As I write this, I am emerging from a profoundly painful week. The start of autumn is never a gentle time, but this particular cycle feels bent on personal and global destruction. I don't know anyone who isn't feeling the effects right now. We are fully into Libra's reign: the force that initiates autumn in the Northern hemisphere, and which brings balance to all things, though not always by the gentlest means.
For some background on what I personally struggle with, I am recovering from mild depression and low self-esteem. My witchcraft is guided by the principle of being for the highest good of all involved, harming none, and that includes not harming myself, which is probably the hardest part. I work from home and have a lot of judgments about what I "should" be doing in the course of a day. I have very high expectations for myself, my work, my relationships, and my projects, which I rarely live up to. Fortunately, I am learning to accept imperfection as part of the creative process, and become the artist and witch I am meant to be.
Witches can be more vulnerable than others to the effects of burnout, which is really energy depletion on multiple levels. Many of us are drawn to the craft because of wanting to help others, but the focus, time, planning, and personal energy required for magical work is non-trivial. Witches can also be more sensitive to the energy and emotions of others, taking on burdens that are not rightfully theirs. Furthermore, when we are already overloaded, it can be difficult to maintain vigilance around energy hygiene and personal protection magic.
Fortunately, we witches also have access to tools and techniques that can supercharge our efforts to prevent and recover from burnout. Here are some magical and mundane tips that have helped me recently. I believe that we all have the ability to care for ourselves.
The foundation: self knowledge
The basis of self care is self knowledge, and it takes practice to become in touch with this. To generalize, men in Western society are socialized to have no feelings; women are socialized to have no needs, although you may find the opposite to be true—typically, one will be easier than the other.
If that resonates with you, consider journaling about your feelings and needs for a month to get in the habit. Set an alarm for morning, noon, and evening and write down a few words about what you are feeling/needing. If you are having trouble naming your feelings and needs, these lists can help: list of feelings, list of needs.
I have also learned a lot about myself from various systems mundane and magical, such as astrology, Myers-Briggs, enneagrams, and most recently Human Design Systems, which is a combination of Western and Eastern astrology, I-Ching, and the Kabbalah. The purpose of these systems is not to stereotype yourself and others; they are tools for self-reflection and contemplation. I think astrology is a great starting point, and it's free to get your full chart and customized daily horoscope on astro.com, a site I've used since 2004. Their introductory series is wonderful.
I am a person who requires about 10 hours of sleep to function well. If you can do nothing else, try to give yourself enough time to sleep. Magically, sleep is important to me as well; the first way I began receiving psychic information was in dreams and dreamwork is still powerful for me.
Before I sleep, I affirm to myself that I will awake fully rested. If it's a work day, I affirm the time that I will wake up fully rested by. State any other affirmations that you are working on. My current favorite is, "I am always at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing."
Before sleep is a great time for energy work. If reiki or sending light is in your practice, get in the habit of doing that for yourself before you fall asleep. My favorite color of light to send to myself is deep midnight blue. I sometimes visualize that the Goddess has me enveloped in her cloak, or that I can access the level of peacefulness that my sweet dogs have when they are fast asleep.
I sleep more deeply and have more vivid dreams since developing this habit. Chamomile-mugwort tea can enhance lucid dreaming too.
Nothing makes me feel more empty than going through a day without doing something creatively satisfying. I have come to realize that I don't fully understand my emotions until I have expressed myself creatively, so not making things keeps me stuck. On a typical work day, this might look like
- creating a colorful makeup look or painting my nails
- taking a break at lunchtime to play guitar
- cooking a delicious meal
- creating a playlist that affirms or transforms my mood
- spending some quality time after work on a knitting, sewing or jewelry project
- singing while I work
- writing: journaling, poems, or songs
Challenge yourself to be creative on a daily basis. Tie it in with your magic by considering color correspondences when deciding what to wear for the day. When you create something tangible, be conscious of the energy you are putting into it, and consciously charge it with the qualities you want it to embody.
The opposite of creativity is consumption. It's an easy habit to fall into when your energy is depleted. If you find yourself scrolling through Reddit, Instagram, or YouTube for hours on end, it might be time to disable notifications and re-evaluate your relationship with social media. Are you using it to express yourself in a healthy way and enhance relationships or to feed your ego and judge others? Is it contributing to peacefulness or chaos in your life?
I have a lot of Venusian influence in my astrological chart, therefore I have little tolerance for things that aren't beautiful or appealing. When my environment is not lovely on multiple levels, I feel a bit anxious. Consider each of your five senses and the places you spend most of your time in.
In my office, I have incense blends, a wax warmer, and an essential oil diffuser so I can have a wonderful smell no matter my mood. I try to eat exactly what I want (within the bounds of healthfulness) as often as possible. I maintain many different playlists for different purposes which I can play throughout my entire home to set a mood, or I have a nice vinyl collection.
I try to keep my office tidy and visually pleasing, even if the rest of the house is a mess. I extend the same care to my various working altars, taking at least a moment each day to honor the various spirits I work with, replenish offerings, dust, etc.
These simple things create a foundation for comfort and ease whether I am working or relaxing.
Many people are convinced that they can't meditate. I believe this is due to the recent popularity of Eastern-style mindfulness meditation, where you try to keep your mind as clear as possible. It sounds intimidating if you obsess about what you can't do, and naturally your mind resists not thinking.
In my witchcraft, the meditation that I practice is typically guided by a goal or a task. Spending a little time in meditation to work on energy maintenance, self-healing, protection, or communing with your spirit guides goes a long way. If you are interested in this kind of meditation, research "visualization meditation", "guided meditation" or "journeying meditation".
I refer back often to the audio companions to the Inner Temple of Witchcraft and The Witch's Shield, both by my teacher Christopher Penczak. If you have a psychic shielding practice (the one I use is described in The Witch's Shield), try to reaffirm it at least a few times a week, as well as maintaining a protection charm; mine is a necklace. This will protect you on all planes.
Reconnecting with nature
Obviously, the pagan path is nature-based. I am fortunate to have a wooded area in my backyard with squirrels, rabbits, owls, lizards, deer and other creatures to observe. Spending time outdoors tending my container gardens, tree-gazing, or going on a simple walk with the intent of grounding helps me to recharge. Sometimes I ask the God to cleanse my aura with golden sun energy. Sometimes I meditate outside—interestingly, this usually attracts animals to me, and that in itself can bear spiritual messages.
I hope this post has helped you to reflect upon your self-care regimen and integrate self-care into your magical life. Many blessings until next time.
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