July 2012 2nd Annual Self-Care Retreat: Support and Connection

by Valerie on July 7, 2012 · 14 comments

Self-Care 2012 Badge _thumb[1]_thumb

Did any of you read The Busy Trap, published recently in the New York Times? It is so a propos to self-care:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

The peer pressure to be busy is directly in conflict with self-care, including one of its cornerstones: getting enough sleep and rest:

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

I can particularly relate to the last sentence of that paragraph.  Let’s face it – many of us Type A folk are busy because we are ambitious – we don’t just want to succeed at jobs and careers, but also at life, which can mean different things to each of us:

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Living in Washington, DC, the entire article particularly resonated with me.  The fact I am writing this Saturday late in the evening, after a morning spent on practicing a presentation for work with a friend, and an afternoon spent visiting with two other friends, followed by dinner and a post-dinner nap before I got back to finishing this piece – well, let’s just say the irony is not lost on me. 

I had initially meant for this piece to be about cultivating friendships with others who support one’s self-care and wellness endeavors, including both avoiding foods that make me sick (which is a form of self-care) as well as moving more.  I am so lucky that over the years many of my friends have been wonderfully supportive in a variety of ways:

  • Food and movement: My friend Laura, knowing that I want to incorporate more movement into my life, has suggested going for walks instead of meeting over dinner to catch up.  Laura has also been a rockstar when it comes to feeding me – when she had her engagement party, she got me Mary’s Gone Crackers and some Wegman’s hummus that is gluten-free, and kept them aside until I arrived so they would not get cross-contaminated on the table holding the food. She also made sure to ask her wedding caterer whether there would be things for me to eat (there were, and the caterer prepared a separate plate for me). And speaking of weddings, my friend Hilary was also really great about making sure I could eat at her wedding, as were the hosts of a wedding my husband and I attended recently as part of our New York Minute.
  • Trying a new (intimidating) class and food : Over Memorial Day weekend, my friend Christina, knowing I had wanted to try BodyPump for a while but was a bit intimidated (not to mention the fact that no BodyPump class at my gym really fit my schedule without some serious calendar and logistical gymnastics) invited me to join her for a class at her gym, and took the time to show me the basics before the class started.  Then we went for brunch at a place that accommodate my gluten-free vegan diet (see my tips on eating gluten-free and vegan at Le Pain Quotidien).  Christina was also the first friend who acknowledged she could probably not feed me safely, as she bakes quite a bit in her kitchen and she understands cross-contamination. Eating at other people’s home can be a tough subject for many of us, as cross-contamination is often an issue (Linda wrote a fantastic post on this a few months ago, where she noted that the number of times she has gotten sick from eating at a friend’s home is greater than the number of times she has gotten sick from eating at a restaurant) and I was grateful to my friend Christina for being so understanding. 
  • Providing community for wellness and food: I am also grateful for friends like Gena, who has fantastic potlucks where the majority of dishes are gluten-free and where everyone understands cross-contamination.  Incidentally, Gena, along with Laura and Christina, were all very supportive of me trying to move to a morning workout schedule, something which literally was years in the making, and which I still marvel at.  These ladies, along with Victoria, have been great cheerleaders as I met this goal, and have also answered my unending questions about the logistical how-to’s on morning workouts, fitting in getting ready, not to mention the very important concept of breakfast (we all know how much I have a breakfast bias).
  • Long-distance cheering: My friend Jen has read this blog for a long time – to be honest, I actually did not realize this until she complimented me in an out of the blue email on all the changes I had made in my life.  When I saw her last March, she was the one who suggested we go to Candle Café as she knew it would suit my diet and she enjoys eating there herself.  

Initially this piece was going to be about cultivating this support but here is the funny thing: I am not quite sure how I did that.  These lovely ladies did this of their own initiative, and for that I am very grateful.  I suppose the two key things have really been communicating my goals and accepting the support.  This blog helped to some extent with the communication piece,as I would talk about these goals here, which was an indirect way of communicating what I was trying to do, though I also shared my goals with some of them more directly.  Many of my friends have been very supportive generally, in addition to the ladies I have mentioned above.

That said, it has not all been sparkles and unicorns.  Not all my friends have been supportive – I actually wrote last year about one particularly upsetting episode about a friend who was just not willing to be accommodate or understanding when I initially changed my diet and was going through an adjustment period and dealing with cravings. I have also had several friends and acquaintances be less than complimentary about the recipes on my blog or, more generally, my approach to food.  Sometimes these comments come from a place of concern (especially from friends who know I had had a lot of issues with food restriction) but sometimes the comments are just plain judgmental.  I know that food is an emotional topic (year-round, but also especially on holidays, as I wrote here in healthier through the holidays).

