2016 was such a rough year for me. On the surface, I had so much going on and it 'looked' great because busy is good right?!?. Wrong! I think I had a little bit too much going on which left me feeling stretched thin, stressed-out, and most importantly drained of all my energy. I barely made it into 2017 in one peace. So at the beginning of this year, I have been on this kick to make sure my mind was right because the last thing I needed was to have a mental breakdown.
And so yet again, we arrive at the Lenten fast. 40 days and 40 nights. As for many of us it always this act of denying our fleshy desires, that is, giving up fried foods, candy, alcohol, or what so ever vice you're into. All of those things are great and it is the same story year after year. Don't get me wrong, I so appreciate the sense of collective discipline that comes with Lenten season. I always feel so accomplished when Easter comes around. But I missed something in this annual Lenten journey of mine. There was one part of my flesh that I overlooked.
Fasting, by its very nature, is withstanding from a physical challenge and the rewards that come are physical, spiritual, and mental health and renewal. I get all of that but, as for me, I spend a lot of time focusing on the physical benefits instead of looking at it holistically. A clear distinction is often made between 'mind' and 'body'. But when considering the mental health and physical health, I'm beginning to realize that the two should not be thought of as separate. Finding the time to take proper care of yourself can be hard. But what 2016 showed me is that when you neglect yourself, it won’t be long before you’re battered from exhaustion and operating in a mental fog where it’s hard to care about anything or anyone.
So this year, instead of just giving up some of my physical vices(i.e chocolate, wine , fast food, etc) for Lent, I thought wouldn't it be nice to take on the challenge of combating some of those 'mental vices'(negative thinking, selfishniss, etc.). I'm thinking, why not commit to 40 Days of self-care. Often-ignored but totally necessary, self-care makes up an essential part of health that keeps us happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies. Just like the rest of our body, the mind and psyche also needs time, space, rest in order to heal and be the best it can be.
So if you're anything like me, still stuck on what to 'give up' for Lent, deliberately give in to one(or more) of these self-care disciplines for 40 days:
Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. It’s much easier said than done to shift your focus to positive thoughts.When you notice negative self-talk beginning to grow, kill it immediately with a positive thought. If something negative happens, begin to think about the good or learning experience that can come from it. This isn’t to say that you act naive to believe everything is inherently good, because some things in this world are extremely bad. Instead, choose productive thoughts and actions, rather than making negative situations even worse with more negativity.
Practice mini-meditation. Begin or end your day with a minute of deep breathing, and focused awareness of your body, thoughts, and feelings.
Dance it out. at some point in your day, Put on your favorite dance music, and shake your body.
Write or journal your thoughts. Take 10 minutes, and jot down whatever is on your mind. Mentally release those things as you write.This is the one I decided to commit to this month. I have such a hard time releasing everything that's on my mind and it can be so over whelming to the point where I wont fall asleep till really late.
De-clutter. The environment we create is a reflection of our state of mind. Choose a one place (every day for the next 40 days) — your email inbox, your glove compartment, that junk drawer, your garage, your desk, a closet — and get rid of the excess and junk.
Sleep. Commit to going to bed at a certain time for the next 40 days (possibly earlier than 11pm), give your body some extra rest.
Unplug. Turn off your computer, tablet, and cell phone for two hours.
Read for pleasure. Pick a book you've been meaning to read and finish it before Easter.
Express gratitude. Keep a journal by your bed, and note the things that you feel lucky to have every night. Everything from clean sheets to a good friend is worth noting.
Laugh at what you know self-care is curling up on the couch and watching a TV show that makes you laugh.
Commit to saying a positive affirmation to yourself each morning. Doing this is like medicine for the soul.(if you need help coming up with one, check out this website http://liveboldandbloom.com/09/quotes/positive-affirmations)
The thing about self-care is that it is a practice that requires you choosing to do it. Take advantage of Lent and make space for it. It's a challenge but, the result is worth the effort and it can serve to make this Lenten Season empowering.