By Marguerite Jill Dye
“Not what we have, but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.” – Epicurus
Extreme self care is called for in extreme times, and these times are most certainly extreme. I learned this lesson when I returned home from Argentina after living under the military dictatorship. Feeling powerless to help a friend in the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (whose children and grandchildren had disappeared), and working with abandoned women and children in the “villas miserias” (shanty towns), I was diagnosed with clinical depression. A counselor told me to do what I loved, so I bought myself some watercolor supplies and took a plein air landscape class at the Virginia Museum. All over Richmond, I sat myself down in gardens and parks to commune with flowers. Surrounded by beauty, I found inspiration, and rediscovered the healing power of nature that I’d discovered as a child while building our ski house in Killington. Creating in nature helped me to center myself as I painted the trauma away. But being in Vermont, you already know the powerful effect nature has on yourself!
Some may think that extreme self-care is only available to millionaires in luxurious spas where masseuses and beauticians provide treatments, but I know that’s not true. While some of the best things in life are free, others cost little but offer a lot. So I thought I’d share my favorite ideas that are free or budget-friendly to tickle your fancy, help you care for yourself, and spread more joy upon our earth.
Are you overly tired or all stressed out? I have the perfect solution: a steaming hot lavender Epsom salts bath – aromatherapy to soothe and relax. Since 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, the mineral seeps right through the skin, relaxing muscles and nourishing them. By lighting a candle and closing the door, a peaceful sanctuary pops up. If you don’t have a tub, a towel on your tummy that’s soaked in warm Epsom salts does the trick.
The Brits have long lauded the soothing effects of a hot cup of tea, at the tea hour. The Chinese assure us that green tea’s the best to promote health and longevity. Whatever your preference, brew a pot or a cup then sit down, relax, and put your feet up. Read a good book, or a poem about nature, or just sip your tea and complete a thought. Visualize yourself in your favorite spot, inhale the fragrance, and think good thoughts. Recall a memory that warms your heart, then pass on that feeling of love and warmth.
List the things that you’re grateful for, then add a new blessing to it each day: abilities, feelings, animals and people. Gratitude’s the first step towards being happy. Mend a friendship with a call or a letter remembering what brought you two together. Make a card for a loved one who’s ill and describe what you’ve always loved about them. Visit a neighbor who lives alone or in a local retirement home. Don’t put it off.
You don’t want to regret something you never got around to.
Give away something you cherish. Include a special hand-written message. You never know when the words you write or say may change another’s life.
Some little ones need a special friend to talk with and who listens to them. Bake some cookies and offer them to your workmen, handyman, mailcarrier. Let the folks who serve you know that you appreciate their work and attitude.
Try to see the very best in someone you’ve had differences with. We all have shortcomings. It’s the truth. But it’s better to look for attributes.
Say a prayer for those in need, the poor, the sick, and refugees. Pray for our soldiers who risk their lives, and for our nation and world peace.
Think about what you love in your life and what you’d prefer to eliminate. It’s up to you to decide what you want to include or exclude from daily life. So write down the changes you’d like to make and what you want to manifest. Writing desires down on paper gives them ever so much more power. Start each goal with a baby step, then see how much closer you get.
Clean up messes, clear out clutter so there’s room in your life for all that’s better. Clutter creates stagnant energy which limits our health and vitality. “Clear out the attic,” Feng shui masters exclaim, “to reach higher aspirations and dreams.” Exercise both your body and brain, since “move it or lose it” includes the head.
Don’t ignore a new health concern that might be an early warning sign. Although it may turn out to be nothing, it’s safer to check in case it’s something. Spend time in the sunshine for vitamin D. Increase your endorphins through exercise and by putting a big smile on your face.
Make friends. Talk with people. Spend time with pets. And each day be sure to give thanks. For regardless of our trials and pains, no matter how bleak the future may seem, there’s always a beam of light above to lead us towards our highest good.
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Gulf Coast of Florida.