For those of us who have found ourselves leaving an abusive relationship, it may seem trivial to focus on these small activities for self-care; 15 minutes a day, in the midst of the chaos and anxiety of leaving an abusive partner can seem inconsequential, however, in my experience, it’s these small gestures of kindness toward ourselves that lay the foundation for rebuilding our lives. The sensation of being overwhelmed is very real and ever present, particularly when we have distressed children to care for; our children’s needs tend to come before our own. We need to give ourselves relief from the storm, to carve out small spaces for ourselves, and I know, from my experience, these short activities do help give breathing space.
I’ve been fortunate to live in places where getting outside has been easy; woods and rivers have been within walking distance, and I’ve been fortunate to have gardens. Gardens are a bit of a mixed blessing! I know that mine was the typical garden of a single parent for much of the time – grass needing cut; borders needing weeded, but I overlooked the weeds and always had a place in the garden where I could sit. Just sitting in the garden when my children were in bed allowed me to open into the space, freeing myself for walls helped enormously. I’m interested in astronomy, so locating stars and constellations in the night sky was a frequent activity. Being outside automatically took my attention away from the latest problem and made me listen the birds, watch the ants crawling around (fully aware that whatever I tried to do to move them along, they were staying!), and feel the fresh air on my face. Being able to sit in the garden took me out of myself while still being available to my children if they needed me.
For the times when I was able to take a walk on my own, the act of walking helped move the things inside me that seemed stuck, and when I was angry, walking vigorously helped release it, and find what I should do about the issue causing the anger. Like the experience of sitting in the garden, going for a walk, and changing my environment, took me out of myself. We had cows in the field next to us, and they often came for a chat; standing on the bridge over the river gave me the chance to see how many trout were jumping, and walking into the woods in the late evening I’d hear the bats flying around. With so much to take my attention, I found a rest from my concerns and the demands of my life.
I know some of us do not have a garden, or the freedom to go for a walk on our own, so we need to think a little outside the box. Do you have a doorstep you can sit on? We don’t see folk sitting on doorsteps much these days, but, if you are comfortable, go ahead and do it. Your step just needs to be mud free like the step below; bring a cushion to add some comfort, and a throw blanket to keep you cosy; to add some atmosphere bring a candle. Allow yourself to sit and be present with what you feel, hear and see.
If you live in an apartment block, sitting on a step may not be possible, however, you may be fortunate enough to have a balcony. Bring out a chair, a cushion, throw and candle and have the same experience there, paying attention to your senses.
There are many reasons why we can’t get outside easily; on those occasions bring the outside in. Create a spot by the window where you can have plants. You don’t need to spend much money, and you can use a variety of containers to plant in. Often friends will be happy to give you cuttings, which will grow roots if kept in water. Make sure you open a window.
Another way to bring the outside in is to make a feature using the bits and pieces brought home from family walks in the woods, and at the sea. I love the sea, and always bring back stones and sea glass, and my children loved collecting shells. On my window sill, I have jars full of stones, shells and sea glass, with driftwood and candles completing the display. When I can’t get outside, I open the windows to let the outside in, and enjoy the air, and the feel of the stones in my hand. You can do the same with the plants on your window sill, becoming aware of the feel of the leaves, the patterns and the fragrance from any flowers, and if you don’t have a window sill, use a table.
Outdoors isn’t just for keeping physically healthy, it’s about bringing us back in touch with the here and now. My final suggestion for getting outdoors is another simple one – walk barefoot on the ground. I know it might sound a little Hippy Dippy, but trust me. Look back to when you were little, and loved nothing more than kicking off your shoes, and walking in the grass, on the sand, or in the soil. It was so freeing, and brought us into touch with the earth, our home – the place where we belong! Months, years, decades of living with violence and intimidation can leave us totally disconnected from ourselves; we survive by becoming detached from the violence and pain, this disconnection can leave us feeling we do not belong anywhere. Giving ourselves the pleasure of walking barefoot in the grass helps to root us. Feel your toes wriggling in the blades of grass, the damp and cold on your feet, and the smell of the earth. Wonderful!
I hope you have found this interesting, and you feel able to try out some of these ideas. Next time I’ll talk about the benefits of phoning a friend.
Please share this blog if you feel able to, and do share some of your ideas.
Sending out peace to you.