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Self-care in the itchy-scratchy place

Sunday, September 18, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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So it turns out I’m in good company. There are quite a few of us hanging out in the itchy-scratchy place. Which means it was worth telling the truth about how I’ve been feeling and it is certainly worth sharing a little bit more of what I’ve been learning.

I finished my last post with the observation that you’ve got to take even better care of yourself while you are in this place. And I promised to write more about that soon.

Now seems like soon enough. Right?

Here’s what I realised, as I walked around the Wellington south coast with my friend Tink last week: When life feels unclear, when new things are emerging; you need more energy, more rest and more clarity than usual. Which means –

You need to take even better care of yourself than usual.

It seems obvious, now that I’ve written it out like that. But in practice, I had been feeling like the way to get through the discomfort of the transition was by working – by mapping things out, researching, creating, connecting the dots and finding the way forward.

This is a lesson I seem to need to learn over and over and over again. The dance between allowing things to emerge and making things happen. It’s in my nature to want to make things happen. But life keeps teaching me that there are many things beyond my control.

I’m not saying I have no role to play. Because I do.

I’m not saying ‘leave it all in the hands of the Universe/God/the Goddess’ because that’s not how I think it works either.

What I see when I watch the lives of people all over the world – in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Gaza as well as in New Zealand, Australia and the USA – is that we each do have a role to play in creating a kinder, more just, safer world where everyone can flourish.

There is work for each of us to do.

And yet there will be times when there is little we can do right now. There will be times when we need to wait. Times when we need to let things ripen. Times when we need to rest ourselves.

There will be times when our role is shifting. When our children leave home and we find ourselves standing on the brink of a whole new phase in our lives, a new way to serve in the world. Times when one door closes behind us and we don’t yet know which door to go through, or perhaps we don’t even see any doors at all. Yet.

And in those times we need to take even better care of ourselves.


Because we need clarity. And we need courage. And we need compassion.

It takes all those things to hang out in the itchy-scratchy place of transition, and it takes conscious self-care to cultivate them. Self-care is going to look a little bit different for all of us, but here are some of the ways I’ve been taking better care of myself lately:

  1. Getting more sleep
  2. Closing ‘open loops’ on my to-do list
  3. Clearing out my physical space
  4. Walking
  5. Yoga
  6. Connecting
  7. Less sugar, more quinoa

Your list is likely to look a bit different, but in case you are interested – here’s the ‘why’ for a few of those items.

Closing loops – leaving jobs undone, or avoiding difficult decisions or conversations makes me uncomfortable and right now I don’t need any more discomfort. So one at a time, little by little, I’m closing those open loops and claiming back the clarity and energy they have been leaching.

Clearing space – I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds a messy room or closet depressing, even overwhelming on a bad day. Clearing out my closet, storage space, drawers and book shelves clears space not only in my home but also in my mind. I’ve broken this job down into bite-sized chunks and I’m tackling one or two a week. Let me tell you, clearing out = an instant energy and clarity boost.

Connecting – when I spend time with my closest friends I get broadband-highspeed-downloads of clarity, compassion and courage. So this week I chose dinner with a friend over a night of work at the restaurant. I chose walks with a wise one over an extra couple of hours of work. And it made all the difference to my work when I came back to it. Connection may very well be the secret ingredient in this mix. Give it a try.

The rest are all pretty self-explanatory. Sleep. Walking. Yoga. Less sugar. More quinoa. This is how we cultivate clarity, connection, courage and compassion.

It doesn’t take a degree in self-care to know what we need, right? It just takes permission – from ourself first and foremost.

And in my case, it took a reminder that there are times in my life when my most important work is to care for myself, so that I am ready – well-oiled, well-rested, well-connected and well-equipped with clarity, compassion and courage – to do my work as it emerges.


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4 Responses to "Self-care in the itchy-scratchy place"

  1. I’m less itchy just connecting to your thoughts and feelings.

  2. Steffi says:

    Thank you!

  3. Roxanne says:

    You touched on this in a recent interview, but one of my self-care avenues has to do with remembering joy… remembering its importance, remembering how to play, how to laugh, even when times are hard. When sailing is smooth and the living is easy, all of that comes naturally. Now, in the itchy-scratchy place, a reminder to seek, create and highlight joy in my life, even in the smallest places, is my most trusty method of self-care.

  4. […] scratchy place‘ I’m currently dwelling in, and unsurprisingly advises extra self-care as it’s antidote. Image via Rachel. No related posts. Filed under Careers, Uncategorized […]

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