What makes you feel like the world is an OK place?
What gives you energy and leaves you feeling excited, contented, hopeful?
A huge part of looking after ourselves is doing things that we enjoy and refuel and refresh us instead of emptying the tank.
For me, this is spending time with horses. The very nature of working with these animals demands that you are present, focused on what you are doing, how you are feeling, and what you are thinking. As a naturally forward thinker, being around horses encourages me to draw my focus from the future's “there and then” to the “here and now" and just be present.
As horses are prey animals (and we are technically predators) they are very finely attuned to us - they pick up on our emotions and mental state and mirror this back. If you are nervous and jumpy around horses, they will be more nervous around you.
You have to acknowledge how you feel at every point in time (whether it’s related to what you are doing or not) and try to control your emotions, which in turn affects our heart rate and breathing. This is what horses sense - a fast heartrate and respiration rate is a sign that danger is near, and they should be worried.
Of course, for me working with horses is rewarding in many ways - it's amazing seeing a horse learn to work with people and partner with them instead of fight them, bonding with a horse and building a trusting relationship so they choose to spend time around you, and of course riding - I love the feeling of flying without wings.
Even if I don’t leave the ground on a particular day, I’ll still leave feeling relaxed, contented, and the troubles I walked in with aren’t as big when I walk out.
Making time for horses is important for me. If I go a long period without horses, I’ve noticed a withdrawal - after a couple of weeks I’ll go through a period of tiredness and feeling generally low in my mood. It lasts for a couple more weeks before it evens out again.
This happens more than I want right now - I don’t own any of my own and every interaction is borrowed. Working commitments eat into daytime hours, and aligning schedules with my horse-owning friends can be like trying to align the stars.
But I've found ways to "get my fix" without having to invest anything other than my time and energy. I can enjoy the company of other people's horses - and that is enough (for now.)
When it comes to refueling ourselves there are some important things to consider.
#1. Know what activities fuel you. Is it hanging with friends, painting, dancing, writing, doing budgets, talking about ideas?
#2. Ask what aspects of that activity give you energy. Is it the fact that you get to deepen a relationship? Communicate something? Analyse data?
#3. Explore alternative options that will give you the same aspects. Not everything will be a perfect match, but the more you find that refuels you the better. Try and work these aspects into your every day routine if you can.
#4. Make a conscious decision to routinely participate in these activities. Find people to do them with if that's your thing, or schedule it into your regular "me time."
Don't go too long without doing what you love.
What makes your “cup runneth over?” How much time do you spend in that state - and if it’s not enough (like me) have you got plans to bring more of it into your life?