This is Episode 4 of my Souls@Work series. Episodes 1 through 3 focused on Phase 1, which is about setting yourself up for success. This episode is the last part of that process (if you’d like to listen to the podcast, visit my page on Soul Growth Radio).
So far, we have looked how you can use your commute to ground you and open your heart. And also how you can turn your workspace into a touchstone for being your highest self even on the most challenging days.
Today, we are going to look at soul care.
Soul care is much like self care—it’s all those things that help us be our best selves. When we think of self care, it includes things like getting enough sleep, eating nutritionally, and keeping our bodies healthy through exercise. It’s the care of the physical self (read Thrive or take the online course to get better at self care).
Soul care is tending to the spiritual self. It’s all the choices and practices that help your spiritual self flourish and grow.
Now for me, self care and soul care are connected. If my physical body is a disaster, I don’t have much energy left to really live from my higher purpose. And it’s often when my soul is needing some TLC that I turn to chocolate ice cream and binge watch reality TV shows.
Dr. Brené Brown talks about the difference between vegging out and numbing. If I’m using ice cream and TV to genuinely relax, then it might be OK. But if I am using it to numb out my feelings so that I don’t have to feel them or address their source, then it’s a problem.
As you can imagine, her research has found that millions of us are actually numbing out, which is why we are the most obese, out of shape and addicted generation ever. Yes ever.
I think a whole lot of folks need to learn about soul care because it’s when we are out of alignment with that inner being of light that we make those poor choices.
And personally, that misalignment is always the source of anxiety and sadness for me. I have found this in my coaching clients too – for many of us, depression and anxiety are really our soul trying to be heard.
So what does soul care look like? Well, it’s different for each of us but it’s essentially the daily and weekly practices that help you be the most connected to your soul — the things that make YOU feel that you are in touch with your true essence as a spiritual being.
Those moments just feel different than the rest of the day. There is usually either a deep sense of inner calm and rightness or a wonderful zing of positive energy and hope. Both are awesome and what we want to do is dial up the things that bring you those feelings.
Now before I get in to sharing some ideas, I would like you to tap into your own wisdom about this. Take a few minutes to do a little reflecting and even journaling. Ask yourself:
- When I have had that shift in feeling and/or energy that let’s me know I am connected to my higher self, what’s going on?
- Am I in certain locations?
- What activities am I doing?
Think beyond the recent past to when you were younger too. Try to capture as many as you can. Then ask yourself “what else” until your list feels complete. Pause for a couple of minutes now and just capture what you already know is true for you.
And we’re back.
Already, your mini-reflection should give you a good menu for soul care. The goal is to intentionally weave those things in to our daily lives, and especially our work week when we can be the most challenged by the human experience.
I think the menu metaphor is helpful too. Because some activities give me a quick boost while others are ones that should be languished over and enjoyed slowly. And some items on my list are more effective for me at certain times of day, much like breakfast, lunch and dinner items.
So let’s start with your soul breakfast. What is something that starts your day off right and can carry you forward? See if something on your list jumps out as an obvious soul breakfast contender.
For me, when I start the day with meditation and prayer (which includes gratitude) it changes the whole tone of my day. It reconnects me immediately to my higher purpose and reminds me that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.
For some people, their soul breakfast is getting up early to enjoy the quiet of the morning before the bustle begins.
And for others, it’s playing uplifting music while they shower so they start the day energized and happy.
There is no right answer – there is just what is true for you. We covered some of this in Episode 2 where we looked at our commutes. So you may already have your commute set up to be your soul breakfast.
Now what about your soul lunch? What can work as mid-day boost of soul care? And are there some that are better fits for the work week versus weekend?
One type of soul lunch that really works for me is movement. Walking in nature always shifts me because I can’t look at trees and flowers and bees without being astounded by the glory of it all. Just getting outside and seeing nature reminds me who I am and what this is all really about.
Swimming shifts me too. When I dive into water, there is something powerful about the physical sensation of immersion. I feel like I am shedding the layers of ego to feel the real me.
And of course, yoga is great because it really gets me in my body in an intentional way. Designed as a spiritual practice, the breathing and poses always get me to mindfulness no matter how stressed and distracted I was when I stepped on to the mat.
What are some things you could do mid-day that tend your soul? And can you identify a few to choose from that range from quick and easy (10 minute walk or time with the bees) to longer and more elaborate, like going swimming or doing yoga?
Now let’s look at the afternoon. We know that most of us experience a drop in energy and focus in the afternoon, which can be exacerbated by our self care choice around nutrition and sleep.
But it’s an opportunity to be intentional about tending to your soul instead of grabbing sugar or caffeine.
I call these soul snacks, and they should be quick and easy energy boosters. Maybe you take a break and look at a funny or inspirational video online. I love Soul Pancake for this, and the whimsical and uplifting Peadoodles cartoons.
Or chat with people who make you feel seen or safe.
There are lots of great smart phone apps too that can give you that quick boost like Head Space and Buddhify. It could even mean that you save texting your friends or calling loved ones for this time of day. Just remember that the goal is to connect to your higher self. For me, calling Pema or Lisa does that. But my mom? Not so much. Cool – but not soulful.
Now let’s turn to the evening. When you are leaving work, what soul dinners will help you shed the energy of work and arrive home at your best? Again, you may have identified this as part of your commute process from Episode 2.
One aspect of this may be intentionally letting go of stress. When I have had a difficult day, I often yell in my car on the way home. I’ll speak my truth and say the stuff I have been holding in. A good scream is nice too and I always feel calmer, which is the precursor to connecting with my highest self.
Lately, I have been taking a page from my daughter who is in elementary school. When she comes home, she plays. She looks for fun things to do and abandons herself to the joy of it all. Nothing lights up our souls like joy.
I think us grownups can get too serious with all the should and to do lists but making some space for play can be a great soul dinner. Dr. Stuart Brown researches the benefits of play and as he says, the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression. Check out his great TED talk.
Mindfulness practices are another great soul dinner. On Wednesdays, I take a yin yoga class after work and it’s amazing how much that feeds my soul. Shifts me every single time and it’s a great way to spend Hump Day (God, I love that camel!).
Nurturing things also connect me like reading an uplifting book or taking a yummy bubble bath. Cuddling with my family or snuggling with my kitties is a regular soul dinner of mine as is watching a sunset or sitting in my garden or doing some doodling with my colorful markers.
Media works too as long as it’s positive and soulful. I record Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday show and watch it during the week. And I love the Spiritual Cinema Circle that sends you four heartwarming movies every month.
And of course, we can make even the most mundane activities an opportunity for mindfulness by just being completely present to the sensations we have while eating or washing dishes or grocery shopping.
As we end each day, we need to have a final soul dessert. That one is easy. It’s gratitude. It’s ending every day with writing or speaking at least gratitude journaling. Speaking or writing is important – just thinking them is not as powerful in terms of shifting your body and spirit.
No matter what happened during my day, expressing gratitude always takes me to my truth that I am a spiritual being in a human suit, here to learn the lessons of this soul school.
Now, I don’t do all these things every day but I do try to do a few of them throughout the day, picking and choosing what I need.
You see, tending my soul is my responsibility – no one else is going to do it but me. And often, when I am out of sorts with the world, it’s really because I have not been caring for that inner self and I’m out of sorts with my soul.
Soul care is really important, especially if we have life experiences that challenge us. And who doesn’t?
So consider the ways you can dial up your soul care by making a menu of options and choosing from it daily.
Alright, my fellow souls@work. I’ll catch you next time when we start Phase 2, which is all about how we show up to be seen.
Image used with permission of artist.