Learning to be more aware of how I’m feeling has been a long journey. My natural inclination is to bury my own emotions to protect my relationships. Through important relationships and the help of a therapist, I’ve recognized how processing those emotions is key to a sustainable and fully present life.

Over the years I’ve identified many activities that help me understand myself better and open up space for reflecting and becoming more grounded in reality. Some activities I go to more often than others, but having options makes it easier to find something that works for the moment.

Space to think

Often what I reach for when I’m noticing that life is not going the way I want is to find a quiet space for reflection. Sometimes I jot down unfiltered thoughts in a journal. Other times I just sit and think. I’ve noticed that sitting on the ground up against a wall makes me feel more stable. But other times going for a walk gives me the space I need to think.

The interesting thing about emotions is that they happen almost entirely internally. So ruminating about how I feel can be surprisingly effective. Why do I feel so strongly about something that seems so insignificant? What is the underlying emotion? What can I do to address how I feel?

Space to move

Another activity that helps me, is getting my body moving. I work full time on a computer so physical activity is a great alternative to my mentally heavy work. I don’t enjoy traditional gym workouts, but I find sports like Ultimate Frisbee and pickleball particularly fun. I know that those kinds of cardio-heavy workouts can significantly impact your body, from blood to hormones, so it’s not surprising that I feel so much better afterward and am much more ready to face life’s challenges.

Another activity I don’t do often enough is yoga. I’ve found at-home yoga classes/videos really accessible. It is a nice combination of slow muscle movement and mindful mental exercise. When we have foster kids in the house it’s especially nice to be able to take 30 minutes to myself while still being available if I’m needed.

Space to unwind

On a more general level, I’ve also learned how important it is to leave space in my days and weeks for whatever relaxing or creative space my mind wants to go to. Sometimes just having the space to research an interesting topic is the relaxing activity my mind needed. Other times solving an interesting problem around the house is a nice reset. These activities don’t fit nicely into a strictly prioritized, busy schedule. But the act of performing those activities, the space to color outside the lines, can be a worthwhile investment of time.

Getting outside can sometimes be enough. Whether watching the sun set over the ocean, or looking for birds in the trees above, there’s something really relaxing about being in nature. I think there is something about exploring the scale and complexity of the world, large and small, that is a great antithesis to the schedules and responsibilities that define modern life.

Space to grow

I’m still learning to check in with myself more during the day. Feelings can feel unexpected, but there is usually something my body is responding to from my past experiences. Sometimes those feelings are misguided, but often they are a signal that something could be going very wrong. Recognizing those emotions earlier helps tremendously with addressing a potential problem before my body is on full alert. But if I haven’t proactively checked in with myself, I have lots of options for how to open up space to process those emotions.

This post is a (last minute) submission to IndieWeb Carnival October 2023 - Self-Care and Routine, hosted by https://lifeofpablo.com/ for the IndieWeb Carnival.