How do you take care of yourself?

By Lisa Salsbury (Willow and Me Jewelry)

We all have crazy lives, filled to the brim with family, friends, jobs, and many obligations and stressors. Having recently had some stress-filled months dealing with family and health problems, I am always looking for new ways to renew, relax and stay inspired. Many people use an art or a craft for that purpose, but when we also sell our art, it becomes more than a hobby. We feel obligated to do it, which can make it less fun and more like a “job”, which, in turn, makes it more difficult to use as a way to relax. So how do you relax, renew and stay inspired? This question was recently put to our Etsy Maine Team members, and I received many wonderful responses.

We live in such a beautiful state, I wasn’t surprised that many people return to nature for their relaxation. Sara from Tenderfoot Creations, who lives in our biggest city, takes time to get out of the city: “I enjoy going for hikes in the woods and visiting the ocean. The fresh air and physical activity relaxes and renews me like nothing else. I return home full of good energy and ideas.”

Dani at Blue Shoe Studio also finds nature a wonderful way to relax and renew. In warm weather, she spends a lot of time in her vegetable garden, sometimes weeding, sometimes allowing plants to grow wild to see what they become. The act itself is relaxing, and the plants provide inspiration for future projects. “Currently I have let one crazy radish go completely wild and it's turned into this beautiful upright viney thing with the most delicate pink and white blooms - kind of a cross between a begonia and an orchid, only smaller scale - with these weird little stunted green pods.” This garden time also gives Dani time alone, which is something I am sure we all would like more of.

In the fall, Dani spends time in nature, sketching the beautiful colors and lines. As the weather gets colder, she begins to cook more comfort foods and work on projects that are inspired by her warmer weather jaunts. In the winter, she sleds with her family, nearly every day that it is warm enough. "The whish going down the hill and the vigorous hike back up is enough distraction to clear any mind. Again, it's not relaxing per se, but the sparkle of the snow is captivating and redirects a busy mind to the simple elegance of nature. And the laughter of children - that is hard to top.”

Dale from saintNICHOLAStoo tends to work 24/7, even carving in front of the TV in the evenings, and he must sometimes force himself to take a break. His backyard is his haven: “We have two small water garden ponds. I relax on our deck with a cold drink, listening to the peaceful, soothing sounds of the water fountains. It is so therapeutic that I am planning on getting a small indoor fountain for the winter months.” In the cold weather, he retreats to his office/workroom and watches his goldfish, listening to the bubbling water. I also love the sound of running water and have a small table-top fountain in my studio. It is always running and, in fact, I have recently bought my third, having burned out the motors in two previous fountains.

Coco of By Coco is like many of us and doesn’t always take time to relax. “Seems like there is always something that needs my attention.” Her favorite ways to relax are fishing, walking by the ocean, horseback riding, sailing and hunting for wild mushrooms. Since these activities are not always readily available to her, Coco has found what sounds like a wonderful alternative. “So when I feel overwhelmed and/or out of gas, regardless of the weather, I head outside to our hot tub and empty my mind to pray--not so much with words but with an inner quiet that lets me feel connected to and loved by God. Often, I get lost in the peace and enjoy it so much that I stay in for two rounds (20 min. each). It slows me down and renews my mind, body, and spirit. She sent me a photo of her hot tub set up. How lovely it is! I envy her!

Music is a big part of many people’s lives and Paige from Paige’s Beaded Designs is one of those people. In addition to selling her work on Etsy, Paige helps care for her many siblings, some of whom have special needs. “Without music, I couldn't live!” She escapes stresses by listening to her favorite bands (Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, or Motion City Soundtrack) very loud on her IPod. When she can, she finds videos on You Tube from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that she grew up watching. After her family is in bed is Paige’s favorite time and she loses herself in her favorite television shows.

Paige finds inspiration by looking through her many beading magazines and catalogs and going to bead stores and looking at the textures and colors of the many beads there.

Karen from Threadbare Designs also uses music to relax, especially on commutes. "My other little trick is I sing in the car! I can use my MP3 and I just pull up a playlist and belt it out. I call my car my karaoke machine on wheels. It helps with the stress of commuting and summer traffic.” And because Karen works 12-hour shifts, she schedules crafting time and carves out time to exercise, hiking and biking in warm weather. She feels much better when she exercises and says her whole family notices when she misses exercise time.

And what do I do to help me relax? It’s hard sometimes when things are stressful, as I am sure many people know, but I do many of the same things as those above. I exercise as often as I can, and especially enjoy yoga, which helps relax and center me, but also helps with all the aches and pains that come with having an autoimmune disease. Regular massages also help, as well as hot bubble baths (I don’t have a hot tub, like Coco, but I do have a large soaking tub which gets a fair amount of use.) I listen to music when I exercise. Right now I am especially enjoying the most recent album by Nickelback, which has a couple of songs I find very inspiring.

I don’t watch much TV, but I can relate to Paige's escaping into TV shows, so I instead retreat into a favorite book when I need to lose myself. I have many well-loved books that I have read over and over. They are like old friends. I listen to NPR daily when I work and there are several shows I follow via the internet in case I miss them when they are on the radio. Some feed my mind with information and others entertain.

Lastly, I can’t forget my two most important sources of relaxation: Willow and Sammie, my cats. They always seem to know when I am stressed, sad, in pain, or just overtired. Snuggling and patting them comforts me like nothing else can. Many times I will feel too busy or overwhelmed to stop but they will insist on attention and just that few minutes will calm me.

I am sure there are as many ways to relax and rejuvenate as there are people who need relaxation and rejuvenation. With our busy lives it is so important to take care of ourselves. If we don’t there’s nothing to be inspired and nothing left for creativity. Especially those in care giving roles, anyone who takes care of someone else, must take care of themselves first. I am often reminded of something I read a long time ago that said, in essence, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be able to take care of others.

If you have a way to relax, rejuvenate and take care of yourself,that you would like to share, please feel free to convo me. I would love to write more articles on this subject.

For more information on outdoor activities in our state, check out these links: - Information on lots of outdoor activities from hiking to whitewater rafting, including a list of popular hiking trails. - Has an awesome list (with printable maps) of biking trails in Maine, searchable by region. The trails are rated by difficulty as well. - Similar to the site above, this site has lists and maps of biking routes in Maine. - Searchable database of walking trails in Maine, both indoor and outdoor, including handicapped accessible trails. - Part of the State of Maine website, this page has links for many types of outdoor activities.