We talk about self-care like it is a passing thing that anyone can just start to do. Like of course we should all be doing self-care we just have to start why haven’t you? We applaud or judge or are jealous of or wonder what it would be like to that take a weekend away, enjoy a restful moment with tea and a book, engage in an activity that would bring balance in mind body and spirit. We have this weird paradox where we celebrate self-care and yet we celebrate ‘go’, the drive, schedule and achievement.

How can we celebrate both so that there is such value in each that there is no question that we will rest and go, that we will pause and drive, that we will become loose and scheduled at the same time and achievement will be measured on balance and flow of it all?

I have a colleague that regularly introduces me as being able to accomplish more in 24 hours than he can in a week. I kind of like hearing it to be honest. But is that what I want my priority to be? So “pause” became a goal. Pause for me looks like doing nothing YET being present in the nothing. I can easily, mindlessly binge watch British television. Not sure that really fills me up and helps me feel restored. I considered instead what it would look like to pause and be present.

Things I changed:

  • Long car rides with the family – normally I would bring my lap top and crank out work or have packed my backpack with three books that I wanted to skim for relevance to work. This season I have instead been practicing being present. Looking out the wind, letting my mind wander, engaging conversation with those in the car AND not pestering them to talk if they don’t want to, focusing on how I am feeling in the moment without being antsy.
  • The extra thirty – ninety minutes at the end of the day – This is that weird time of day where I can either tackle tasks, reply to three more emails, veg out to television or just give up and go to bed. Instead I have been using it as wind down time. Sitting on the back deck doing……. nothing……just rocking in the porch chair observing the wind in the trees, the sounds of the birds, the first bats coming out, the shift from warm to cool air. I am also finding that my family comes and finds me and shares in a few moments of being present together just doing ‘nothing’. I could argue that it is ‘something’ being intentionally present without any agenda other than being together. I like how that ‘doing’ feeling.
  • Sitting in road construction – there has been some sort of construction project on one of our main roads into town for the past three summers. Tapping my foot and surfing through the radio presets has not reduced the amount of time I am held by the stop/slow sign (weird, I know). I have been instead focusing on the music on the radio, cueing up a podcast, working on gratitude (so thankful that my career does not require I stand manning a stop/slow sign for 12 hours), practicing kindness (those sign people need a cold water now and then).
  • The extra fifteen minutes between meetings – once I have completed the quick tasks from the first meeting and gathered the material for the next meeting…….(I can’t make sweeping change all at once)……I have been getting up from my desk and taking a ‘lap’, just a wander around the building sensing my body, stretching my back, getting my mind clear and blood moving.

These intentional shifts in every day moments have begun to teach me a few things.

  • Accomplishment is not always about the task, ‘being’ is an act of ‘doing’.
  • Appreciation deepens, for my life and the world around me.
  • I have more time to accomplish things (not sure what quantum physics is involved in this but by pausing more I have more mental space to accomplish more).
  • I like people more; I have been able to value the gifts others bring into my life.
  • I notice things, little things, like the tone voice my son or husband uses when talking about things they enjoy, or the baby robins in the tree outside the kitchen sink window, or the smell of summer, sound of the wind. I am more present, and it is easy, I don’t have to work at it as hard.
  • My stress level is down…. less headaches, lower blood pressure, more energy (not even kidding there has been a physical impact to being mentally and emotionally present)
  • I am easier on myself. This is big.

Even this moment of writing……I was going to tackle a work project or two…..yet in my goal of self-care, writing was a priority. And I have not honored it in weeks. Given an extra hour until the next scheduled moment I stopped and started typing.

I hope this inspired you to add “pause” into your priority of self-care. Find your own way to pause and be present. Take a breath and be kind to yourself and let go of the drive and tension that lives in our heads and hearts. Let those spaces be filled with expanse, clarity and calm. We can effect change in our lives by giving grace, for ourselves to be. Give yourself the present of pause and enjoy the present.