Create your own self-care jar!

Attending to the basics of self care can bring stability, joy and connectedness into our lives.

Have you noticed that things in jars are very popular right now?

Kale smoothies in a jar, milkshakes in a jar, salads in a jar; EVERYTHING seems cooler when it’s in a jar!

So running with the theme, here is a handy little self care ritual that you can do in under an hour, that creates a resource for you to (literally) dip into when you’re feeling low, and of course features a funky jar. The good news is, if you’re not into fads like these, you can use a treasure chest, jewellery box, makeup bag or whatever else you have laying around that can create a contained space.

When we’re feeling our worst we often forget what makes us feel better. 

What you will need:

  • 1 mason jar (any size that appeals but it doesn’t need to be large)
  • printing paper & access to a printer
  • scissors
  • the self-care toolkit list provided below
  • OPTIONAL: Acrylic paint, sharpie or paint pens to decorate your jar OR collage items and wide clear packing tape
  • OPTIONAL: kitchen string or raffia

Instructions:

  1. Download your Self-care toolkit list HERE. Save it to your computer or memory stick.
  2. Print out sheets you just downloaded (using black and white, single sided printing).
  3. Cut out each rectangle along the black lines without reading them in detail (as best you can). Mix them up on the table in front of you.
  4. Take some deep breaths and gently think back to the times you most need solace or comfort, that are still an issue for you in your life and likely to come up again – when are they? (You might like to write this down). This is what this jar will be focused on.
  5. Now pay attention to the pieces of paper. Begin looking at each of the pieces of paper you have cut out. Sort them into two piles ‘relevant to me’ / ‘not relevant to me’ – Determine this by figuring out which ones ‘speak to you’. Discard the not-relevant ones (pop into the recycling bin or compost).
  6. Look through them, and if a key behaviour or message that you think is also useful for your self care is missing, feel free write out a new one on a small rectangle of blank paper and add this to the pile.
  7. With the ones you are keeping, you might like to decorate with a symbol or drawing on the blank side
  8. Place each of these into the jar and as you do so imagine that you are wishing your future self love and care for the times when things feel difficult. You might like to fold each one in half or leave them as is.
  9. If you would like to decorate the jar with a word or an image, a doodle or a small collage please do. Perhaps tie a ribbon or some string around the jar and add some beads or dried flowers.
  10. Finally, put the lid on the jar and think or say a few words of intention or prayer to mark the end of this gentle self care ritual. Know that this resource of carefully thought-out reminders is here for you when you next need it.

Once you have your jar set up you can use it in a number of ways:

Place it somewhere visible so you are reminded that it is there, and anytime you find yourself feeling much better after doing something you might like to add that to the jar. Similarly if you find a comforting thought or new script (message inside your head about yourself or your situation) you might like to add that to your jar.

When you feel stressed / lonely/ blue / worn out go to the jar and see if you can find just ONE thing to do and ONE thing to think that might make yourself feel better that day. You can do this by reading them or by picking a ‘lucky dip’ from the jar with your eyes closed.

You can stick the strip of paper you choose to your computer screen or inside your journal if you need a physical reminder of the self care action you plan to take.

When you’re feeling well, you can use the jar to help plan self care actions for future such as vacation time or to check in on how you’ve been going the last month on self care (upend the jar and have a rifle through and see which ones you’ve remembered about and which ones you’ve maybe forgotten about). You could do some planning for the month ahead and see what kind of self care you’d like to focus on.

If you notice that you have already been doing a number of these things – CELEBRATE! Give yourself credit for all the great practical things you’ve been doing to care for yourself. Notice how far you’ve come.

Remember, there is no one right way to do self care, and no one right way to use this tool. You are unique and your path is unique, so take what helps you, and don’t be afraid to customise the process so that its helpful for your unique context.

Good luck! Email me to let me know if this has been helpful or if there are additional self care actions you’d like to see added to the list.

