We live in a society that tells us things like ‘go hard or go home’ or ‘you can sleep when you’re dead.’ These beliefs are what create the superwoman complex that keep American women on a hamster wheel of always being busy. It is no wonder that 1 in 4 women in our country suffers from heart disease, and that we are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety.
All of it doesn’t really hit home until you find yourself directly impacted by it. This year has been one of the most challenging for me in a long time. The majority is my stress is work related because I bought into the work harder achieve more work ethic. I felt guilty when I needed to take a wellness day and I would grind away until I was completely burned out. My justification was that I could rest on my laurels once I finally reached my end goal. Well, let me tell you that was a big mistake. I was very close to reaching my goal when I had the rug pulled out from under me. I won’t go into details here, but it created a lot of anxiety, anger, and resentment. I slowly began to sink into a depressed state and I felt stuck. I needed a hard reboot if I was going to claw my way out of depression.
I tried to work it away
But that just made me even sadder
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around circles
Think I made myself dizzy
~Solange Knowles – Cranes in the Sky
For what’s it’s worth, the fact that I am an earth sign means that spending time in nature has a positive impact on my mind, body, and spirit. While I am a city girl by default, nature is always the magic elixir when I need to push my way out of a deep funk. As an educator, I get long summer breaks. However, my mental state was in such a state that I needed to do something sooner rather than later. I was imploding. I felt like Solange Knowles in her song, Cranes in the Sky. Nothing that I was doing was having a long term impact on restoring my sense of joy.
As I mentioned in another post, I had a distorted view of travel. But I had to overcome the travel anxiety. I had to ‘get my mind right’ so I booked a trip to the desert. It was just what the doctor ordered. I came back home with a fresh mindset, renewed and reinvigorated. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my mind.
What really got me thinking about the question of travel as a form of self-care was when I shared my New Mexico experience with a new friend who is also an educator. She responded with, “Wow, you really take care of yourself.” It caught me off guard because I consider myself a caregiver. It all started when my mother was in the end stages of renal cancer and I was her primary caregiver. A few years after she died I started teaching. It is the hardest job I’ve ever had and one that requires the spirit of stewardship. I invested all of my energy into being the best daggone teacher that I could be for the next decade and a half. But somewhere along the way I lost myself.
Time to save the world
Where in the world is all the time
So many things I still don’t know
So many times I’ve changed my mind
Guess I was born to make mistakes
But I ain’t scared to take the weight
So when I stumble off the path
I know my heart will guide me back
~Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know
It also made me think back to a few months prior while sitting in a meeting we were asked what we do for self-care. I stated things like, manicures and pedicures, meditation, and massages while other people listed things like going on vacation. At the time that option seemed so far out of reach to me. I guess the universe has a way of bringing things into alignment at exactly the right time.
Self-care is not selfish
In hindsight, I realize that travel is probably the ultimate self-care. It is an intentional way of saying to yourself and others that you matter enough to take time out of your busy life to stop and smell the roses. It is a recommitment to loving yourself. Some people look at travel as selfish. Some people might even call you brave for leaving your comfort zone. I call it necessary. The change of pace, the change of scenario, and the exposure to new people and energy is powerful. It helped me remember that I matter, and that is the best self-care that anyone can experience.
What do you do for self-care? How do you make travel a form of self-care in your life? Share in the comment section.