Photo from Unsplash
By Kellie Mox
Nest (noun): a place of rest or retreat
I pulled up to a farmstand bordering the highway to collect a few vegetables for my two-night getaway. The last thing I felt like doing was strolling the aisles of a grocery store, not to mention cooking and cleaning up. It felt too laborious during this getaway from the daily tasks of nurturing two kids, studying, building a business, healing myself, and managing a mother’s half of the emotional and physical household work. So, I picked zucchini and redskin potatoes, two foods my kids detest. I would roast them with ghee, salt, and pepper. Paired with the avocado I brought and an ice-cold bottle of sparkling water, it was the perfect just-me meal.
We were six weeks into the kids’ summer vacation, and as glorious as the slower mornings were, the introvert in me was challenged by the constant togetherness and reduced time for self-care. I’d tearfully told my husband in a moment of realization—or desperation—that I needed a break, something longer than my yoga class or regular walks with friends. The truth is, I was feeling a bit fed up—not just with the kids bickering or the challenges of a new business or a return of some old physical symptoms, but also with myself and how I was showing up for all these things.
I realized that I needed time and space to nourish my internal world—my inner nest—so that I could love living in it every day. The term “nest” may conjure up images of a clean, comfortable, well-curated physical home, but cultivating our inner space through extended rest and retreat is just as important a job. This kind of nesting supports us in feeling at home within ourselves.
So, with the help of a generous neighbor and supportive husband, I arrived at my sanctuary space on a warm summer evening just a few weeks later, and I settled in for two nights of rest and reconnection with myself. I began with an orienting and grounding walk to the shore of Lake Michigan, where I listened to the waves and watched the sun set. The water washed any lingering to-do’s out of my mind and invited my body to ease into a slower pace. It already felt like a glorious nesting for my mind, heart, body, and soul.
Space to Reconnect
While this wasn’t my first time traveling solo for no other reason than self-love, it hasn’t happened often since the birth of my children. Most of us realize that giving ourselves extended time and space alone is restorative and important for our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. But many of us rarely do it. Cost, time, and logistics may be barriers, as is the work needed to coordinate the whole undertaking.
Clearly, going away for a full-scale retreat or even a two-day adventure isn’t always feasible. But the cost of not gifting ourselves time and space is also high. Burnout, resentment, exhaustion, a short fuse, and frequent illnesses all surface when we don’t nurture our inner space and care for ourselves in big, deep ways. Yes, we can still fit in short bouts of self-care. But meditation, exercise, sleep, or evenings with friends can only do so much to refuel a tank that is, for most women, being siphoned from every other minute of the day.
Serendipitously, I’d brought Gemma Hartley’s book Fed Up with me on my trip. It put into words something that I’d struggled to clearly express. That is, even with a physically and emotionally present partner who shares in the cooking and childcare, and even though I’m a coach who prioritizes self-care, I’m still often drained and frustrated by the emotional labor I perform daily—the doctor appointments, after-school schedules, social activities, and errands that all need to be remembered and coordinated. Hartley defines emotional labor as “emotion management and life management combined. It is the unpaid, invisible work we do to keep those around us comfortable and happy.”
Not having enough time or balance in life are frequent frustrations for the women I speak with. Too often, self-care gets set aside when the load of emotional and life management gets high. While a few days alone isn’t a long-term solution for resolving problems like emotional labor overload (for more on this, I definitely suggest reading Hartley’s book or working with a coach), if done with intention and some regularity, it enables us to truly tend to ourselves and our inner world. Whether you leave the house or seclude yourself in your bedroom for a day, I have a few ideas for how to make the most of this nesting for the soul.
Set an Intention
Setting an intention allows you to focus your attention. My intention was to go inward, to be with myself in a way that I’m not when I’m tending to other people and things. I meant to do this through rest, reflection, and reading. Being clear about your intention means you’re more likely to walk away from your retreat feeling like you got what you needed. To be clear, an intention is not a goal. Goals are endpoints or desired results. Intentions are lived moment by moment and are independent of the end result. In effect, it’s how you want to be while you’re nesting.
Being prepared means bringing the tools you need, and not putting in extra, unnecessary work. If it feels restorative to cook yourself an elaborate meal, then you’ll need the ingredients. Meal preparation did not feel restful for me, so I left this up in the air. Instead, I brought three books for relaxation and inspiration, paint pens and watercolor paper for creative exploration, my journal for reflection and visioning, and my yoga mat for meditation and movement. Revisit your intention, and ensure you have what you need to align with that!
Disconnect and Reconnect
This one is pretty clear. Unplug. I don’t mean you can’t binge-watch your favorite show for a few hours, if that’s in alignment with your intention. I finished the last twenty minutes of Brené Brown’s Netflix special, which had been partially watched for months, and I listened to Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee while I cooked, which brought smiles and laughter. What I mean is, consider a break from scrolling social media and sending work emails and responding to every text. Truly make this space for you and about you. You, like me, may feel a sense of serenity with less external chatter and demands. If this seems scary or difficult, that may be even more indication that you need it. Being with yourself can be hard, but your relationship with yourself is the most important one to cultivate.
In the end, I didn’t finish the three books or do yoga or even meditate as much as I’d planned. But I did sleep in well beyond what would feel reasonable at home. And I explored the town and had a so-so meal while leisurely reading a novel. I meditated a little, walked a lot, colored, journaled, watched the water, and came away feeling like my mind, heart, body and soul were well-cared-for by me. I’d found a place of rest and retreat within myself, and I felt at home there.
Kellie Mox catalyzes revolutionary healing for women through powerful conversations and whole-health mentoring. She is passionate about authentic, meaningful connections—to the self, others, and the world—and believes that healing flourishes when we strengthen these connections and embrace our wholeness.
Kellie is a certified coach and a student of homeopathic medicine with a master’s in health behavior and health education. She works with women virtually and in-person from her home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan.