Especially retentive readers may have noted how much I appreciate anything by Amy Maricle from Foxboro Art Therapy. Amy is a licensed mental health counselor and art therapist, and her passion for bringing "the magic of art to everyone" is infectious. Her blog is a delight to read, or follow her on Instagram for bite-sized inspiration.
And today, Amy is making a special guest appearance in Small Talk. She's giving us tips and inspiration (and a great printable) to make sure we end up refreshed and energized should we find ourselves with an afternoon to ourselves.
Instead of, you know, just folding laundry.
sometimes you just feel down, anxious, or worn out
I used to work with a farmer*. She was idealistic, hard-working, and always felt that she should be doing “more,” regardless of what she accomplished. Not surprisingly, she struggled with self-care. It felt like a selfish indulgence - unnecessary and unproductive. This, of course, was not a recipe for balance and longevity in her work and personal life.
We worked for some time on the push-pull between the part of her that so badly needed a break, and the part of her that punished herself for not accomplishing more. In therapy, she came to understand why she felt the need to push so hard, but it did not make a big impact on her feelings or behaviors.
insight: lying fallow
But one day the farmer arrived for session, having had an insight. In farming, fields have to be rotated, and some need to lie “fallow” for a time in order to be ready to produce at the start of the next season. It’s a time to nourish the soil - by planting other crops, and tending the soil in special ways that one wouldn’t during growing season.
She realized that she needed time to let her own fields lay fallow sometimes. She began cultivating non-work interests: reading, having dinner with friends, and spending time outdoors in a non goal-oriented way. She did activities that grounded her to the earth, and her community, and reminded her of her place in it.
She understood the cycle of life for her crops, and now she understood she needed to respect it for herself as well. This gave us the door we needed to help her develop and engage in a self-care plan that helped her to feel she was at her best at work and at rest.
are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?
What about you? Are you in a fallow period? Do you pass a couch and long to lie in it? Do you daydream about someone else making dinner, dealing with the kids, or having time and energy to do the things you used to enjoy?
what about your self-care?
I know your story. You work a lot of hours. You have multiple commitments. You are taking care of kids and parents and friends. And there’s just no time or energy left at the end of the day for anything else. I get it. But let me ask you: Who is taking care of you?
If your answer is: Uh… Um… Well… You see… or Oops, then we need to talk! Fields will not continue to produce good, nutritious food if you just continually work them and never let them have a season of rest and tending.
Can I tell you something? I think it’s time to let your fields lie fallow for a bit. I give you permission.
It doesn’t make you lazy, or a slacker, or overly sensitive. It’s part of the natural order. It’s an hour, a day, or a week, for tending fallow fields. You can’t squeeze juice out of a dry lemon, after all.
the secret to an afternoon of self-care: plan ahead
How do you really make the most of that time and not end up just doing the laundry, cleaning, or surfing the net? While household chores certainly need to get done, if you never prioritize time for you, then it never happens. Self-care is an attitude. It’s about paying attention to yourself, what you feel, and what you need, and doing your best to respond to it.
You may not have a week, weekend, or even an afternoon to yourself on the horizon right now, but let’s start daydreaming about it now so you are ready. That’s half the fun, right?
Even the daydreaming about it is a mini-vacation for your brain. Start to pay attention. When you think or say, “Oh that sounds so nice,” Or, “I wish I could do that,” Put whatever “that” is on a wish list. You might keep the wishlist in a note on your phone, on your refrigerator, or your desk at work.
I’ve also provided a free printable that will help you plan your afternoon to yourself. Here’s some of what you might include:
- Where would I go?
- What would I do?
- What supplies (if any) would I need?
- What are the phone numbers of establishments I would need to call? (to set up appointments, etc.)
- What's the address I should use for GPS to get me there?
#1: Take yourself to a spa/pedi/massage – Consider letting family know this is on your gift wishlist for a birthday or holiday.
How to use your wishlist: You might include the address for the spa, the phone number for a reservation, and any reminders for yourself ("Bring flip flops!").
#2 Take yourself to lunch – Make it somewhere delicious, and/or a new restaurant. Try to choose a place you can linger, or head off to a coffee shop after lunch and linger there. Bring a book, magazine, or art journal. You can also use your smartphone to take photos of interesting things right from your table.
How to use your wishlist: Every time you pass a restaurant that looks intriguing, snap a picture or write down the name and location. Include the address and phone number on your wishlist, along with a list of what you'd like to take along (art journal, colored pencils, Kindle...), or mini-projects you might try, like exploring Instagram or sketching your dream bedroom.
#3 Go see a movie – You can see whatever you want, eat whatever you want, drink whatever you want. This is a date with you. Treat yourself. Afterwards, window shop, find a bookstore to linger in and get curious about something in the cooking, travel, or DIY section. Soak it up.
How to use your wishlist: Include the address of your favorite movie theater, of course, but also a couple of back-ups in case your favorite isn't carrying a movie you want to see. When you see a bookstore you'd like to explore, make a note or snap a picture of the shop front.
[MG's note: Looking for ideas to get you started? Try my 24 Ideas for an Afternoon to Yourself.]
So what would you do with a free afternoon? How do you deal with overwhelm, stress, or lack of motivation?
*Identifying facts and information have been altered to protect the identity of clients. All photos credit Foxboro Art Therapy.