I’m having a little trouble getting adjusted to this new season (and school year). My summer was simply too glorious, and I still feel like hanging out at home with the novel I’m reading (Euphoria by Lily King), a blueberry scone, and a cup of chamomile tea. There are also a few television shows on my Netflix list that are calling out to me. (I’m told that Stranger Things is a must-see, but I can’t vouch for it yet.)

Don’t get me wrong; I’m genuinely enjoying seeing my new graduate students; it’s just that some aspects of my university job don’t particularly inspire me today (e.g., committee assignments, institutional politics—and the national political climate, for that matter). Then there are those back-to-school day-long faculty meetings that are, strangely and ironically, called “retreats.”

Today I decided to remember one of my favorite author’s words. Anne Lamott calls for us humans to practice “radical self care” by “being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with [ourselves], exactly as [we] would be with a friend.”  This is a directive worth embracing, particularly if you work in a helping profession.

So my mini-brain wave during a ho-hum morning was to respond to Lamott’s call on a simple, tangible level by refreshing a little “care package” I keep in my desk drawer—just for me. A small step today, perhaps, but surprisingly beneficial. I visualized the little things (both practical and personal) that make me feel most supported, inspired and nourished during long and emotionally tedious days.

Here are the items I included after raiding my kitchen drawers, bathroom, and hall closet (and followed up with a short trip to the local drug store at lunch):

  • Practical Necessities: A toothbrush and paste, floss, mouthwash, mints, gum, deodorant, nail clippers, nail file, lip balm, tissues, hand lotion, Band-Aids, ibuprofen, a few dollar bills, and a handful of change.
  • Psychological Support: Tea, tea, and more tea; my favorite quote; a book of favorite poems I love by Mary Oliver; a photo of my daughter at the beach; and my phone with its mindfulness apps. (See my website’s “resources” page at amyleva.com for further details on those apps.)
  • Physical Nourishment: nuts, protein bars, assorted snacks, a few dishes, utensils, cups, napkins, and a little chocolate.

As an educational psychologist, professor, and coach, I typically share “research-based” strategies for enhancing well-being. In this case, however, I can simply report, “After collecting and assembling the items above …  I genuinely feel better.” I am more relaxed, energized, and at ease this afternoon. My own coach, Meggin McIntosh, would likely call my little desk drawer refresh project a “calming the chaos” activity. She encourages her clients and workshop participants to devote a few minutes a day to “calming the chaos” (e.g., labeling hanging files, organizing a bookshelf, putting those inbox emails in the right folders.). I know she is onto something here.

What does (or might) your self-care desk drawer look like? What might it indicate about you and the little things that sustain you? Feel free to comment here if you dare to create your own personal desk drawer care package (or refresh it in some way). Would love to hear about it.

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