I have more thoughts on support and connection with regard to self-care, but it is already quite late and I need sleep.  I see a follow-up post on this topic brewing though and, in the meantime, please leave any thoughts on this topic in the comments!

Finally, more information on our retreat this month:

Our fantastic group of bloggers and themes:

These posts are to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves. We would like everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether that’s through personal reflection, journal or other self-care. If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week. You can write generally about self-care and how you include it in your life, or “try on” one of the practices we’re blogging about over the course of the next week (food, support and connection, movement, creativity and inward reflection). We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too! At the end of the month, we’ll include a roundup of all the self-care posts you write to inspire others to work on their own self-care.

As a little added incentive, for each post on your goals and your progress you link back here or one of the other co-hosts, you’ll be entered to receive a $50 gift certificate to Nuts.com (they are not sponsoring, Cheryl is donating this gift and wanted something with healthy gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, etc. options).

I updated last year’s badge to use for the retreat; feel free to use it in your posts. If you would like to be included in our roundup and the drawing, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by July 30, 2011.

Non-bloggers who would like to contribute, please e-mail the full text to the same address and it will be included in the roundup.

For a “flavor” of previous retreats, here’s a link to the July Self-Care Retreat and the December Sanity Retreat.

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General Disclosures & Disclaimers

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gena July 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thank you for this very sweet post, Val. I am so glad that you feel love and support beaming from me to you at all times.

I think I’m one of the few who didn’t love that article. Not because I didn’t think it was true (yes, of course there’s a lot of truth), but because I didn’t really think it was saying anything new. And as much as I love the idea of us all decreasing our busyness, in some ways I’d like it if for once someone pointed out how much busyness enables one to do. It’s hard to accomplish much in our driven world unless you do commit to being a bit consumed by your endeavors–that’s true whether we like it or not. Or perhaps I’m simply being contrary because, in spite of my 4-5 hours of sleep nightly and lack of much contemplative time, I like my busy life–balance be damned :)


2 Valerie July 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I think where the article missed the mark was differentiating between purposeful busy-ness versus mindless busy-ness, as well as the importance to carve out time for one-self which busy people, such as you, seem to be very good at :)


3 Iris July 9, 2012 at 1:13 am

I agree with you both. I read that and liked it, but of course it’s something we all know. I think that being busy with a purpose is very different from just wasting time doing things which don’t help us (like being on FB all the time, which I am guilty of) or doing things simply because you feel like you have to continually do more and be better in order to feel like you’re good enough. I see that a lot with bloggers, where they burn themselves out trying to write enough posts, do enough giveaways, have enough recipes, etc. and it takes the love and sense of purpose out of why they started blogging. I know I’ve definitely fallen into that trap before and had to take a step back and ask myself why I was blogging in order to get back on track.

Anyway, I could go on, but I definitely value doing less, being more. I also value doing more when it means being more. If that makes sense… :)


4 Victoria (District Chocoholic) July 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am always available for early morning workout motivation. Always :).

I love the new header!


5 Valerie July 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Awww thanks :)


6 Julie July 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Great post! I laughed out loud reading the quotes about everyone being “busy,” “so busy,” and “crazy busy!” Recently I’ve been fascinated by people bragging about pulling all-nighters and not sleeping to fit more into life. I love your Self-Care Retreat concept because our society should promote rest and slowing down our pace much more often. Cheers, Julie


7 Valerie July 9, 2012 at 1:24 am

Thanks Julie :) I completely agree :)


8 Cindy W. July 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I loved your post, Valerie. I do find I am more productive during busy times. If I have too much free time, I don’t seem to get as much done. For me, the key is feeling okay to say no to requests that I just don’t have time for – and not feel guilty.


9 cheryl July 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm

couldn’t agree more on the busyness. Maybe a decade ago I was pulling an all-nighter and DH was trying to coax me to bed. He wanted to know what I was doing, so I snapped, “writing a curriculum to get people to take better care of themselves, damn it!” He asked if there was a chapter on sleep (indeed, there was) and then just smirked.
I am delighted that you have supportive friends that make it easy(er) and agree that self-care takes deliberate effort!


10 MM Curator July 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Aw, I’m so glad you were able to eat at the wedding! 😀 As for being busy, I do feel busy all the time, but I also never seem to have a problem taking time for myself…not sure if it’s self-care or if I’m just lazy. 😛 If I need a break, things just don’t get done. I feel guilty about not being as productive as I could but not guilty enough to force myself to do things when I really don’t feel like doing them!


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