 

Please note: this tool is not intended to assist with a mental health crisis or intended as medical advice. It is a tool for ongoing self care and wellbeing. If you are feeling unwell please consult your doctor about physical and mental health. You may be able to access a Mental Health Plan under medicare through which you can access free or discounted sessions with a psychologist. For crisis support call Lifeline. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 – a confidential telephone crisis support service available 24/7 from a landline, payphone or mobile.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

The yin and yang of creation

Sometimes people want to push and force the creative act.

“Make it happen NOW!” They say.

“Of course you have time!” They say.

Force myself with productivity hacks!

Override all doubts and protestations!

Deny myself down-time and work around the clock to Make. This. Thing. Happen.

But in my experience sometimes waiting has a purpose.

Maybe this creative act needs me to do a few more things first, gather more skills and experience until the time is right.

Maybe I am waiting for the right collaborators, or sense of possibility.

Maybe I am waiting for something else to come to an end before the new thing starts.

Maybe I’m waiting to rest and restore so that my energy levels fill back up and bring more ease to the task.

Maybe something in another aspect of my life has to shift and alter so the new creation can take place.

To me, many coaches take a mechanical view of us as human beings – push this lever, pull that, prod and hey presto! The thing is made! We are Successful!

To me though humans are more like a tree in a garden unfolding. There are deep depths subterranean truths hidden in soil. There are fabulous rich connections between ourselves and other organisms that feed us, pollinate us and shelter in our arms. There are seasons. There is maturing, that takes time. There are signals that tell us when it is safe and productive to bare fruit.

Creativity to me is a whole self endeavour.

I have learnt that bossing and forcing is not the way to satisfying productivity.

I am growing to trust the fallow seasons, and learning to understand that all trees look different, and need different things to grow. And so do we as creative beings.

——

How do you honour your own rhythms and seasons of creativity? Do you trust your instincts about when to bring your projects into the world?

How Creative Art Helps Me

The following post is a beautiful guest piece by a coaching client who wishes to remain anonymous. She describers how art making is part of her self care and self soothing toolkit and how engaging in art making can shift her focus and mood. I’m pleased to share this piece that speaks in a moment to moment way about how creative expression can be a ‘go to’ in times of pain and how it can provide solace.

While making art at home is not technically art therapy (art therapy happens while a client is working with an art therapist), I encourage all the clients I work with to explore journal writing and expressive art making both between sessions and in an ongoing way after our therapy or coaching relationship has ended, because of the wonderful lifelong benefits that creative expression offers us. 

I am an incredibly selfish person*.

I say that because when I feel deep emotional pain, there is nothing else that exists. Pain takes over completely. I can’t hear the thoughts that could remind me of my fortunes. I have a gorgeous, healthy child who loves me to the moon and back. I have a warm home, delicious food on my table, amazing friends who surround me and work that makes my heart sing.

But when I feel pain, nothing else matters. Pain’s mission is to swallow me. To isolate me from the world. To convince me that I am worthless of even existing. To reassure me that feeling strong and capable was just an illusion.

There’s nothing else but me and my pain in the whole of universe. Me. Me. Me.

But then I remember I have watercolour pencils and a gorgeous watercolour paper block.

It all starts slowly. I scribble around a bit with my favourite colour of the moment. I put it back in its place carefully and take another one in my hand. Reverently. My focus is entirely on the beauty that emerges on its own.

Slowly my entire focus is on the sound of the colour pencil gently scratching the surface of the rough paper.

There is no right or wrong. There is no mind involved to be passing such a judgement.

I just doodle around with pretty colours. From time to time, I take a black pencil to make a contour and then go back to the colours.

The pain eases away. Just a bit, yet enough to remember a friend who is going through a very difficult life event. Her mourning must be a hundred times deeper than my current pain.

I keep on scribbling as I observe the compassion rising from the depths of my chest. And yet I feel only an echo of her pain! How lonely, how devastated she must be feeling in this moment!

When I fill a plastic cup with water and pick a soft paintbrush, I start dissolving some of my beautiful colour clouds into pools of imaginary tears. The soul is screaming in its whispering way. Yellows merge with magenta pinks, the petrol blue collides with the sunset purple-orange.

