What NFP workers need to know about care in the time of COVID – Part three
21 June 2020 at 1:20 pm
Rachel Clark highlights the importance of renewal when it comes to caring for ourselves, in the third of a four-part series providing practical support to help those working in the NFP sector with their wellbeing and mental health.
This article is all about practices of renewal. Renewal is the R in my CARE Practice Framework, and this is where we begin to move away from the inner work of the first two pillars, as outlined in the last two weeks (see part one and part two), and more into the active stages of the framework, towards the world of sunlight and trees, joy, movement, and rest.
A focus on renewing one’s body is often where traditional “self-care” practices centre their attention, and trust me, there is nothing wrong with time being pampered. But I believe there is more to this stage of care for oneself than that, which is why it is one of four pillars that makes up this comprehensive approach to caring for ourselves so we can show up in the work that we do. In this time, with new practices of social interaction, and indeed the recent traumatic events highlighting systemic racism, we will need to focus firmly on how we care for ourselves so that we can continue to do the work caring for people in our communities. The four micro-practice areas we will be looking at this week are nature, sleep, exercise and food, and joy and satisfaction.
My favourite places in nature are forests or by rivers… anywhere shaded. Guided by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku I have taken myself through my local forest paths whenever I can in a regular practice of forest bathing. When I am amongst trees, I feel delightfully small and insignificant, in a pleasing way, with an absence of ego and struggle, and that is refreshing. Time in nature can provide sensory stimulus which decompresses our nervous system, allowing us to reset and recharge.
Task 1: List your favourite nature place to be – is it by water, under trees, on the top of a hill. Pick a favourite nature spot from your favourite nature place and visit there. Stay a while. Take a notebook, or sketch pad. Observe how you feel there. Be with yourself and the natural world.
We all need to get enough sleep to be able to function so make sure you get enough, for you. At times, when we are experiencing particular hardships in our personal or professional lives, we need more sleep. Heed this call to rest more and prioritise earlier nights. Needing less sleep, over time, and resuming to a normal sleep pattern may be a sign of increased vitality and wellness. It also helps to improve one’s sleep “hygiene” practices, so just like you brush and floss your teeth before bed, you can remove tech devices and dim the lights, signaling to your body and mind that it is time to switch off for the day. Finding the right sleep-settings takes experimentation but will see an increase in capacities during our waking hours that make attending to this renewal micro-practice worthwhile.
Task 2: Experiment with your sleep recipe. Work out when you most easily fall asleep. Work out your best antecedent practices: what you can do that makes you sleepy. Then do them.
3) Exercise and food
Even the fittest exercise devotee will have stories of times away from their routine, but as long as we engage in some form of movement most days, that is enough. Try doing exercise that you are currently drawn to, and then feel good about what you have done. Eating consciously and well is another critical plank to practices of renewal. We all know the areas we have weaknesses in, sugar and carbs being top suspects for many of us. Instead, why not think in terms of what foods we are keen to increase in our daily diet, and which areas we want to decrease. It seems a kinder, more gentle way of communicating with ourselves about the glory that is food. Eating well and moving our bodies is the medicine human beings thrive on.
Task 3: Write a list of the type of human movement that you are drawn to right now and build this into your day. Work out what your body feels best eating and increase this in your daily diet. Reduce what does not feel good, once consumed.
4) Joy and satisfaction
Marie Kondo has “mainstreamed” joy for most of us, but its practice is not to be underestimated. Children naturally seek out joy, yet as adults this experience can be painfully lacking. Turning to a practice of joy is, well, joyful! Satisfaction is different, but equally delicious. One way of knowing when we have found joy or satisfaction is where we experience it in our bodies. Joy is in the upper body – it’s a heady, lofty feeling. If it were a singer, it would be a soprano. Satisfaction, rather, is a gut felt sensation and is our friendly tenor or bass. Experiencing a healthy dose of joy and satisfaction in our lives can return us to earlier, more carefree or nurturing times, worthy of frequent visits.
Task 4: Consider where you were and what you were doing when you felt heady or lofty… light and airy. This may be your joy-place. As with satisfaction; think when you experienced a deep down “yes, this is it” vibe of the deep sustaining notes of life. Visit both places regularly.
These practices, around these four areas, will help you renew your mind, body, and spirit. It takes time, commitment, and creativity to work out how to make it work in life, but the proof will be seen in enhanced vigor, focus, and calm.
About the author: Rachel Clark is a teacher and community development practitioner with 25 years practice experience. She teaches and mentors future community service workers, organisers and activists to make an impact in their community from a strengths-based, self-care and diversity perspective. Rachel is also the founder of Lumin Leaders (@luminleaders), an organisation which guides human-centred practitioners through educational and psychological support services, and a host of an embryonic podcast called Working With Purpose. Her core values are connection, collaboration, compassion, and curiosity which she uses every-day in her human-centred practices of teaching and community building.