When I started to write this post I wanted to actually write about self-care during large-scale projects as I am just coming out of a massive project period. But then I started to think about that productivity is a problematic compass to navigate wellbeing, as in our meritocracy humans are defined so relentlessly through their accomplishments. It feels almost as without proving your deservingness every act of wellbeing and self-care becomes a surplus indulgence. I am interested in the notion of self-care during times of success as a mode of celebration and in times of failure or stillness when certain practices carry us through. We all live in contrasts: success, busyness, calmness, stillness and failure and need strategies that keep us going or practices that serve as empowering tools.
I am a champion of the joy of committed, hard work, and yet, as much as I love my profession, I am more than the sum of my achievements. The human experience is always richer than all the experiences that are instagrammable. In our productivity-obsessed culture claiming your own space, rituals, time and intentionally slowing down feels like an act of resistance. Capitalism is fed by "clock time", productive time and so often self-care gets sucked into this machinery and is translated into concrete products. If they serve your wellbeing, fair enough and good for you, but remember that you don't need necessarily the next bath bomb called fairy dust to generate your energy.
After periods of hard labor it is necessary to evaluate where we're at. What does growth look like? Is the journey we're on still bringing us to where we want to be? Do we keep ourselves hostage to the believes of sacrification and success? How much of the work is about external validation? Can we embrace a side of ourselves that is less pleasant for others but enables us to set boundaries and make our work more sustainable? How much of our identity is linked to our work and is it time to recalibrate?
And if we don't have answers to these questions yet, what are the things that we can do to actually find some clarity and power.
I've been reading this fabulous book edited by Katie West and Jasmine Elliot "Becoming Dangerous" a treasure of 20 deeply personal essays from authors of diverse backgrounds where they share their rituals and practices that empower and nourish them. Highly recommend it to you, if you are open to read in some of the most elaborate ways about empowering strategies that might be outside the mainstream.
As we're slowly or in full-speed - always a matter of perspective - transitioning into the second half of the year it feels necessary to look back at our resolutions, of things we've done this year that are aligned with our values and bringing us towards our goals and to drop what isn't longer serving us. Having a practice that provides us with space to reflect is essential when evaluating which steps to take next. For me it's the practice of keeping a journal, using it as brain dump, planning ahead, outlining ideas or to use it to log periods that feel rushed to get a chance to make more sense later. The narrative is not necessarily elaborate but it provides me with a perspective for future reference when I might have gained more insights and it has provided me so often with the space to connect the dots, even though the "aha moment" came hundreds of pages later. The writer Austin Kleon wrote beautifully about the power of revisiting notebooks.
When anxiety hits hard or the next steps just won't appear, I prefer to find pleasure in nature. Some journeys need to be longer (as you might know I hiked across Europe for 2200 km a few years ago) and sometimes a short walk or a day tour will be all the medicine I need to come back with a clearer mind. Being in nature and feeling connected to the seasons is the best exercise I have to feel more present. In a time the news cycle never stops and there is so much toxic reproduction, allowing yourself space to breath might be the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself and others. We can just be of service to any greater good if our batteries are charged.