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People kept asking me, “How do you make time for self-care?” After getting asked enough times, I wanted to go deeper and study more about creating a Culture of Care + Connection for myself and the people in my life. This idea of Culture of Care + Connection is ever evolving, but at the core it’s simple: I want to care for myself and those around me, by connecting with my community and the natural environment.

It all came to a head for me in the Spring of 2021, after a year navigating the pandemic while running a local sustainable business, parenting two teenagers (ages 15 & 18) and trying to have some semblance of self-care. 

Each day felt as though I was spinning like the inside of a washing machine. I fell into the mode of working now to experience happiness later, when at my core I knew I wasn’t being present and I wasn’t feeling gratitude for the things I had, which is a foundational pillar of my self-care. I hit a wall. I realized I was not a superwoman, and I needed a fresh perspective; I needed a moment to mentally pause, reflect, and redirect. 

When we get on an airplane, they say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before you help others.” This was my moment to pause, reflect, and put my oxygen mask on first. Without taking care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to show up for others.

This moment of pause reminded me: cultivate a positive mindset first, then the great work will follow. I needed to fill up my self-care tank. When my, and likely your, tank is full, we are more productive, more creative. We can be better leaders, parents, friends and partners. 

For parents and educators, this is an especially important time to pause, reflect, and redirect; to nurture yourself, so you can nurture and care for others. 

In so many instances, self-care and filling your tank is set on the back burner, or the ‘too hard’ or ‘too time consuming’ shelf. While there are ways it can be both, dedicating time to self-care can be obtainable. As I began to reflect on the things throughout my days and weeks that brought me tremendous happiness, I realized they were small things. 

These are small, simple steps in your day that can have a tremendous impact on maintaining a self-care routine, while managing and living a very full life.

  1. Journaling/meditation: do you process your thoughts, do you spend time with yourself, just existing? A 20-minute journaling or meditation practice can make a world of difference, including reducing anxiety and increasing attention.
  2. Nature therapy: connecting to the earth, hugging a tree and walking to the ocean (which I love). This doesn’t need to be a day long excursion, it can be 20-minutes a day walking around your yard or block. Let nature help you get and stay grounded.
  3. Dancing: Dancing to your favourite song and simply moving your body is a 3-minute break that always brings a smile to my face and lightens my mood. Here is a fantastic TEDx by Peter Lovatt, Psychologist and dancer, explaining the science of why dancing feels, and is, so good for you.

There are 24 hours in a day – most of us choose to break that into 8 for work, 8 for recreation, and 8 for rest, give or take. Of your allotted hours, how much is filled with things you know fill your tank up? How much is filled with negativity or obligations that deplete your tank? How are you building in time to give back to yourself, and when? Think about how your days are unfolding, and explore small ways to alleviate some of the heaviness, and replace it with things that bring you joy and highlight what helps you feel grateful. The tone and the following mindset you embrace before you get out of bed will impact your entire day; are you on social media or reading the news first thing? Or are you journaling or meditating?

Self-care does not need to wait for the perfect day, or even for you to wake up tomorrow. You can start right now, with your next decision. These are questions I ask myself when setting my intention for a given day. The answers go at the top of my to-do list (oh, how I love a good list).

  • What does your mind and your body need right now?
  • What might bring me a moment of joy today? 
  • What moments am I grateful for?  
  • What do I most appreciate?

Now go do that! Or schedule time on your calendar to do it later. Creating a Culture of Care + Connection with yourself and those around you is a daily practice that takes effort. We know that there are so many ways to refuel and feel grateful: being in or experiencing nature, hugging a loved one, having a candle burning at dinner, playing your favorite game, reading a book, petting your dog. The possibilities for small, simple and impactful moments and actions are endless. What isn’t endless are the opportunities to make this effort – time marches on. The sooner you can pause, reflect, and redirect, the sooner you can begin building your own Culture of Care + Connection for yourself and those around you.

The team at Natural Pod is embracing this Culture of Care + Connection, each in our own ways that support our unique situations and preferences. Here are some of the resources and practice moments we’re leaning into:

  • 5-minute gratitude journal
  • Insight timer
  • Nightly appreciation reflection
  • Making calendar appointments for nature breaks
  • Reframing negatives words as positive words to build a positive mindset
  • Focusing on our children and the joy that they bring to this world
  • Being present in our days, as it’s the only moment we have
  • Appreciating sadness, to better appreciate joy

Now, we’re curious to hear from you. How do you bring a Culture of Care + Connection into your life? What resources, affirmations, or lessons have helped build this framework for you? Let us know! 

As we move into a new academic year, one which feels both hopeful and uncertain, the majority of us are in a place where we are not prioritizing ourselves before we care for others. We’re reacting to stimuli around us and taking timid steps each day to brace for the negativity that may ensue. While many of those feelings are sticking around, we can work to compliment them with the positive aspects that we can control. 

This is a starting point in the conversation – we’re on a mission to embrace this Culture of Care + Connection within Natural Pod, with the hopes that it will impact those around us (including you!). We’ll share the insight we gain from our community and continue building on the culture we believe is good for people, and the planet.