about doing so (including me), I declare now to be a time for all of us, activist or not, to take some time (rather than “make” it) to take care of ourselves, nourish our spirits, and step away from the hectic pace of life.
Relax by Dorli Photography used under Creative Commons
What counts as self care?
If you were to listen to our overculture, rampant consumerism and booty shaking with beer should be all we need to restore ourselves. I’d like to propose that perhaps there are ways to do it without fueling debt, drunk driving, or potential alcohol dependence. Do things to help you relax, be calm, feel more at home in your body.
Before you begin: Take this time for yourself! Don’t combine it with errands or obligations. Do that at another time. If you have children in your care, see if you can find someone to watch them for an hour or three if you want some time fully alone.
1. Do what you most want to do, not what you think you should do. Again, note this isn’t an obligation.
2. Drink water! Especially if you do some of the beauty treatments. You want to stay hydrated if you are going to be doing things which might pull junk out of your skin. Also, if you tend to be chronically dehydrated, consider some other options for fluid. When I feel extra parched, I find coconut water, mineral water, and kombucha to help with hydration.
3. Disconnect from social media. Turn off the phone, the tablet, the computer. They will be there when you return. And that latest open carry meme randomly coming across your screen is sure to harsh your mellow.
4. Give your bathroom a good cleaning. Since I am going to suggest a lot of pampering, a clear sink counter and tub will make the experience much more enjoyable.
The usual caveat applies, as this is a list of suggestions to help fuel your own ideas.
What can I do?
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. -Isak Dinesen
*Take a bath! I LOVE BATHS! Ahem. I especially love baths since last summer when my bathroom got renovated and for the first time since I was small, I have a bathtub suitable for soaking. At the minimum, you can take a good bath with Epsom salts or you can use bath bombs (either made ahead of time or purchased from Lush—I recommend avoiding ones with artificial dyes) or other bath salts. Sit and enjoy or maybe bring in some LIGHT reading.
*Have an at-home spa day. I love Crunchy Betty for recipes to make DIY body care items. Have a masque, dry brush your skin, use some sugar scrub on your face (gentler than salt), or salt scrub for the body. Do a pedicure and use Epsom salts for soaking before you take a pumice to the soles.
*Get a massage if you can afford it. This one is perhaps my favorite. I don’t handle stress well and most of the time suffer skin hunger, so getting the knots worked out and some physical contact helps on all levels.
*Take a nap and do not feel bad for whatever amount of time you rest/sleep.
*Make art! Whether you are a trained artist or playing with coloring books or finger paints, let art be your way to unwind.
*Play with kids or pets.
*Take time outside in green spaces. My guess is that a few readers are familiar with Lupa. She has written for years about her time in the non-manmade world and how essential it is for her spiritual life and her own self.
*Restorative yoga. I became familiar with this style of yoga through one of my local teachers, Sue. If you are someone who does practice or has practiced yoga, you are likely familiar with terms for energy like prana and tapas. Restorative yoga, on the other hand, is the only form of yoga which builds ojas, or vitality. Instead of Warriors, downward dogs, trianges, or peacock poses, you are holding poses like corpse or child for long periods supported by blankets, bolsters, and pillows. A friend of mine once described the local two hours restorative workshops at the local yoga center as leaving you with a feeling like you have spent two weeks at a spa. If you can’t find a local restorative practitioner, you can do savasana or lay on the floor with your calves resting on the seat of a chair, covered with a blanket and a pillow for your head, and hold those poses for 10-20 minutes.
I hope that not only have I inspired you, but that you will soon be doing something like this.