I mentioned in a post last week how right now – as I go through a pretty intense change of what my habitual way of living has been, and with that a whole slew of changes of thoughts and feelings – I am needing some extra “distraction.” I am needing activities that I can do to literally take my mind off any coming anxiety and make the hours pass in a healthy way. That being said, using the word “distraction,” may not actually be the healthiest or most long-term way to think about this. Trying to find these “distractions,” I think, are actually a means of collecting new – or better – ways to simply spend my time, regardless of oncoming anxiety. This is a way for me to figure out the activities that I actually find live giving, rather than habitual or damaging or unhealthy.
Its amazing how we can live with ourselves for 20…30…50… years and still not really know how to spend our time. For anyone remotely like me, having a lot of “free time” can actually be one of the scariest things offered to us. But with recovery, this is the motherboard of the work that needs to be done. We all must learn to be able to spend time in a way that is self-caring and life giving – without giving in to the pull to run to our unhealthy coping mechanisms or soul-sucking distractions (aka Facebook, instragram, iPhones and screens of all sort). I feel like when we are young, we just subconsciously have a whole list of things that we know we enjoy doing on our down time and we think nothing of it. But as we age (as careers and families and life pressures come into play), sometimes we lose ourselves. And with that comes a need to re-establish, re-learn or re-discover that list of things that we find truly, genuinely enjoyable and live giving.
The whole notion of “self care” is a funny one. I think even with self care – something that is supposed to be therapeutic – we can be easily pulled into expectations and societal norms. For example, the stereotypical forms of self care are usually things like:
Read a book
Take a bath
Paint your toenails
Eat ice cream and watch a movie
Visit a friend
While some of these are lovely notions and do make me feel better from time to time, in general, they do not work for me. I love the idea of sitting down for a whole afternoon and reading a book on the couch, but in reality? I’ve never been able to read for longer than 20 minutes. I get antsy and bored and unfocused and its just not an activity that I’ve ever found to really feel good. If it works for you? Amazing. I’m jealous.
Same with napping and painting my nails. Nope. Never ever been into either of them.Not all self-care works for everyone. What works for YOU? #selfcare Click To Tweet
I used to just make myself do one of these activities because I know they are “supposed” to be self care and should make me feel better. But why would I make myself do something that has never actually helped make me feel better? I’ve honestly always thought I was just crazy and weird and would be rather hard on myself for not being able to enjoy these lovely sounding activities that so many others embrace and enjoy. But then I was talking to a friend who also said, “nope! those things don’t work for me either!” Thank gooddddd. I’m not the only one!!
Self care is and NEEDS to be totally unique. That’s the whole point, no? SELF – care?
So then I got brainstorming. What are the things that work for ME? What are the activities that truly, genuinely fill me up with a sense of fulfillment and have the ability to take up hours of my time? These are the things that 1) for now can act as literal strategies for distraction when I am feeling oncoming anxiety and needing something healthy to take up my time and 2) can be my go to list of self care activities when I am needing some soul therapy or simply find myself with free time.
These things, for me, are what I find life giving. These are the things that truly make me feel at peace, grounded, and invigorated in life. Here’s what I think I’ve got.
Write – in a journal or a blog post when I am feeling inspired to do so
Have a conversation with my parents – ask them about their childhoods, their upbringing or about the lives of my grandparents
Learn about my family history – read old letters from my grandparents, pulling out old family trees, asking my parents more questions
Watch home videos
Bake (even if just for someone else if I am overstocked)
Go through old photo albums, yearbooks and old diaries
Write an email to a friend (blog friends are PERFECT for this). Random and spontaneous… no need to even be a reply to anything. Or a hand written letter to an aunt or uncle.
Write an email to someone I don’t know but has recently offered me something – just saying I enjoyed their latest performance, their restaurant, their hospitality etc.
Go outside and take pictures
Play old music from my adolescence (90s pop FOREVER) as I clean/organize a room
Take myself to a new restaurant or cafe
Make or write a card to someone
Make a list: Places I want to visit, things I want to cook or bake, restaurants or cafes to try, or blog post on life giving actives 😉
This list must run parallel to a list of activities that I know are soul-sucking: Those things that we all know we go to when we have free time and yet for some reason don’t choose to pull out the above life giving list and rather waste away hours in a way that is not fruitful to our being. I wonder why that block exists? When we find ourselves in a moment of free time, why is it often hard for us to bring out this life giving list and actually get ourselves to do something off it? And why is it easier to just go to those soul sucking activities? Habit, I suppose. Ease and accessibility, perhaps. But then we always lament that we are not using our time wisely, or we are aware that we are wasting our time in ways that we’d rather not. And yet we repeat ourselves day after day.
For me that soul-sucking list includes mindlessly streaming through Instagram, spending too much time reading blogs or other internet streaming, and going to the gym when I really don’t want to exercise.
Notice how practically all of my live giving list includes no technology? Whereas my soul sucking list is primarily all to do with screens? Interesting.
I feel a little safer now having an actual list of things I know I enjoy and that ground me – because when I am not in a healthy state of mind or am fighting anxiety, it can be hard for me to think straight. And that is when it is easiest for me very simply slide into one of my unhealthy coping strategies or spend far too much time sucked into one of my soul-sucking distractions. When anxious or depressed, it feels just so much easier to go to that unhealthy list. But then I don’t feel better, and in fact, I just feel guilty afterwards for “wasting so much time.” Now with this list in front of me, I know that with just a simply push, I can start myself on an activity that will end up making me feel at least a bit more connected to myself. It could feel uncomfortable at first, but I feel pretty confident knowing that these things always end up turning me around.
What is on your life giving list? What activities drain you? Let's choose the right list!… Click To Tweet
What is on your go-to “live giving” list?
What is on your soul-sucking list?
Need something to do in your free time? Send me a random email! Seriously. Mylittletablespoon@hotmail.com
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