Last week, I had a particularly challenging and emotional day. Impacted by political and social events, I felt heavy. Heavy in my heart and heavy in my body. I noticed various emotions and reactions surface throughout the day, and I did my best to manage them using all the skills I have.
But at the end of the day, I felt spent. The weight of the all-day heaviness had taken its toll, and I could feel that my tank was on empty. Mindful of my experience, I knew I needed to take care of myself. I needed to tend to that heaviness, engaging in some sort of self-care.
I met my husband for dinner at a small, Greek restaurant near our house, but we were pretty quiet, both still carrying the heaviness of the day. As I drove home, I turned on an audiobook, hoping to distract and engage my brain for a bit. It didn’t work. An entire chapter played, before I realized I hadn’t heard a word. I turned the book off.
I thought about calling a few of my friends, ones who I knew would also be carrying a sense of heaviness from the day’s events. As a psychologist, I know that reaching out is one of the most powerful things we can do when we’re struggling. I started to pick up the phone, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get any words out, that I’d just sit there in silence. I wasn’t sure I could muster up the energy for anything else. So I put the phone down.
But then, I looked over in my front seat and saw a book that had been there all week. The previous Saturday, I spotted one of those sweet, neighborhood library boxes in a neighbor’s front lawn, and I threw the book in my car, intending to drop it off for others to enjoy. So, with a lump in my throat, I took a quick left and headed toward the little, wooden library. I walked up, opened the tiny door, and put the book in, seeing several others, stacked up, ready to be read.
In that moment, I thought about the sweet homeowners who built this for their community. I thought about all the people who have left books for others. I imagined about all the kids that would be reading new bedtime stories this week, snuggled up in bed. And I reflected on all the people that would feel connected to one another through this little library.
I walked back to my car, got in, and immediately burst into tears. That tiny, minuscule act of self-care was all I could do that day. It was so small, yet it was the best I could do. It carved out the tiniest bit of space in my heavy, heavy heart.
Sometimes self-care is big and bold. Sometimes it’s fun and filled with laughter. But sometimes self-care feels hard. It means forgoing something big or fun, instead just finding a tiny thing that brings you comfort or joy, if only for ten seconds.
When self-care feels hard, ask yourself, “What tiny thing could bring me just an ounce of comfort? What small act or gesture could give me ten seconds of joy? Is there something I could do to make this moment even the slightest bit more pleasant?
Maybe it’s sitting in stillness for one full minute before you get walk in the house after work. Perhaps it’s putting on your fuzzy robe as you lay on the couch or listening to jazz while you cook. Maybe it’s putting your Chinese takeout onto a real plate before you eat it, or maybe it’s closing your eyes for just two minutes of meditation or prayer. Perhaps it’s watching a hilarious Youtube video that always makes you chuckle, or maybe it’s looking at old pictures of your kids. It could mean snuggling in bed with your fur baby or donating $5 to a cause you care about.
Self-care doesn’t have to be big or grand. For me, it was putting that book in that neighborhood library, engaging in a small act of kindness. For a passing moment, it got me outside of my heaviness, and for that, I felt grateful.
When self-care feels hard, look past the big gestures of self-care. Look beyond the rituals or the “treat yourself” mantra. Get still, be quiet, and look for that one, tiny thing that might bring just an ounce of comfort. When self-care feels hard, an ounce makes a difference.
What are three small ways that you could bring an ounce of comfort or joy to a moment when self-care feels hard? Also, if you haven’t read my previous post on self-care and how it isn’t what you think, read that here.