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  • Joanne Gibbs


If we treat self care as another box to tick, it runs the risk of turning into a disgruntling chore or robotic task, rather than the original intention of caring for yourself.

Self care can easily pivot into self discipline or a type of self-flagellation such as exfoliating the top layer of winter skin off with the latest couriered self care product we receive in the mail or pushing ourselves to pound the suburban pavement to run the 5 k radius. When in actual fact, we are so exhausted that all we really want to do is flop ourselves down in the backyard's long grass, that hasn’t yet been mowed. In reality, we may be exhausted due to homeschooling, monotony and so many virtual meetings in bedrooms or closets, that we haven’t even noticed.

When our body screams “STOP” and the mind yells “NO, YOU SHOULD JUST….”, the mind is likely to win. Our mind is the captain of our ship: the strategic command centre that demands obedience without question. It dictates everything we need to accomplish and all the reasons we need to do more and better. Maybe it tells you “you’re not smart enough” or “you’re not fit enough” or “you’re not as good as them”. It can be like a broken record or like watching Instagram on high speed.

This is why self-reflection is such a necessary survival skill to save us from the overwhelming and unrelenting day of time pressured work, combined with homeschooling, to do lists, overfilling inboxes and our unmade bed that has been zoomed to all our esteemed colleagues. It helps us see clearly enough to prioritise and make wise choices.

Self-reflection can indeed create long term positive change. Self-reflection has a different and intelligent game plan. It looks inwards and into the internal office of our mind. It questions all of our usual reflexive thinking, behaviour and habits. It seeks our blind spot and shines a light on the shadow self, hiding in the corner unhappy, eating chocolate and drinking alcohol.

It begins with finding a seat and sitting with ourselves. Just this and no more. Observing our body, thoughts and feelings. As French mathematician Pascal says - “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Self-reflection brings forth wisdom, awareness, introspection and the magic ingredient - curiosity. It is a form of self-enquiry. It is a skill that is expected in medicine, nursing and the caring arts.

We were born awake, curious, excited to learn, smell, feel and touch. To fall down and get up again. It is innate. As babies, we embraced the art of rest and the joy of curiosity. This is the antidote to burnout.


We didn’t strive for perfection. We played. Joy was simple and messy. Self-care was being nourished by food and water, splashing in a bath until clean, sleeping without distractions or alarms set too early. Self-care was knowing when our innate needs were not being met - food, water, toileting, warmth and contact - and letting ourselves and others know without guilt and resentment.

Can you give yourself the permission to simply pause? Can you take a cognitive leap and lie in your backyard's long grass and breathe in the rich scent of green? Can you look up at the butterflies and feel the sun on your shoulders, until the weight of burden begins to dissolve.

Ask yourself this one question – “How am I?”. Listen and wait. Wait for nothing and be open to anything. Rest some more. Breathe. Observe your thoughts. Announce your feelings. Witness all the physical sensations that remind you of being human. The pleasant and the uncomfortable.

Ask yourself again “How am I? How am I physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually?" Take the time to reflect from the wellspring of wisdom deep inside you. Challenge the habitual thoughts. Dive deeper into your pool of stillness and silence for one more long deep exhalation.

Then ask yourself, “what is it I need physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for myself right now? What is it I truly need?”. And wait. Breathe. Softly navigating the terrain of your heart. Finding the path to your heart’s inner garden.

Give yourself the simple gift of self-reflection to find the self care you truly need.

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Are you looking for a delicious good looking snack to break up your day? Something creative and delicious to look forward to? Something easy enough to get off the couch for? Then say hello to gooey, fudgey, peanut and chocolate slice. This is a good looking, tasty, and to top it off, vegan and refined sugar free treat!


Why not turn baking into a new sensory experience. Create some clean space, pick a bunch of herbs or flowers from the garden and put them in a groovy jar or pretty vase, light a candle and put on your favourite playlist. Make this a date with your creative gourmet self. The goal is to switch off from boring chores and repetitive twitter tweets, immerse yourself in a sensory bath of colour, textures, smells and tastes, to create the prettiest healthiest snack even Donna Hay would be proud of. Remember self care doesn't have to be monotonous or scripted. Make it sexy, nourishing, unique and spontaneous. Just like this slice!

Refined-sugar free, gooey chocolate and peanut slice

Takes about 15mins to make.

Bottom layer:

2x cups of oats

1x cup of dates

3x tablespoons of coconut oil

Middle layer

1/2 x cup hot water

1x cup mixed nuts

1x cup peanuts

3x tablespoons of peanut butter

½ cup of maple syrup

Top layer

1/3 cup dark chocolate

Rose petals for decoration

Method:

1. Combine in a food processor: oats, dates (pitted) and coconut oil, and blitz until fine. The coconut oil should bind the oats and dates. Use less coconut oil if using Medjool dates

2. Press into a baking pan, lined with paper. Should be a few millimeters thick. Place into freezer whilst making the other layers.

3. For middle layer, use the food processor to blitz the nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, maple syrup and hot water, until a soft, gooey consistency.

4. Press into the pan, as another layer above the first layer. Should be a couple of centimeters thick.

5. Place into freezer.

6. Melt the chocolate on the stove, using a double boiler.

7. Smear over the top of the second layer, sprinkle the rose petals and freeze for at least 30mins.

8. Serve and enjoy <3

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Updated: Jul 31

I realised in the midst of Corona that what the world was experiencing was a surge of adrenaline underneath a felt and palpable fear and grief. I felt this myself and could see it and feel it in those around me.


