Image description – A stick figure stands beside a table with a small green potted plant. There’s a blue swirl on the pot. Text below reads “You are allowed to love the small things that bring you joy.” There is a little blue and green swirl beside the text. There is a small Tiffany Sostar logo and a link to www.tiffanysostar.com.

Today’s #stickfiguresunday had two separate inspirations.

The first was a moment of realizing that I don’t need to go out to the mountains or the forest in order to connect with nature. Small things are okay. My houseplants are just as much “nature” as the forest, and it is okay that I love their generous greening, their hope-building growth. I wanted to honour that small love that acts as such a welcome source of grounding and connection for me. (I had been feeling guilty about how rarely I spend substantial time outside lately, and how unmotivated I am to go out anywhere when it’s cold and I’m achy.)

The second was a series of conversations with people in my communities who are currently struggling (self included) to keep up with self-care while dealing with external pressures.

For myself, I am still recovering from jet lag and from three weeks that were just non-stop – the first week of November spent cramming two weeks of work into one week (while step-parenting), then 10 days of travel (seven days in Australia for a Narrative Therapy intensive!), then a week of trying to recover (while step-parenting). It was too long without a break, and I’m feeling the effects of it. Even with all the skills, knowledges, and tools I have available, I’m still feeling it.

These long periods of over-extension and overexposure – months that seem to fly past without a single break, that leave us off-balance and feeling frayed and overwhelmed – can make self-care incredibly difficult. We feel like we don’t even have time for self-care, but we know that if we don’t make time for self-care, we’re going to be in worse shape.

So then we are dealing with the exhaustion, the overwhelm, and the guilt and shame.

We’re doing it to ourselves, say the shame gremlins!

If only we were organized enough to do meal planning and prep while barely managing to keep our heads above water!

If only we were disciplined enough to keep up a daily yoga routine in the midst of work and home crises!

If only we were dedicated enough to show up to our journals every morning, yes, even those mornings we can barely manage to crawl out of bed.

If only!

Then, then, we would be strong. Then we would be doing a good job. Then we would be thriving.

But the kind of self-care we think we need in those moments of overwhelm is often out of reach.

A good night’s sleep? Good luck! Anxiety taps us on the shoulder, asks if we wouldn’t mind sitting down for a long chat at 1 am.

A good meal? Great idea! The budget coughs delicately, and anyway the grocery store will take at least an hour.

Showing up to the page? Yes! I am so here for that plan!! The toddler wakes up early, the kitchen is a disaster, the stories you need to write demand quiet and space.

So in these moments, what can we do?

If we can’t do the big things we’re supposed to do, and it’s all our own fault, where does that leave us?

That’s where this Stick Figure Sunday comes in, because even in these days, weeks, months of overwhelm, there are still small moments of joy. It can be difficult to give ourselves permission to really feel those moments of joy when we feel like we’re “failing” at self-care in general. It can be difficult to let ourselves fully embrace the delight of hearing a favourite song, tasting a favourite treat, watering our plants, putting on our favourite outfit. It doesn’t feel like the right kind of self-care because it’s so fleeting and we know that we need something bigger.

So today’s post is official permission to love those small moments and small joys even if you do need something else, and something bigger.

You can love the small moments without betraying your need for a bigger change.

You can hold onto the small joys even in the middle of the huge overwhelm.

Find the small things.

Let yourself love them.