I am no fan of February, not by a long shot. Crap tends to happen to me in that month, from the merely irritating to the sob-producing to the life-altering. March 1 is my favorite day of the year, simply because it is the furthest from February I will be for an entire year. This year, however, I actually made it all the way to yesterday before I hit my limit and had my “eff February and the three-legged horse it hobbled in on may it set itself on fire and run into a fireworks factory” moment. That was twenty days later than previous years, so I call that a win.
Because my word of the year for 2014 is story, I’m more aware now of the importance of self-care and how it affects the story I tell myself about the life I live. I’m not so good at self-care (read: I really, really suck at self-care). The month of February brings that to the fore every year without fail. This year I was offered the chance to read, review, and promote Jennifer Louden‘s The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year, and said yes please thank you. A book on self-care? While I’m focused on improving that in my life? Works for me!
Throughout the book there are stories from women and their experiences with mindfulness and self-care. There was a line in one of those stories that rang so true to me that it was all I could see on the page, and I knew it was the right time for me to hear it. “I can give so much more to the world when I give to myself first.”
Enjoy this excerpt from The Life Organizer. I hope you’re able to find your minimal requirements and add them to your life, just as I’m trying to do. With all the craziness we have in our lives, with complex kids and homeschooling and intensities and one-thing-after-another, we can give so much more when we give to ourselves first.
Minimum Self-Care Requirements
An Excerpt from The Life Organizer by Jennifer Louden
Between surviving and leading a fully humming creative life lies the middle ground of determining your minimum requirements for self-care, a duded-up way of saying what you absolutely must have to stay in touch with your center. Basic needs, or minimum requirements, are different for each woman, although getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, eating fresh food, being touched, and connecting to something larger than ourselves show up pretty consistently on women’s lists — but again, not on everybody’s. It can be easy to discount the importance of these basics, because getting enough alone time or napping when you are tired just doesn’t sound as sexy as realizing some fabulous dream. Yet without these basics, the dreams don’t come true, or you can’t sustain them when they do, or, most tragically, it turns out that you are following not your dreams but rather a script about what you should do. But when you reach a certain stage of commitment to yourself, you find that you are willing to give the amount of attention and energy needed to these basics, because without them, it isn’t your life. You discover that you have less leeway to stray from what is essential.
Give yourself time to find your minimum requirements. Allow yourself to notice and adjust them. You may start out with ten things and find that all you really need is to get seven hours of sleep, to remember to breathe and listen, and to touch living things.
Of course, minimum requirements change over time and with your situation. When my dad died, my minimums shrank to taking my vitamins and herbs, drinking water, and taking care of my daughter.
I knew I would reevaluate what I needed after I grieved. The paradox here is your personalized list may be your treasure map home to your center, and sometimes you don’t want or can’t use it. But you can always find where you buried it. As Laraine said to me a few months after attending a Kripalu retreat with me,
Making conscious what makes me feel good helps me recover more quickly from periods when I am denied these basics and helps me not having them because I know when they will resume. The list is a good reminder to eat breakfast on the screened porch looking at the birds rather than in the dark kitchen listening to news on the radio or to reach out to friends for help and in the process find out they need help from me. The daily minimum requirements are a reminder of my strengths and individuality, my right to enjoy life, and the awareness that I am a better person doing what I want.
By writing down your minimum requirements and then paying attention to your list — perhaps posting it where you can see it — you become aware of what you are already doing to maintain your connection to self. You will also see what trips you up, and you can decide if you want to do anything about it. If you have a fear of self-care — that it will make you a pampered, selfish bitch, for instance — this sort of noticing moves you toward resiliency and taking more responsibility for your life. If you focus only on the big vision or on all you want to do, you can forget the basics; this focus on the ideal can keep you from getting where you want to go or from having enough energy to enjoy it once you get there. Are you resisting declaring minimum requirements out of fear that by not thinking big you limit your life’s purpose? Then you may want to notice how keeping the channel to your wisdom open by tending to your basics beautifully influences your well-being — for the good of all.
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Jennifer Louden helped start the self-care movement with her first best-selling book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s written 5 more books including The Life Organizer, just out in paperback. Visit JenniferLouden.com/lifeorganizer to get your free app and four more super useful gifts.
Excerpted from the new paperback edition of The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year © 2013 by Jennifer Louden. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
I was sent a copy of The Life Organizer for review and promotion. I received no other compensation.