My husband took this photo a few years ago while we were on a family vacation. When he showed it to me, I stopped breathing for a moment. It reminded me of a painful time in my life when I frequently dreamed of being on a boat, sailing away from it all. It also reminded me of what anchored me.
During a maxed-out two-year period of my life, I was a pressure cooker just waiting to blow. Running on a constant loop in my head was the phrase, “It’s just too much … it’s just too much.” A great deal of the “too much” was self imposed—unachievable standards, relentless distractions, and an overabundance of commitments. At the time, I didn’t realize the choices I was making were causing this constant feeling of overwhelm. I only knew that carrying the weight of too much made me want to escape.
One night I made it all the way out to the car. I was in my pajamas, and I shivered as my bare foot stepped on the gas pedal.
But I could not leave.
I went back inside to get my children. I gathered them up, one in each arm. I remember how they cried in confusion and fear. I made it to the door and realized I could not leave without my husband either. And I could not leave without my beloved calico cat, Callie.
I could not leave my people. That’s when it dawned on me: they were not the problem. They were easy targets for my stress and frustration, but they were not the problem. The problem was the constant weight of “too much.”
Slowly, one by one, I began to scale back on my commitments. I lowered the bar. I learned how to say no. I stopped depriving myself of sleep in the name of productivity. I turned my phone on silent during vital connection times of the day. I stopped being accessible to the world so I could be accessible to those who were my world. I am still using these practices today—some days are better than others, but I choose to focus on progress not perfection.
Every now and then, when we’re flying on a plane and I see a boat on the water, I’ll still imagine my escape. I’ll dream of a life with wind in my hair—no demands, no requests, no duties, no plan. My breathing is steady; the muscles in my shoulder aren’t tight; my skin is clear. They're no emails to answer, no work deadlines to meet, no bills to pay, no expectations of me whatsoever—there is just sunshine, stacks of books, and the lull of the water.
Something always pulls me back from my reverie – my husband touches my leg or one of my children says, “Hey, Mom.” And just like that, my “sail away” moment is over.
That’s when I turn and see the faces of my beloved people. That’s when I give thanks for my “anchor moments” – moments that have shaped me into the most authentic, truest, best version of me … moments that have lead me to find peace right where I’m at.
Here are four self-care actions to revive to your weary soul today:
1. Speak up for yourself
Voice the unspeakable to a trusted soul. “I need help” … “I am afraid” … “I am overwhelmed” … “I haven’t felt like myself in a while." There is something about voicing the burden that makes it lighter. Give someone a chance to support this person they love and care for deeply. If speaking up means making an overdue call to seek treatment for your mind, body, or soul, do that. Do that today.
2. Gift yourself
When is the last time you gifted yourself? Try a short walk outside … a beautiful new water bottle to encourage proper hydration … or a journal and a little time to write in it. Offer yourself forgiveness for that mistake you made this morning. Give yourself a moment. Everyone needs a moment of grace every now and then. Giving yourself a do-nothing moment won’t throw off the whole schedule, but it just might improve your outlook.
3. Replenish yourself
Maybe it’s been so long since you felt joy that you forgot how it feels. Think back. What made you feel happy as child? Is it the smell of a library book? Perhaps it is the sound of nature. Perhaps it’s strumming a guitar or watching an old movie. Go back to a happy memory and recreate it. Invite someone to do it with you and it becomes a new memory.
4. Listen to your inner protector
What are you telling yourself has to be accomplished today? What are you telling yourself about your parenting skills or job performance? What are you telling yourself about your appearance? Instead of listening to your inner bully – the critical voice that pushes you to unrealistic standards and picks you apart – listen to your inner protector. Your inner protector gives a voice to the pain. Your inner protector says, “You’re doing the best you can,” and “It’s good enough for today.” Your inner protector places value on your life and affirms the importance of taking care of YOU. Every day, you do all you can to care for your people. Today you need to care for yourself. Only love today. Only love today. Let that be your anchor.
What began as a mantra to silence her inner bully, only love today, slowly became the practice of Rachel Macy Stafford’s life. ONLY LOVE TODAY is now a book of bite-size reminders to help you remain anchored in love despite the stresses and distractions of everyday life. Each short entry (organized by seasons of life) serves as a re-set button directing you back to what matters most. Secure your copy of this highly anticipated book by clicking here.