During the last six years I have worked in hospitals delivering self care sessions to dedicated and often burnt out healthcare staff. They were tired and depleted before the pandemic. During COVID-19 this depletion turned into a resolute steadfastness supported by the bodies amazing internal fight flight system. Many are now exhausted and suffering from deep fatigue, usually referred to as the stage after the virus has ceased to exist in the tissues and known in medicine as 'post viral fatigue.'


When we name what we are individually or collectively feeling, we can move closer to accepting what is here and decide on what is necessary. These messengers called emotions knock on our somatic door known as our body. Listening and understanding what these feelings are and mean for us requires practice. The practice of being present. Of showing up again and again for yourself, by yourself, with yourself. Being quiet. Being still and listening. Being kind. And breathing. When we are overwhelmed and fighting and flighting we forget to breathe. Being aware of our body and breath helps us disentangle from the urgency and anxiety of our minds. We can anchor ourselves to our values so we have a compass to navigate all the changes and unpredictability life throws our way.


Last month I was also exhausted. Everything I had worked so hard for now looked as though it had to be completely re-worked because of COVID-19. I didn't have the energy to think or do anything anymore. I wore old tracksuits and forgot to wash my hair. I packed up my desk and put everything on hold.


One particular day in the middle of being housebound except for an hour of daily exercise I threw my runners on and grabbed the dog and leash. While I clipped hers on I imagined I was un-clipping mine. I felt wobbly. I had begun zooming some clients and instead of feeling competent and confident, I felt I had stepped into an unfamiliar virtual world, strapped into a strange vehicle I was intuitively driving blind. It was exhausting. I couldn't read all the little nuances and the energy and moods in the room that had become my skill set.


I did what I always recommended to my clients when in overwhelm. Exercise. Exercise mindfully in nature! So dog and I fled with six legs down our familiar streets and towards the bay, gulping mouthfuls of big blue sky. We smiled at hearing birdsong and seeing wide branched trees. We ran past grass, the water and rocks. Both hearts racing as fast as our legs. Dog and I sucking in cool air, so glad to be out of the stifling office. Running away from the office cabin and its sticky icky fever feeling. We eventually found a track to run along, dog leading the way, taking human for the run.


We finally stopped to inspect patches of velvet green. Dog wanted to sniff and dig. I was happy to catch my breath so bent over to momentarily pant and pause while self reflecting on signs and symptoms of peri-menopause versus menopause. Hot flushes and COVID-19 was not good timing. My mind reminded me to shut up at this point, so I let these thoughts go.


Then something small caught my eye. I tried to find it but wasn't sure what I was looking for. I scanned a hundred identical long blades of weeds, leaves and grass to find the blade of grass I was looking for. I stopped, knelt down in the dirt and leant in closer to this new underworld. A blade of grass sat there before me, still proudly holding a precious drop of morning dew that was ablaze with shimmering rainbows from the sun. This drop of dew innocently sat on the grasses slender spine, totally unaware of its beauty ....I felt I was transfixed on a rare sculpture. This was nature's gallery. One drop of drew that somehow escaped evaporation in the warmth of the day. In that tiny moment, something physiologically shifted in my heart and body. The scene before me was like swallowing anxiolytic medicine. I felt calm seep all the way through me and deep into my bones as I crouched on my knees to the ground, bowed in reverence, inhaling the soft dark scent of afternoon earth. I imprinted into my cells this blade of grass, swaying and full, drunk with delight as it coupled this drop of rain, like holding its precious lover. Such a simple unexpected sight for me to get lost and tangled in.


Before Corona, I would not have had time to stop, kneel and view something so hidden, sensual and secretive. I was busy juggling a business, three hormonal teenage children, university postgraduate degree, two rescue dogs, a rescue cat, never ending housework and a husband who was equally as busy as I.


I would have walked straight by this majestic biblical scene; a blade of grass delicately balancing a magical drop of dew on its belly, reflecting nature's hidden world back to me. Yes, I certainly would have walked past and over; and on; too busy to notice anything except the white noise in my head - the incessant planning of the next twenty things I had to do or fix, that should have been done yesterday or even last year.


And now here I was, in the middle of a crisis, a pandemic, a surreal time of stress and uncertainty. I found myself crouching on the side of a path, hidden from all the noise and doing, peering into the green decolletage of the bush. Like a green door into another world and abstract plane of time, sound and feeling.


I found such solace being with something so small, with no voice or words, teaching and offering me the wisdom, compassion and silence that I always craved but could never previously find or capture, in my blind busy haze. I didn't know how, and didn't have time. I didn't have the key to open the green door.


Thankfully I didn't have my phone to take a photo, now grateful I captured the three dimensional image into the three dimensions of me - my heart, my soul and my mind. So more powerful and lasting then an effortless click of a button on lifeless plastic.


My shout out is this: Give yourself permission and a little time to be curious, to find that hidden door. Slow down, stop, surrender or sleep. Allow yourself to be and to feel. No matter what feelings arise - feeling weary, wary or worried. Remember this - we are human, not robots. We are not perfect. In our human weaknesses, we do suffer. Let this become our learned strength.


Allow yourself to grieve your loss of old ways, life, plans, dreams and freedom. Trust in this moment, and tomorrow. Then allow new plans and dreams to surface. With fresh eyes, an open mind and another route. Another way.


When we can all walk freely and safely together down familiar streets, our life and the world will be different, though we are not quite sure why or how. But it will be different. We will be different. There may be more meaning. Simple changes. New insight. Hopefully a new awareness that leads us back to ourselves and each other. The wonderment of this precious life we humans share for a short time on this earth may be more vivid.


So be gentle with your self and your world right now. Be quiet. Be still. Breathe. Kneel down in the grass and expect nothing. You may just find your own green door.


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