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Courageous Self Care

If you happened to have read my blog back in January, you know that I’ve chosen COURAGE for my 2021 word. So, I’m keeping the theme going. As many families are starting to step into summer with more things opening up, it’s easy to get caught up in camp sign-ups, summer programs, and college planning as usual. While “making up for lost time” is important I also want to encourage families to gather some courage and take a road less traveled this summer. It’s something we don’t hear much about - practicing self care. You might be thinking - self care, what is she talking about? Some may think it’s indulging in getting a pedicure or vegging out on your favorite documentary on Netflix but it’s likely that these things will only bring short term “care” (a.k.a. happiness). I remember reading a Forbes article a few years back talking about how self care is a discipline. Disciplines like putting down our phones, stepping away from all screens, getting outside in nature daily, saying “no” more often, making sure we get at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night, and honestly, just slowing down and adding activities to the schedule that offer you (and your family) true joy (and self care!).

Research shows when we put down our phones and venture into the great outdoors - our bodies can truly learn how to relax and become more present minded. This doesn’t mean hiking huge mountains (feel free if you feel compelled!) but just being outdoors such as eating a meal outside, enjoying morning coffee outside, walking through or around a community park, or possibly taking a sketchbook outside for inspiration. (I can think of a few students who do this very thing!) The point of getting OUTSIDE is important for our mental and physical health, disconnecting even for a few minutes. When my husband and I moved to rural Illinois in 2012, we discovered the stars in the sky! We walk our dogs in the summer during the late evening hours because it’s cooler for the dogs and we always enjoy looking up at the stars on these walks. If you live in a city, this might be a little harder but take a drive into the country a bit and then, look up!

As I share with my students, when we step outside of our comfort zone, that’s when learning really happens. And when our minds are able to become calm (like when we’re in nature), our brains also become more available to take in information differently, better. In the summer of 2019, my husband and I traveled to Japan during his sabbatical. I studied there in college and we were able to reconnect with my host family (24 years later!). During our time with them, we spent much of our time outside, walking at parks and enjoying the beautiful scenery of mountains, low lying clouds, green fields, and calm ponds. We didn’t rush from one place to another but strolled at a leisurely pace. The Japanese call it shirin-yoku or forest bathing. As I reflect back to our visit, I can recall practically every detail of our time. I believe that is because my mind was calm and relaxed. When I compare it to my days earlier this week, I can’t recall nearly the details of my days. Why? Because I haven’t taken much time to get outside, my mind has been busy and occupied with too many tasks buried in my computer.

While you’re busy scheduling those (delayed) in-person campus visits and summer programs, don’t forget to take time to care for yourself and your family. Sometimes self care is just as important, if not more important, than those busy summer schedules. College essays and applications can be just as impressive if students authentically decide to take up a renewed practice of summer self care, especially this summer. It’s almost like detoxifying our lives from this past year and rejuvenating ourselves, finding our true paths again to living each day with gratitude. Courage is necessary to keep from returning to business as usual. But, with a little courage and some intentional time outside, peace and joy can be attained.

Here are a few photos from my trip to Japan in 2019. I’ve never experienced a cloud literally washing over and around me like you can see in the one photo.


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