Self care is a term that gets tossed around rather, well, carelessly. It is vague and broad. It can encompass exercise and nutrition, trips to the spa, naps, meditation, pretty much all of the things that feel out of reach for most working daughters. We caregivers are constantly told we should practice self care and we usually smile and nod politely in response while we’re silently screaming in our heads, “How the hell am I supposed to make that happen!?!” Well, in 2017, it is imperative we find away.
And the good news is there is a form of self-care that is in our reach. It’s called hygge and it just may be your survival strategy for 2017.
I know first hand how challenging it is to fit exercise into a working daughter’s day. And I understand as well as anyone how we can wake up determined to have kale and seltzer for lunch then end up having Twizzlers and Diet Coke instead. I know how helpless we caregivers often feel about our own lives and the lives of the people we care for. Aging, dying, illness, cancer, Alzheimers,– we get no say in how those things play out. Doctors that keep us waiting, insurance companies that put us on hold, ADLs (activities of daily living) that taker longer than expected even when we expect them to take a long time …we have no control over so many aspects of caregiving. Couple those feelings of helplessness, those desires for some control over life, with what’s happening in the world, and in our own country – it can make the strongest among us want to retreat under the covers with a bag of Double Stuff Oreos and a bottle of merlot. Well, maybe this year we should do just that….sort off.
What is Hygge?
Hygge is a Danish word which is difficult to translate but is often interpreted as cozy. Jaime Kurtz, a psychology professor at James Madison University who teaches a course on Scandinavian happiness, says hygge is, “not just cozy with a blanket and a glass of wine, it’s also interpersonally cozy—so having a few people with you talking about issues and things you care deeply about. Having some candles lit, maybe a nice warm drink in your hand. Feeling safe and content.” Hygge is an attitude, an approach to living through long, cold, and sometimes bleak, winters.
I’m suggesting 2017 is the year working daughters should embrace hygge because we are facing a social and political winter of sorts. On Inauguration Day we may witness a peaceful transition of power from one president to the next, but it will be surrounded by copious amounts of stress – regardless of who you voted for back in November. We are living through strange times – extreme partisanship, sharp rhetoric, divisive legislation, heightened global threats, looming changes to healthcare and Medicare that will affect us – and we are supposed to process and deal with all of this, on top of our working daughter responsibilities, on top of caring for an aging and or ill family member or friend? How much can one person take???
Well, the truth is, you can take a lot, working daughter. You are a warrior. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And so this year of all years, I am encouraging you to wrap yourself in whatever form of cozy, self-hugs work for you. Do I think you should go to the gym more often, eat more edamame, and drink some whey shakes? Of course. I should too. But I’m 99 percent sure I won’t. What I will do, however, is find a new approach to caring for myself.
Even before I came across the concept of hygee on Pinterest, I have been embracing it. It must be my natural survival instincts kicking in. In November, disappointed that our country didn’t elect it’s first woman president, a woman I have admired for years, and troubled that we did elect a man whose views on women and immigrants and people of color are disconcerting, I started, unconsciously, to soothe myself.
I swapped my old t-shirts and leggings, for a cozy pair of flannel PJs. I cleaned the house and bought more candles. I’ve been spending weekends watching romcoms on Netflix, despite an ambitious to-do list. I swapped my evening glass of savvy b for a cup of tea. And every night when I climb into bed, I thank my lucky stars for everything that is good in my life. These tiny acts of self-care must be my natural antidote to checking the President-Elect’s Twitter account, reading The Washington Post and The New York Times, and worrying about my 90-year old Dad’s health.
Caregiving, whether we do it willingly or begrudgingly is an incredible act of love. Extend that love to yourself. Do it because you need it. Do it because we all need it. Do it because you can – you are strong. We’ve got challenging days ahead – at home, in Washington, and beyond – and we need all of our warriors rested and ready to make this world a better place.
How To Embrace Hygge
- Practice gratitude. Sure, there’s plenty to worry about, but what’s good? Set a timer for 60 seconds and rattle of all you have to be thankful for.
- Take walks. The combination of mild exercise, fresh air, and companionship (with someone else or enjoying your own thoughts) is incredibly restorative.
- Wrap yourself in something soft and snuggly. Buy some flannel PJs and a pair of fuzzy socks. If your budget allows for it, splurge on a cashmere throw*.
- Light candles and keep flowers in your home. White votives on a tray, a table or a mantle, are peaceful. Scented candles, especially lavender ones, are soothing. Treat yourself to a bouquet of fresh cut blooms too.
- Sip tea. It’s tempting to pour a glass of wine at the end of the day. But you’ll probably sleep better after a hot cup of decaf tea.
- Write notes. Buy some pretty cards and write a quick note to a friend or family member. Say hello. Say thank you. Say something. Let someone now you’re thinking of them. It will make you both feel good.
- Read a book or watch a movie. Vow to turn off the news and the crime dramas after 8 p.m. and read a great novel or watch a romantic comedy before you go to bed. We need to balance the heavy stuff with some lighter material. May we suggest some life-affirming Mary Oliver poetry and the Netflix series The Crown?
- Meditate. Learn to still your mind through meditation. Apps like Calm can help you ease into this practice.
- Spend time with animals. You may not have time to care for a pet, but you can experience the healing effects of animals by visiting the local shelter or better yet a goat farm.
- Spend time with people who feed your soul. Make time for face-to-face conversations and visits. Texts, Snaps and email are convenient. But face-to-face is a gift.
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