I was in Savannah, Georgia for a wedding a few years ago and came across a shop. Not only was the design of the shop cute and trendy selling creatively intuitive products, but, most importantly, the entire place was filled with smells of lavender. I took a deep breath of this sample essential oil and felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. NOURISH is the name of the shop and nourished was the way I felt when I walked out.
Nourish is defined as: to provide with food or other substances necessary for life and growth; feed. To keep alive; maintain. To foster the development of; to promote.
What does nourishment look like to you? What brings nourishment to your life? When are times in your life you need nourishment the most? Have you ever thought of the innate desire to be nourished? We usually think about trees needing nourishment, plants needing nourishment, but rarely do you think of yourself as needing nourishment?
I don’t think many women educators think about needing nourishment. We work, we are professional, we have families, we maintain relationships, we work more, we worry, we give to others, we support students and we advance our careers. We become secondary; we don’t think about nourishing our own bodies, minds and souls consistently. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this summer as I’ve had an opportunity to retreat from work and clear my head a few times. I don’t believe we think about nourishing ourselves because we’re not constantly living our most authentic lives. We get caught up in who we need to be for our husbands, partners, boyfriends, students, families, colleagues and we forget who we are at our very core.
So this summer, I’ve spent time thinking about me and only me. I’ve decided there is nothing wrong with being selfish, just for a bit. I’ve decided to focus on making sure I nourish myself this summer so I can nourish others when school starts back in the fall. To be fully nourished you need to nourish your body, your mind and your soul.
Nourish Your Body
Kale and apples…kale and spinach…kale and raspberries. Blend it up, juice it up, drink it up and your body will be nourished! WRONG. While juicing is the trend and very good for you, how are you truly going to nourish your body this summer? From diets to eating right to getting to the gym to yoga find what is right for you and just make the time. I’m the queen of excuses for not nourishing my body. I really want that glass of wine after work so I’m not going to go do yoga or go for a walk in the park. I think I finally realized this summer that my priorities need to shift to focus on my body. I think a lot of women who give so much to their careers sometimes get lost and forget to take care of themselves. We will only be good at our jobs, our careers, and advising our students, if we are comfortable in our own bodies and sense of self. I know what I need to do; you know what you need to do for yourself. Make the time and do it.
Nourish Your Mind
If you are like most people, you may have a number of different identities at work and in your personal life. You are a leader to your team, a friend to your colleagues, a collaborator to your boss and an expert to your students. We all have several roles to play in life. Do you have to act the same in each role in order to be authentic? How many people do you know that are different people in different situations? Think about it. Do a little exercise with yourself and list all the different relationships you have in your life and the roles you play in each of those relationships. Are they consistent? This is just the beginning. You won’t find and develop your authentic self overnight…it’s a lifelong process of discovery.
A great read that a dear friend shared with me is the book The Invitation. This book is a declaration of intent, a map into the longing of the soul, the desire to live passionately, face-to-face with ourselves and skin-to-skin with the world around us. Nourish is simply an idea to help me find my most authentic self. If you want to begin to nourish you, start with this book.
Nourish Your Soul
I went to college in Los Angeles and had an amazing special place out on a “do not enter” rocky pier in Marina Del Rey. Surrounded by water I would go there and reflect on my life, think about family, dream about life after college while I watched the boats come in and the sun go down. I was at complete peace when I was there. It’s harder to find a place like that now I’m in Ohio, and even more challenging to make time with a busy work schedule. But I know that I have to find the time to build self reflection, prayer and meditation back into my life. What do you need to bring back into your life to nourish your soul? What have you lost that you need to reach in and just pull back? Where do you need to go to find a sense of quiet or just simply be? What will it take for you to do it?
Why is this important?
Women who work in higher education, student affairs specifically, need to become better role models about nourishing ourselves. We are burning ourselves out and leaving the field, or burning other women out and they are leaving the field. I believe we have an obligation to nourish other women. We can foster development in other women professionally and personally. What if we valued ourselves enough to know exactly when we need to nourish our body, mind and soul? What if that was a part of our everyday life for ourselves and the people we work with? Think about it. We put plenty of pressure on ourselves to perform, to supervise, to manage, to “lean in”, to support our families and our friends, and to change students’ lives. What if we put that same amount of pressure on ourselves to balance our lives and nourish?
Time to get to work. What does nourishment mean to you? Where are you going to find nourishment? What’s it going to take? Take time for you, be a little selfish and think differently.
Jenny Levering is the Director of the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life & Student Activities at Miami University.