Busy and Renewed: Solo Self-Care

 Busy and renewed with solo self-care. The restorative properties of nature. 

Editor's note: This article first appeared in Issue 12 of Holl & Lane Magazine. 

Words and images by Linda Joy Neufeld

I grew up in a place that I consider one of the most beautiful places on earth. I think many of us might feel that way about our hometowns. I grew up outside regularly filling my longs with air that smelled of damp earth, pine needles and crisp, green ferns. If ever I felt the need to be alone, the mountains and the ocean both made themselves available to be in a heartbeat. 

Life is a funny thing, isn’t it? Where I find myself now is nothing like where I grew up. Many of you can probably say the same thing. Two years ago, I exchanged mountain ranges for urban skylines and acclimated myself to street lamps, car horns, and a life now defined by one word: busy. Never had I needed to schedule my life months in advance. Never had I wanted to meet up with a friend and told them I was free three Tuesdays from now for coffee. Between work, community involvement, catching up on social media and various obligations, we have forgotten our severe need for rest and mind renewal. 

I didn’t notice my need for restoration for some time. I don’t mean just sleep, but emotional, spiritual, mental restoration. The busy lifestyle kind of seems to creep up on us, doesn’t it? Before we know it we find ourselves running on empty, yet somehow still moving our arms and legs. In a way, it’s easier to be busy—or so we think. If we’re busy, we don’t need to process, we just follow the age-old Nike slogan and “just do it.” But a life on auto-pilot—where time runs too quickly out of our tightly clenched fists—is no life at all. It also leads to severe burnout. 

Once I noticed this severe lack of rest in my life, it started me thinking: What do I find restful? What restores my mind, my energy, my soul? I know that what was once restful to me - hiking, sitting and reading next to waterfalls or the ocean - is still nestled deeply in my soul. In fact, I heard it said once that man finds renewal by communing dominantly in one of three ways: music, fellowship, or nature. I think it’s safe to say that we all have a mix of those, but if this statement is true, then obviously my most dominant form of renewal is in nature.

But for those of us who renew our minds by communing in nature, how can we find communion in concrete? How can we modify our means for renewal to fit our ever evolving lives? 

It probably goes without saying that the answer to those questions differs for many of us, but after some significant contemplation I’ve figured out some ways that work for me, and I encourage you to think on how this looks for you.

I happen to live on a huge lake, and often like to just sit and watch how the wind tosses the waves around. There is something inexplicably healing about just watching water. No headphones, no cellphone… just me and the glossy waves.

I also began to walk over to the nearby conservatory after church on Sundays. Cities often have some sort of garden or conservatory that is open to the public, so going into a big glass building filled to its limits with greenery has been particularly healing. It’s given me room to think and to process. 

Another thing I discovered is Spotify. This sounds hilarious, but truly Spotify has playlists of glorious nature sounds: rain, birds, thunder storms, ocean waves, and even crackling fires! So when I have been out all day, I will come home, close the blinds and lay down, eyes closed, listening to sounds of nature above the sounds of traffic outside my window. 

Friends, I am a firm believer that if we ever hope to do what we do the best we can do it, our mind must be at peace, our body must be rested, and our spirit must be renewed. Think on the ways that you yourself can make this a reality in your life. I promise you that your time will not be wasted.