I start feeling one with her. The more I get lost in the surprising emerging shapes on the paper, the more I feel the rightness of everything that exists. She is where she is right now and she is there for a reason. This world needs her wisdom. She needs her devastating experience to open the doorway to that wisdom.

All of a sudden it dawns on me! I outsmarted that pain. My story is no longer just about me and my isolation. It is not about hopelessness and worthlessness. It is about beauty. It is about oneness. It is about higher lessons of our existence.

It is a vital shift of perception.

It is a victory.

And it took as little as a box of watercolour pencils and the roughness of the white watercolour paper.

 

Image: Thanks to Martin Jelovsek (http://www.tone-sound.eu), shared with permission.

*Also, I note that I feel uncomfortable at her assessment of selfishness. It jars with me and what I observe of her. “After all doesn’t pain often contract our view of ourselves and our world? Aren’t we all selfish in this same way when we feel pain? Aren’t we allowed to go inward and be preoccupied by our pain at these times?” I wonder.  Then again, as I think some more, I feel a sting of recognition – don’t we often berate ourselves for all the things we perceive as character flaws in ourselves much more when we are feeling pain? Don’t we tell ourselves we are terrible people, and selfish and uncaring precisely in those moments when we are most in pain? And I try to bring myself back to noticing with curiosity how she speaks about herself, not making my interpretation more central to our work than her own. 

Going after our dreams: Forget perfect

When we have a long held dream it can be tempting to aim super high. We can visualise the BEST concert, the MOST AWESOME workshop, the BEST SELLING BOOK. This vision can be enticing, exhilarating, and frankly terrifying.

It can paralyse us with fear because we can imagine all the things that might go wrong along the way, and the pain we might feel when that moment comes if it’s NOT that raging success we dream of.

Instead try ‘beginner’ level.

Imagine your first one being full of mistakes and maybe not quite as bright and shiny as you would like AND THAT BEING OK.

Imagine the ONLY objective is to actually give it a go, and celebrate your learning and courage along the way.

If this still feels terrifying, try writing a long list of all the wonderful things you might get out of doing even a small and slightly shabby concert, or running a averagely attended workshop where you forget a few things and do an OK job, or writing a book that barely sells at all.

ALL the things you will learn
ALL the connections you might still make
ALL the experience you will gather up
ALL the personal growth and insights you might have
ALL the old fears you might step away from
ALL the old self beliefs you might gently challenge
ALL the new ideas and inspiration you might get

Feel worth it now?

Even a beginner level effort teaches us so much. In fact we often can’t get to excellence without doing ‘kind of average’ first (many times over).

Do average.
Do beginner.
Do practice.
Do ‘this is just a pilot’.

Perfect is not the only option.
Perfect is not the only reason something is worth doing.
Perfect is not our obligation.
Perfect is not your responsibility.
Perfect is a changeable, subjective flip flopping notion that exists just to tie you in knots.

What is your responsibility is to bring those great ideas into the world, and express yourself, to give it a go.

Is art therapy really therapy?

For sure! You can take mental health issues to an art therapist like you could to any mental health professional. This is one of the biggest differences between seeing an art therapist and having a relaxing session with an art teacher.
With an art therapist you can experience the joy and pleasure of art making PLUS you get a sound psychotherapeutic approach that is designed to foster self acceptance, self expression and healing, in a space that is confidential, and held by a trained professional. The art therapist holds space, models a good working relationship with creativity, and is sensitive to many different dynamics in the room.

To the casual observer an art therapy group session might look like a ‘craft session’ but to the trained eye there is so much more taking place: the subtleties of working with people’s stories, interpersonal dynamics and relationship building are happening quietly in the background. Training in psychotherapy and art, and practice are the ‘X factor’ that helps an art therapist hold the space and create an opportunity for a reflective and transformational moment that is far more than the materials used or the ‘activity’ undertaken.

How does art therapy work? American art therapist Julie Houck reflects on her work:
“I have learned that Art Therapy not only helps to make sense of one’s experiences, but offers catharsis by bringing long held unconscious material to the conscious level…I have been very fortunate that others have entrusted me not only with their stories, but also with their personal journey towards healing. I understand the fear and courage it takes to trust in the process, and the overwhelming feelings that follow by bringing vulnerability to surface.”

