How do you care for yourself physically? Caring for yourself physically can include diet, exercise, and sleep, but I want to expand the notion to include caring for yourself with the five senses.
Picture the serenity of watching the sun sink beneath the horizon, recall the way your feet feel as they sink into a new pair of squishy sneakers. Imagine the scent of your favorite cologne, the taste of ice cream, the sound of waves crashing on a beach. Deriving comfort from the five senses is vital during the grief process, because it doesn’t require emotional or cognitive effort. It simply “is.”
When we take care of babies, it’s all physical. Sure, we talk to them and tell them how cute they are, and how much we love them, but babies don’t feel security from our words. They feel security from our actions. A baby who is clean, fed, changed, and swaddled knows on some primal level that everything is ok—they are loved.
Taking a moment to care for yourself physically can settle you, calm you. It’s a brief respite and an opportunity for mindfulness. Sometimes it’s the best way to make it through the day.
Write about a way you can care for yourself using the five senses, a way that isn’t bogged down with emotional baggage or painful memories. Make it as simple and tactile as you can. Then do it—take care of yourself, unabashedly and unapologetically. I’ll be doing the same.
My Writing Response
A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law invited me to a Christmas craft fair. She had a booth showcasing her crafting talents, and she knows I love these types of events. (She also knows that generally I’ve got nothing else going on.)
I wandered around the venue, filling a shopping bag with all these cool projects that people who don’t know me think I could make myself. Snowmen and santas and angels and candles and fudge—I like to pick up gifts and stocking stuffers from local sources. (The fudge was for me.)
I almost walked by the table covered with artfully displayed bars of goatmilk soap, but something about those rectangles drew me in. Some were lined up, some were piled in pyramids, some were tucked into gift baskets. They were solid and smooth and chunky—but not perfectly uniform, not spit out mindlessly by a machine in a factory. My hand reached out to pick one up.
Why on earth would a bar of goatmilk soap feel reassuring? I don’t know. It’s kind of waxy and dense, but not heavy or scary. If you drop it on your foot, it will hurt a little—but not a lot. If you press your fingers into it, nothing happens, but you could make a moon-shaped gouge with your fingernail. Goatmilk soap is tough, but not infallible.
Then I sniffed it, and I was hooked! I can’t stand heavy perfumes; I like fruity scents, but do I want to smell like a giant honeydew melon? Probably not. This scent was completely different; it was called oatmeal honey, but to me it smelled like a nice summer day with no obligations. A summer day when you slept late and didn't even have any chores to do.
I bought a whole bunch of bars of soap. I have all sorts of mysterious allergies which crop up unexpectedly in spots and speckles at the most inopportune times; I was prepared to use the soap once, break out in a rash, and use the rest for gifts and drawer sachets.
But, surprise! No rash, no dry patches, no sneezing. I kept every bar of that soap. NOBODY got a-nice-summer-day-with-no-obligations stocking stuffer.
When I use my oatmeal honey soap, I relax for a minute as I inhale the fresh scent of a summer day (that I discovered in the dead of winter.) I don’t have to think about it or assign meaning to it. I just smell it, let the sunshine into my brain, and get on with things.
Sometimes in a pinch I’ll press my forearm to my nose just for a second: I’m settled. You’re ok, I tell myself. You’re ok, keep going.
The fudge helps too.