Another way of walking: holding a creative space for yourself

There are two types of walking in my life. Both involve a wet spaniel and the inevitable removal of mud and burrs (not just from the dog) but only one gives me the head space I need to gather my thoughts, explore my creativity, and carve out some time to simply be with myself. Life is full of distractions, and we’re ‘programmed’ to take it at full speed, but what if you allow yourself one single hour in the day to engage a slower pace and just observe what is there to see; what there is to know.

Mid-October and at 6.15am it's dark but there's a hint of peach on the Eastern horizon as the promise of another sunrise makes itself known. It's time for the first walk of the day, a business-like affair in a 30-minute window, with the primary purpose of satisfying canine ablutions and the secondary purpose of raising the heart rates of both species (human and dog), keeping to that all-important, government-recommended, exercise goal for health and vet-recommended goal of slender doggy waistlines (you must be able to feel the ribs, not see them)! High viz jackets, head torch, LED collar, and laser-sharp awareness (you must be kidding! At 6.15am??) keep us safe from the trucks on the first milk run and the odd car heading out early to miss the traffic. 30 minutes and it's job done - home to a hot cuppa and a steaming bowl of porridge.

It's been the hardest thing to drag myself out of bed in the wee small hours but there's a satisfaction in ticking off the first task of the day. However, on the occasional afternoon...
Big view of land and sky
Afternoon walks on a rare sunny day in autumn are a different thing altogether. It's a stroll through countryside; a chance to gaze at the horizon and at your surroundings, noticing everything that is unseen when you are pounding along with your gaze at your feet, your breath loud in your ears. It's the perfect opportunity to think in creative ways. If your joy is crafting, painting, writing, drawing, making, upcyling, working with wood and metal, or adding to your journal, this is a time when you have 'space' to think; a time to allow those ideas to come flooding in. It's also a time to appreciate what is quietly going on all around you that you might otherwise rush past without noticing.
Last of the blackberries
I think we can all agree that we are generally a bit rubbish at taking time for ourselves when we feel the pressure of family, work, and other commitments but, it is important to employ a degree of emotional regulation to avoid feelings of overwhelm when life seemingly offers no easy escape either physically or emotionally. This should be possible without guilt or self-loathing and we should give ourselves permission to spend some time in 'personal housekeeping' and developing emotional regulation. So, to get a little bit 'science-y' with grateful thanks to the Life of Wellness Institute....
There are several helpful ways to develop emotional regulation: interoceptive awareness, embodiment, self-compassion, and self-regulation.

Interoceptive awareness is the ability to sense, process, and appropriately respond to the body’s physiological signals. Building this awareness is like learning a new language; this one is internal, unlike a language we hear externally. Our body communicates with us through sensations and feelings which are the body’s vocabulary; interoceptive awareness is our ability to understand that language.
Sleepy bee
Embodiment means to feel the sensations, thoughts, and emotions within us and live in that experience; to be present, open, and aware of each moment as it happens, acknowledging the experience. Embodiment increases empathy, self-compassion, and self-awareness and reduces stress and anxiety.
Sun in the sky and on the ground
Interoception and embodiment are helpful, but without self-compassion, we can easily use that knowledge to judge and shame ourselves leading to further suffering. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
Waning winter larder
Self-regulation is our ability to regulate our reactions to emotions like frustration or excitement. Calming ourselves down after something exciting or upsetting happens, and having the ability to focus on a task and then refocus attention on a new task. Incorporating self-regulation means you are in your power, creating the life you want while pursuing your goals.
A whole world captured in a gnarled tree

With each of these skills and practices, we can emotionally self-regulate, which is the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience in a way that permits spontaneous reactions, as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed.
Tiny droplets of dew held in the pink petal
By employing these techniques we are paving the way to being able and willing to hold space for ourselves. Importantly, however, holding that space will be different for everyone but can mean having time for stillness, for creative and reflective thinking, and sometimes, satisfying a need to be alone to recharge. You are giving yourself permission to stop, take the time you need, and be open to new thoughts and feelings.
Self-care isn’t some buzzword or a new age thing; it has deep roots in our mental and physical health history. It doesn’t require financial investment or fancy gadgets. We can take a moment and become present with our needs by listening to our bodies. What sensations do I feel? What emotions am I experiencing, and where are they in my body? How do I think about the emotions or sensations? What is the one thing I need right now? 

When you hold space for yourself, you give yourself a place to check-in, self-care, or self-regulate. It invites self-awareness and creates space for you to reflect and understand yourself. And if you are like me and you need space to grow your creative self, it’s essential to create this space in your life; to complete the collage of your life.
A single piece in the collage of nature

Very much like nature, we are perpetually in the process of building the collage of our lives. There are no rules and we can choose what to include but, if we focus too much on the practicals of everyday survival and forget the less obvious, self-caring elements, the collage will never reach its true potential.

With grateful thanks to Vesper the spaniel for her participation.

Thanks also to the Life of Wellness Institute 

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