Zone 00 – Looking After The Self

zone
Take the time to just stop and be in nature.

Many of us spend a lot of time and energy caring for the environment and caring for others in our families and our communities. Sometimes we find that, while spending all this time and energy caring for everyone else, we forget to care for ourselves.

Inevitably we get tired and struggle with our own health, happiness and sense of wellbeing, and we stop working effectively.

In permaculture, we talk about zones, with zone 0 being the home and inside the home, zone one the area directly around the home and it goes out from there until we reach zone five, which is the wilderness and wild areas.

Through these zones we look at how we design, build and maintain our homes, gardens and properties. How we look after our inner self is known as zone 00. Just as we apply permaculture design principles to these other zones, we can apply them to our own lives.

Take Stock (Apply Regulation And Accept Feedback)

When plants are looking yellow or droopy, we work out why and do what we can to fix them. If we notice ourselves getting irritable or snappy or feeling really tired, we need to take the time to think about why we are feeling like this and what we can do about it.

Is it because we are run down and our tank is low on juice? Have we just spent the whole day or the whole week, or even the whole year, running from one thing to another without actually stopping and taking time out to look after ourselves?

It’s important to take time out to recuperate – this might be a 10-minute rest on the couch, it might be going for a walk or it might be blocking out a weekend to go away and just relax.

Sleep Is Sacred (Catch And Store Energy)

Get sleep when you can. Sleep is vital. According to SA Health, ‘getting enough sleep each day is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing and to reduce your risk for ill-health’. Most of us have busy lives with lots going on. Our minds are racing throughout the day and at night, it’s hard to switch off, making it hard to go to sleep or hard to sleep the whole night through.

It’s so important to try and protect our sleep and do what we can to allow ourselves to sleep the whole night through. Staying off screens in the evening is a big one. If you feel like you have to do work in the evening, really question whether or not it can’t wait until morning. Do something in the evening that will help you wind down, like read a book, take a warm bath, do some yoga or meditate.

For mums and dads of young children, this can be hard to do, but sleep whenever you can. It’s more important than folding washing, cleaning the house or scrolling through social media.

Find Your Bliss (Obtain A Yield)

Find that thing that really gives you pleasure. It might be surfing, jogging, curling up on the couch and reading, walking in nature, swimming, pottering in the garden, lying in a hammock, playing music, painting, drawing; whatever it is that brings you real joy, rather than feels like work. As author and researcher, Bren. Brown, says, ‘It takes courage to say yes to rest and play, in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.’

Once you have found it, protect this time you have allocated for yourself like your happiness depends on it. You might feel guilty because you are doing something that is just about you, but it’s this time that fills you up and makes you able to be present in the rest of your life.

If you find it hard to find that time, which many of us do, then try rethinking your priorities. Talk to your family or ones and let them know how important it is to you. Ask them if they can work with you to make it happen.

Photo by Away

Clockwise from above: Find your bliss, whatever that may be; Spend some time staring at the clouds; A typical work day time audit graph.

Photo by Irin K

Designing Your Time (Design From Patterns To Details)

We need to start consciously thinking about how we spend our time. Just like we create a design about how we use our properties, so we should plan a design for our time. Do a time audit. How many hours of your day do you devote to working, caring for others, caring for the environment and caring for yourself? I think most of us will find that the caring-for-self area is a bit low. (This doesn’t include sleeping.)

Time is our most precious resource and we need to find areas where we might be wasting it. By wasting it I mean sitting at a computer procrastinating but still not doing what you want to be doing. Instead of procrastinating, go and do something you love for 10 minutes or an hour. Then come back to the work.

Spend Time In Nature (Observe And Interact)

This varies depending on where you live and what you love. It might be diving into an ocean, river or lake. It might be walking in the bush or finding a quiet corner of a park. It might be getting your hands in the dirt in your garden.

Spending time in nature allows you to slow down and connect with the earth, and can actually improve your health. By spending time in nature you are exposing yourself to the microbiota of the natural world around you and this can add to your own microbiome, which in turn can help with your gut health.

Get up early if you need to. A walk or swimming in nature is going to do more for your wellbeing than lying in bed for another hour. Take your kids with you, take the dog, go foraging, stack functions, as Bill Mollison would say.

Slow Down (Small And Slow Solutions)

So often when people ask us how we are, the standard response is ‘busy, busy’. We all have a lot going on. Everyone seems to be getting busier but it is possible to actually be busy without feeling busy. This comes from being in the moment with each activity you are doing, while you are doing it, and not thinking about other things you need to do.

While you are working, focus on work. When you are with the people you love, be present with them in the moment. If you are cooking, focus on the food you are creating. In all things, be present and focus on what you are doing.

Just Be (Use Edges And Value The Marginal)

While you’re waiting for public transport or waiting while your kids play soccer or waiting in traffic, you may find a few minutes between activities. Use that time to just be. We used to all do it before we had phones. We would look around us, smile at someone passing by, strike up a conversation with a fellow traveller on the train, notice the cloud formations above us and just be present in the situation.

Now, whenever there is a break in what we are doing, many of us scroll through our phones, missing out on the real world around us.

Take time to sit still and observe what’s going on around you. If you’re on a train, it might be looking at all the unique and amazing people around you. In a park, you could notice people nearby and birds in the sky. In your garden, sit still and observe insects. Use those precious bits of time between activities in your life to replenish yourself.

Mindulness (Least Change For The Greatest Effect)

Meditation and mindfulness can take many forms. Looking after our bodies through exercise and yoga is popular in the western world, but often we forget to care for our minds. Having a short daily practice of stopping and slowing the mind can bring benefits throughout the day and especially at night when we need to wind down. Choose the form that suits you.

If meditation isn’t your thing, you can also practise being mindful in everyday life. Being mindful in everyday life is accessible and involves being present in what you’re doing. If you are washing the dishes, be in the moment, notice the feeling of warm water on your hands, focus on what you are doing, the circular motion of scrubbing the pot or drying the plate. If you are walking somewhere, notice your footsteps, the feeling of your feet touching the ground, the sounds around you. Are there birds and animals or cars and traffic? Just notice it, don’t judge or wish it were different.

When you fill your own cup you are then able to pour generously into others’. At this time when there is so much good work that needs doing in the world we must remember to design our lives to include self-care.

Disclaimer: Being the author of this article doesn’t mean I have mastered all these things. It is a continuing practice!

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