Art therapist Alyssa Rose Crenshaw works at Oregon’s largest mental and behavioral health provider for children and families and says: “I take pride in offering a variety of art based approaches to meet clients where they are at and allow them to guide the direction of treatment. Sewing and fabric based arts have a particularly healing quality and offer clients the opportunity to feel a sense of control and mastery which they may have rarely experienced before,”.

 

 

Love letter to a New Year

 

Dear New Year,

 

May you be fresh and fun.

 

May you have ups and downs, sunny days and storms.

 

May we walk together with mutual respect.

 

May you surprise us all.

 

May you remind us of our shared humanity and of our care for each other.

 

May you take us places we weren’t expecting and couldn’t have imagined.

 

May there be laughter, tears, hands held and hugs.

 

May there be plenty of space within you for sitting under trees and having bare feet on earth, bare legs in cool water.

 

May you shift and change us in ways we weren’t expecting and might not have been brave enough to do alone.

 

May you challenge us so that we find our core values over and over again and so that we finish you feeling brave and resolute and strong.

 

May you cradle us when we feel tired and gentle and soft so that we finish you feeling loved and held and safe.

 

Dear year, may you offer us many moments of curiosity, joy, reflection, peace, adventure and hope.

And may I remember that whatever you are, however you unfold, I have choices in how I respond, that my inner world is a space I can shape through learning, healing and mindfulness.

Thankyou for sharing your wonderful self with me new year.

 


 

Letter writing is a format we can use to process and capture our hopes and wishes for the year. Why not give it a go yourself? 

And once you’ve reconnected with what matters most to you this year, see if you would like some company, support and input while you take practical steps towards your dreams. I have openings for 2 new coaching clients to work with me this half of the year. See my Coaching page for package details and get in touch. 

Follow your nectar

Arriving 

It was a dark morning and the roads were bare. Snaking through the backstreets to go way out west the sky was starting to glow in strips between the streets empty of people and cars.

At the boom gates the shock of traffic told me that I’d arrived. The Sydney Flower Markets! A long held dream of mine, which due to a chance meeting with a fellow flower lover at a workshop on the weekend, was finally happening.

A non-priority that felt like a priority

Sure, it could be said that flowers weren’t a priority compared to my pre-Christmas to do list. That lethargy was pulling me towards holidays while my tasks nagged at me to stay in the here and now. But here I was. Stepping sideways, into an alternate universe. A universe of indulgence and leisure for me, and hard work and early starts for others.

First impressions

Forklifts circling, backwards, forwards, choreographed in a Summer morning markets dance. People in high vis vests striding, arms empty to the shed, arms full on the way back out. Quickly. Quickly before the colours you need go. Quickly before the sun rises higher and heats vans and wilts fragile petals. Quickly before the dreaded public arrive and slow things down at every counter and every walkway.

And here I was, beaming in my alternate universe, enjoying a quick coffee and soaking up the atmosphere before launching into the fray. Feeling like part of something old.

Sensory overload

Once inside my guide swung me up and down aisles, arms pointing, quick descriptions of people and flower farms, and imports, and species names, jumbled and mixed as we walked swiftly, her words like a tumbled bunch of flowers themselves.

The stall with buckets and buckets of flowering gums, Christmas Bush, stout yellow banksia. People walking through with just one gnarled perfect woody stalk ready to add to an arrangement.

The stalls that go down half a length of the market, a one stop shop, all the popular flowers, with a special emphasis of reds and greens this festive season. The stallholder a king sat low behind a vast counter top. Peonies, roses, November lilies, Lisianthus, assorted greenery spread out before him.

The tiny one-man show, with a single type of bloom that he grows, picks and transports and now sits behind, smiling. He has carefully arranged snapdragons and gerberas.

The vast stall with a sea of dahlias that leaves me overwhelmed and feeling giddy.

The plump, short bunches of waterlillies that have me feeling longing and wistful and wondering how they will handle the trip home out of water.

