"Self care" has been the buzz phrase over the past few years. And as of recent, "soft season" has been the cutest new lifestyle goal for strong black women who are tired of the hustle mentality. I'm gonna be straight up with you. These concepts mean nothing, if you aren't actively participating in nurturing and gracing yourself with the things you need to be well, whole, and centered, especially when caring for others. As birth workers, it's imperative that we intentionally do what is necessary to protect our physical and mental well being.
One thing I discovered in my decade of midwifing, is that I navigate and filter through many different energies on a daily basis. That became very apparent to me recently, as I found myself emotionally overwhelmed and stimulated by the clients and families I care for. As an empath, I naturally delve deeply into the emotional dynamics of others, which is not always a healthy experience reality for me, especially when negative triggers present. It's exhausting and has personally transformed me into more of an introvert, the direct opposite of my personality trait of years before. I find myself experiencing social anxiety, retreating from functions, events, and meet ups because I am, at times, emotionally and social drained. I know this is a direct result of not properly maintaining my own mental space with cleansing and releasing techniques to accommodate letting go of what I've absorbed from others. It's a real thing!
Cleansing your mind, body and soul looks different for everyone. And I'll say this, what I don't like about images, buzz words and catch phrases on social media is that it almost makes it seem as though self care has to be elaborate and expensive. Well, I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to be. All it takes is for you to make the first step towards catering to the needs of your own body & soul. Once you start, your soul care time and regimen will be non-negotiable!
Soul Care For Your Mind
Too many of us overlook our minds, emotional and soul states when it comes to health. Just like dental hygiene, we need “mental” hygiene to ensure we stay on top of our lives with the best outlook and energy possible. Without it, crap like stress, anxiety, depression, and overwhelm do eventually take a toll on our physical states, too. Explore these techniques:
Meditation Practices. Meditation has many different approaches and styles. Each of them involves clearing your mind, either focusing on leaving it completely blank or filling it with alternative spiritual, religious, or simple peaceful or natural imagery as you tap into deep breathing exercises to keep you grounded in your body. Some meditation practices are simple, while others are more elaborate. Some incorporate mindfulness practice, while others might not, and insist on pushing out all thoughts, concerns, and worries for a time.
Mindfulness Practices. Mindfulness can be achieved with help from meditation, but not all mindfulness practices have to involve meditation. Many of us may struggle to meditate or have a hard time tapping into the spiritual side of the practice. If that’s the case, mindfulness may be a better approach for you. Mindfulness involves the practice of observing thoughts without judgement, and without letting them consume us, then letting them go. It can help you feel some healthy space between your thoughts and feeling states, and your true Self. You can learn mindfulness practices from well-known thought leaders or from your therapist.
Therapy & Counseling. Going to therapy had a lot of stigma in the past. But now it is considered just as important as a regular doctor checkup— maybe even more so, with most counseling sessions being every other week or monthly, not once per year. The right therapist or counselor can help you objectively examine your emotional state and work to have better thinking and feeling patterns about yourself, help you deal with unresolved traumas getting in your way of experiencing happiness and wellbeing, and better handle relationships and situations that could be draining your mental and emotional states.
Radical Acceptance & Self-Love. This may be one of the hardest things to learn, but can have some of the deepest impacts on our emotional states. Accepting where you are in life, and accepting yourself, is one of the very best ways we can take care of ourselves. If you struggle with this, trying meditation, mindfulness, therapy, and journaling may help.
Journaling. Writing down what you’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing can have an incredibly profound effect on emotional wellbeing. You may be able to see your struggles more clearly, or see connections between things that you didn’t notice before. While writing down what you’re going through may sound too simple (or time consuming!) to make any change, try a little bit at a time— you could be surprised. Don't like writing, start a voice memo diary on your phone!
Dreamwork. Dreamwork is a unique practice that can also incorporate meditation, journaling, and therapy to some extent. It involves writing down and keeping track of your dreams, thinking on them or even meditating on them, and interpreting their possible meaning (which a therapist proficient in dream work or analysis could help you with). Dreamwork could even help reveal thought patterns and subconscious beliefs you didn’t realize were there before. Certain important symbols and events in your dreams you can use as a springboards of imagery to explore and help you along through meditation, if you don’t know where to start. For some people, working with dreams can feel like communications not only from the self but from ancient ancestors or family that has passed.
Soul Care For Your Body
It’s not enough to pamper the body and the mind. You need to move your body! Our physicality may be at the root of everything. When we exercise, move our body, or utilize body work approaches (like energy meridians and trigger points), this can have a “bottom up” effect that can help restore feelings of wellbeing for the mind and soul, and help our body’s metabolism make the best use of the nourishing foods or health products we consume. These include bodywork practices like:
Yoga. It’s so popular! And there’s a good reason for that. Yoga is good for both mind and body: it combines fluid stretches, poses, and movements with deep breathing and meditation, clearing the mind as you move. Yoga can have similar benefits to both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, while also getting the mental and emotional benefits in the process. I enjoy restorative yoga. The poses are more accommodating for resting positions vs active. The goal is to fall asleep. YESSSS...
Twerk Sumthin': Doing some simple movement of some sort, every day, of course doesn’t hurt. This can be walking, hiking, jogging, even pilates or going to the gym— but it doesn’t have to be fancy or even rigorous. Just some regular weekly movement will do, and it will do wonders for mind, mood, AND body. I love a good ole twerk session and free flowing movement to my favorite loud tunes!
Gardening. If you like to be productive and busy, even starting a garden— large or small— can help you move your body and keep you surprisingly fit. You also get the benefit of growing your own healthy, whole organic fruits and vegetables! Some find gardening very meditative and therapeutic, too. I absolutely LOVE my small garden at home. There's something about planting a seed and watching it grow over time. It's so rewarding and also teaches you valuable life. Good things take time, water it and it will grow, etc. Seeds are sold everywhere. Go to dollar tree for a pot, or start a seed in a cardboard egg crate. Another fun hack is to go to the grocery store, buy the veggie/herb you want to grow and plant that! Easy Peezy..
Massage. This modality can be both relaxing and restorative, the perfect spa treatment, while also giving your body a hard reset with muscular, pain, and other issues. There are many different types of massage to explore for different therapeutic purposes. I LOVE a good Swedish massage. My back is always on fire after births, so massages are my favorite soul care/body treatment.
Float Tanks. Much like massage— but gentler, and incorporating some aspects of meditation— float tanks are fast becoming popular ways to give the body and mind powerful recuperation you won’t find in many other approaches. I tried this and it was interesting, but I didn't like the water getting in my ears, LOL.
Acupuncture/Acupressure. These therapeutic healing approaches involve the stimulation of certain trigger points in the body with needles (or touch/massage), said to release and correct energy flow and meridians throughout the body. These body-forward approaches have been used for thousands of years to heal things like back pain and even allergy and asthma symptoms!
Does anything of the above sound familiar? Well, if you are a holistically driven birth pro, you have probably mentioned a few, if not, all of these examples to your clients. So the message I have for you (and me): PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH!! The other bottom line: DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY!
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