Take good care of yourself

By Caitlin Kelly

Beauty helps!
Beauty helps!

Button up your overcoat, when the wind is free, Oh, take good care of yourself, you belong to me!

— Ray Henderson lyric, 1928

After a few decades of running around — and four orthopedic surgeries within 12 years — I’m finally treating my body with a little more respect.

I grew up in Canada, but now live in the U.S., and near New York City, the epicenter of a workaholic, gogogogogogogogogogo culture, one that solely encourages and rewards “productivity”.

We’re all exhorted daily to move faster, do more, sleep less, earn more money, get the promotion.

Watch a great movie!
Watch a great movie!

Vacation? Hah! Even the few Americans who get paid vacations beyond 10 days a year are too scared to take the time off.

The notion of actually nurturing our souls, bodies and minds is anithetical to the industrial mindset of production. There’s no profit (for anyone else) in it!

Here’s a thought-provoking essay from The New York Times on the subject:

On my last day of work at the American ad agency, something strange happened: I was smiling. A weight had been lifted, and I felt like a prisoner about to be freed. And despite my fear that no one would hire me, I soon found a job in Zurich doing exactly what I had been doing in the United States: copywriting for an ad agency.

My job title was the same, but I worked part time — and for a higher salary than I had received working full time in the United States. When I was politely asked to work additional days beyond the ones specifically mentioned in my contract, the agency paid me for that extra work.

Not only that, but instead of two weeks of vacation, I had five. And I was encouraged to use every single day of it, guilt-free. Once, when I went to Spain for “only” 10 days, my Swiss colleagues chastised me for not going away long enough.

Instead of worrying about working weekends and holidays the way I had in the United States, I planned trips like the rest of my colleagues: Paris. Prague. Zermatt. For the first time in my working life, I was living, too. Because of this, my creativity flourished. I had both time and money, and because I had real time off, I was more productive when I was at work. In my spare time I wrote blogs and essays and I swam in the lake.

I’m firmly and decidedly out of step with American values in this regard.

A bushel of freshly-gathered clams, mid-coast Maine
A bushel of freshly-gathered clams, mid-coast Maine

In 2015, I’ve spent 3 weeks in Europe in January, another three weeks in June in Ireland, 10 days in Maine and 10 days in Ontario.

Because my husband and I are, as of this year, now both full-time freelancers, (he’s a photo editor and photographer, I write for a living), we can work from anywhere there’s wi-fi and can take as much time off as we can afford.

We’re not wealthy and we live a fairly frugal life, with a small apartment and a 14-year-old car. Nor do we have the financial responsibilities of children or other dependents.

We’ve had terrific careers and won awards and the respect of our peers and while we still need to work for income…it’s time for us.

I’m not fond of the word “self-care” but it’s a concept I believe in strongly, especially for women who are socially encouraged to give everyone else their time, energy and attention — but often feel conflicted or guilty when they stop long enough to take equally thoughtful care of themselves.

Stay hydrated!
Stay hydrated!

Self care can take many forms:

— massage, manicures, pedicures, facials

— dressing well

— a barbershop trim or shave

— regular medical and dental checkups

– cooking or baking something delicious, especially “just” for yourself

— a pot of tea in the afternoon, possibly with a biscuit or two (no sad little teabag in a cup!)

— naps!

drawing, painting, taking photos, nurturing your creative self

— doing yoga

— playing music

— singing, alone or with others

— exercise

— dancing (check out this amazing early morning event I go to)

— keeping a calm, clean, lovely home, (or at least a dedicated space within it)

— the company of dear friends

— reading for pure pleasure

— visiting a gallery or museum

— wearing a lovely scent

— gardening

— taking a luxuriously long bath or shower

— spending time in nature

— silent solitude

— listening to music

— candlelight

— unplugging from all devices and social media

— attending a religious service

— volunteer work

coloring (have you seen the latest trend — adult coloring books?)

— cuddling and/or caring for your pet(s)

– handiwork like knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing embroidery — or woodwork

— meditation

— prayer

Making art can be a way to decompress
Making art can be a way to decompress

Do you take good care of yourself?


23 thoughts on “Take good care of yourself

  1. i love this, and completely agree with this approach to life and work. i’m happy that you and jose are able to embrace this at this point in your lives. p.s. your flowers are lovely.

    1. I thought this one would resonate with you! Our lives are much happier now that he is freelance — less stress, (no loss of 2 hrs commuting every day), less office insanity. We have to hustle, but that’s up to us to control.


  2. Lovely post, Caitlin, on a subject I try to remind myself of daily. A couple of intense life events in the past two years made me reevaluate my work habits–I was working 7 days a week at least for a few hours, so work was always on my mind and finances a constant concern. I found a list of 12 “Zen Things” and printed it out in bold large font and taped it to the wall in my office at eye level where I see it every day. It’s a reminder of a way of life. Number one on the list is “Do one thing at a time.” No more multi-tasking–the end result is a higher quality consequence. I don’t want to miss any more seasonal highs, like the golden falls we have here in Colorado, because my nose is glued to the computer. Getting outdoors even for a short walk is amazingly refreshing–

  3. It was so interesting to read that excerpt about the differences in work culture in Switzerland vs the States!

    I like your list of self-care suggestions. I always feel better when I make time to read a good book, and reading a good book in the bath is supremely relaxing. 🙂 And last week, I started going to a yoga class — a great way to de-stress.

    1. It was fun to make a list, trying to think of every possible way (and there are others, for sure) that’s healthy, affordable and fun. I’m very tempted by the adult coloring books!

      Good for you with yoga…it’s never been a good fit for me. It’s difficult!

  4. Reblogged this on louisely room and commented:
    Dear Caitlin,

    I like your list of self-care, well i guess we have many things in common in this list.

    Mine are :

    -listening to music
    -the company of dear friends
    -cooking for myself, and for love ones
    -doing solitude hobbies such as knitting and crocheting
    -praying .

  5. Pingback: Let’s start a revolution. The ‘won’t do’ list. | This is Eli

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