The boxes and boxes of imported roses, causing a stir, causing eyebrows to raise amongst those stallholders who proudly proclaim ‘locally grown’ on large hand written signs.

And amongst the blooms are trolleys being wheeled and me getting in the way, and slightly bawdy staff banter, and brides to be with armfuls, and florists with carefully chosen colours.

So many, so much. I drink in my fill, I drown in flowers and possibilities.

What I leave with

Two hours later I leave with an odd assortment of tall and short bunches, deep red, rust orange, buttercup yellow and white. I have three spools of ribbon which are almost 100m long combined. Maybe a plant pot or two. I have new sharp flower snippers which I never knew I needed. I have beads of sweat now rolling down the centre of my back. I have a whole heap less money then when I went in. I have an awkward gait of someone who didn’t quite think through how to carry all these.

Most importantly I have that kind of sweet sticky golden joy that glides down your core like honey along the inside of a glass.

It makes me wonder about why we wait so long to do the things we most want to do. As I leave I notice how the end of the year feels more glorious, beautiful and abundant than it did yesterday. This simple early morning visit to a place open all year round, less than an hour from home, makes me feel like I have stepped through into a new version of myself. Stepped back into the here and now energized, refreshed, and full of possibilities. This reminds me of the Artists Dates that Julia Cameron prescribes, and I realize I’ve been a bit lacking in these lately.

Why don’t we do what we really enjoy more often?

It humbles me as a coach to be reminded of how powerful it feels to do what we really love, and how complex the inner barriers can be to doing just this. It reminds me that I am just as susceptible to resistance and fear as my clients.

As an artist and someone who facilitates creative space for others I can feel how I am filled up and inspired with this experience of the wild abundance of beauty in so many different forms. It reminds me loudly that self-care can be about relaxation and rest but also about inspiration and the uplift of excitement blowing gently into our sails.

I know that time of year can be exhausting. We are often juggling family responsibilities, Christmas parties, work deadlines, and feeling our energy flag from a busy year. It can feel like we are limping to the finish line. At my visit to the flower markets I am reminded that connecting with what fascinates and inspires us is always worth the time.

(Image is one of mine)

Living in the comfort zone

Sometimes feeling stuck can just be that we have grown into our adventure zone and turned it into out comfort zone.

What felt new and exciting and a bit of a push when we first started now feels familiar and old hat.

Feels automatic.

We know that a degree of challenge or creativity is needed to keep us vibrant and interested in our days, so when our work, or daily tasks, are no longer giving us the chance to learn and stretch ourselves, a kind of malaise can set in.

“But why?” we might think. “This was interesting last year, why isn’t it interesting now?”

 

Maybe we need more learning.

Maybe we need to step up into the next challenge.

Maybe we need a project just for fun.

Maybe we need more collaboration.

 

Maybe we need a puzzle to figure out.

Maybe we need to connect with what satisfies us most.

Maybe we need some risk as well as some certainly.

Maybe we need a creative project that fills us with joy.

 

Maybe we need to drench ourselves with acts of self care and love.

Maybe we need to commit to a slightly scary goal and work towards it.

Maybe we need to name the next dream that seems so audacious we can barely believe it’s slipped out from our lips.

I got to my dream, now what?

Sometimes we engage with a dream so deeply, that it guides us for months or even years. We make a change, we commit to some healing, or we set off on an adventure.

And then. Then we get there.

Maybe course is over now, or the draft is written or the trip is finished. Maybe the house is bought or the business launched or the big move made.

And then – what next?

We might have grown and tapped into deep reserves to get here – overcoming adversity, finding our courage, practicing perseverance. And in arriving we enjoy a rest, some peace.

But then, we get the itch. What is the next stage?

What does the next chapter look like?

Maybe we need some quiet space to hear the stirrings of our hearts.

Maybe from here we notice that we can see the view and ourselves a little more clearly than from where we started out.

We know that the culmination of the next dream wont be the end point either, just a new point, where the view is a little different, the tools in our toolkit a bit better honed, and our own character is a letter better known, worn and accepted.

 Have you ever felt yourself in a lull between dreams? What did it feel like? how did you make space for the new dream to emerge?