i learned self-care from my cat

I have a routine when I sit down to write. Glass of water. Check. Candle lit. Check. Music paused. TV off. Check. Check.

I settle into the center of my couch, open my laptop and get to work. 

Fast-forward a half hour. Now, instead of being the lone soul on my couch, I'm surrounded. By my three furry nuggets. Fidget, my 7 year-old cat, the oldest and alpha-female of the crew, curls up on the chair next to me. Twitch, our fluffy 5-year old kitty, squeezes against my right leg, quickly falling asleep. Finally, Tonks, our pup, hops up to my left, cautiously (and wisely) avoiding Twitch, and snuggles up against the armrest. From there, I listen to her sweet snores as she hunkers down for a nap.

Life is full and often chaotic, but moments like these remind me that, at its core, life is unbelievably sweet. More than just my cuddle-buddies, these three have been some of my greatest teachers. From them, I have learned about gratitude and responsiveness, appreciation and humility. My heart is full, full, full, just like our home.

A friend of mine says that, if you want to learn self-care, just watch a well-loved, domesticated cat, and I think that she's spot on. When Fidget needs affection, she goes after it, hopping up on my lap and gazing into my eyes as she purrs. When Twitch needs to eat, she asks for it, never eating more than she needs. Fidget knows when she needs her space, just like Twitch finds her favorite spot before bed each night. Their self-care is instinct-driven and pure.

For us humans, well, it's not quite as simple. There are expectations and responsibilities, relationships to maintain and insecurities to manage. There are negative patterns of behavior and belief, not to mention the distractions that pull and and nudge and tug us away from giving our bodies, minds and spirits what they most desperately need. 

For Fidget and Twitch, it's see need, fill need. Food. Water. Love. Space.

No self-doubt or questioning, no outside expectation or internalized insecurity.

For us, oftentimes, it's nothing but, and we need to find ways to carve out time, space, and a practice in fulfilling our self-care needs.

Last week, I shared about my experience in bringing constructive rest, a term that I learned as a part of my yoga practice, into my daily life, about plugging back into life and love and joy through a practice of rejuvenating rest.

This week, I'm bringing you my four must-haves for guilt-free rest, ways to get your hands on the good stuff on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, even when you can't get away. 

ONE. Intention, intention, intention.

True rest is intentional. Rather than a day accidentally spent watching TV or getting lost in the depths of the internet, constructive rest is borne of intention. Set aside time, whether it's 20 minutes, a weekend or a week, where your intention is restConsider this time a non-negotiable, an appointment that you set with yourself, one without a cancellation policy. While, at first, it might feel foreign and uncomfortable, practice, practice, practice. And you'll discover that, rather than losing time, you find it, instead.

TWO. Call your mom.

And, by that, I mean Mother Earth. Whether it's opening up a window to hear the sound of the rain as it hits the pavement or watching the movement of the sun as it dips behind the mountains in the evening, connecting back to the earth is grounding. As John Miur says, "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." Tug a little and discover connection.

THREE. Unplug from the hum.

We are constantly connected. Phones. Tablets. Laptops. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Email. In a previous life, I had two phones, and I felt as though leaving either behind was a lack of responsibility. Rather than providing connection, they, along with the email notifications and social media pings, became a weight, shackling me to expectation and obligation. Now, when the intention is rest (or, heck, when the intention is connection - at dinner, on date nights, on walks with the dog), the phone stays packed away. Unplugging, while it may incite anxiety initially, often leads to deeper connection. 

FOUR. Your personal practice.

Once you have created the time and physical space for constructive rest, it's time to plug into your personal practice - the manifestation of your intention. For me, this is the thing that supports my mind and body in unplugging from the chaos and endless to-do lists, and back into self. Some days, when I'm craving connection to my body, this looks like 20 minutes of relaxing yoga, most of which is, indeed, spent in constructive rest. My body and mind integrate. On others, I crack open my journal and spend time with stream of consciousness journaling. It's an outlet for inspiration and reflection. Some days, I merely set the intention to think and reflect without allowing myself to wander mentally back into the busyness. Starting with a practice sets the stage for integrative, constructive and aligning rest and rejuvenation.

"True rest is constructive. It shifts our perspective, allows for integration and reflection, makes space and time for alignment and grounding. It provides healing to our muscles, physical, emotional and spiritual, and prepares our body for future growth and stretching and expansion. Rather than the exhaustion that comes from a day of bingeing on Netflix, we're fueled for greatness, for joy, for connection."

Truth be told, these are my go-to's, my must-haves, the ways that I create space, time and the environment for true rest, but they are by no means the only ones.

I'm all about community collaboration, and I am dying to learn from youWhat are the elements, rituals, essentials that fuel your self-care? What practices do you put in place to rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit? Join in the conversation in the comments below.