As you wrap up your summer travels, how do you want to reconnect with your community? What rhythms and routines do you want to nurture or reestablish in your day-to-day life?
The earth element, associated with late summer in East Asian medicine, emphasizes connecting with your communities and tending to yourself by establishing daily habits that support your well-being.
What brought you joy over the summer and how can you incorporate more of it into your life? Were you introduced to a new routine or skill? Can you share some of what you learned and catch up with your friends by hosting them at a casual dinner party?
And think about what naturally got set aside over the summer. Are there activities you’d like to pick up again? Maybe an exercise class you’d like to return to? What about people you haven’t seen lately and would like to reconnect with?
For more ideas on how to plug back into your community and your self-care routines, see the suggestions below!
1) Enjoy the arts. As I walked through Golden Gate Park with a friend this August, we came across a piano in the middle of JFK Drive. People basked in the lawn chairs as a pianist and a guitarist jammed together. Eventually the guitarist excused himself and the pianist continued playing, to be replaced by another volunteer musician when the pianist left. It was a sweet reminder of how art and music connect us and need not be a fancy or exclusive affair.
Impromptu concerts are great, but you can take advantage of a more organized approach, like the Flower Piano concerts hosted at San Francisco Botanical Gardens September 8-12th. Performances will include Mozart, Motown, Beethoven, Beatles, karoke, poetry, and more. Make sure to get tickets and mark it on your schedule!
2) Create in community. Creative arts classes allow you to expand your community. In addition to providing regular social interaction, artistic activities help you relax and use a different part of your brain. Evidence shows that creating art activates the reward center in your brain, increases serotonin levels, and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, being creative can increase your ability to focus.
College of Marin offers an excellent selection of music, visual and dramatic arts classes both through the college and through community education classes. I love the college’s modern dance classes taught by Alan Scofield. The City of San Rafael community centers also offer ceramics, ballroom dance, Japanese flower arranging, and other creative arts classes.
3) Cook for yourself and those you love. No need to be fancy or spend hours on preparation. The simple habits of nourishing your body are part of the earth element of Chinese medicine and set you up for success.
If you typically start your day with coffee, skip breakfast, snack around 2 p.m. when you’re hangry, and are too exhausted to cook dinner, this is especially important for you. Try preparing hard-boiled eggs for the week ahead, and have one with your coffee, on your way to work, or mid-morning. Notice if this helps reset your hunger cues. If you can, surround yourself with healthier options at lunchtime, so you don’t end up munching crackers. See if resetting your eating schedule impacts your energy and ability to be present at the end of the day.
Does cooking for others inspire you to prepare better food than you would for yourself? Consider making food to share once a week … host a dinner party, meet a friend for a picnic or bring food to share with your coworkers. You can find seasonal recipe inspiration on my blog and at petersom.com.
4) Set boundaries with others and yourself. Part of caring for yourself and others is setting healthy boundaries. Might you benefit from acknowledging your own needs and/or letting others know about them? For instance, one of my boundaries is not answering work texts, phone calls, or e-mails over the weekend. This allows me to recharge and return to work on Monday refreshed.
If you struggle to identify when you need boundaries, consider working with a therapist and/or reading Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Newwab.
5) Schedule self-care appointments for the fall. Plan your self-care appointments before you “need” them. It’s easy to put it off until you reach a point of desperation. But you can make those appointments now before your time is hijacked by the holiday season or other commitments. I recommend monthly maintenance acupuncture to help manage your stress, anxiety, and/or pain levels so you never feel like you “have” to get in for a same-day appointment. Schedule an appointment or plan your monthly maintenance visits now.