Quick Fix Series: Take a Break

Every so often, I need a gentle reminder to take a break and spend time looking after myself. This activity helps me to focus on self-care, and it offers me a poem that I can come back to whenever I need a nudge in the right direction.

Follow the steps below and by the end you’ll have created your own self-care reminder poem.

Here’s what you do:

1. Choose an action or activity that helps you to relax

2. Make notes on what this action or activity means to you

3. Use your notes to create a five line gogyohka* poem

Choose an action or activity that helps you to relax

Do you have a ‘go to’ action or activity that helps you to relax? Perhaps there is something that you know helps you, but which you’d like to do more regularly? You might pick something simple, like taking a few deep breaths or saying a positive affirmation. Alternatively, you could focus on a more involved activity, such as yoga, jogging, cooking, sewing or writing! Whatever you decide on, this will be the topic for your poem.

Make notes on what this action or activity means to you

Now is your chance to explore your relaxing action or activity in more detail. Make some notes on what it means to you. You can use the questions below as starting points:

  • Why have you chosen this particular action or activity?
  • What do you most enjoy about it?
  • What physical or sensory aspects do you like?
  • How does the action or activity make you feel?
  • What instructions could you give yourself to get your action or activity off to a good start?
  • What words of encouragement or motivation can you offer yourself?

Use your notes to create a five line gogyohka* poem

Read back over your notes and reflect on any words or phrases that particularly resonate. These will come in handy as you create your simple, five line poem – or gogyohka*.

Since you only have five lines to play with, you might want to choose a specific focus for your poem as a starting point. For example, you might focus on: how your action or activity makes you feel; words of encouragement that will motivate you in the future; or instructions for making the most of your self-care activity.

Now you can begin populating each of your five lines. In a gogyohka, each line is just a single phrase. The phrases do not need to rhyme or be the same length, so you have the freedom to play around with ideas. Ideally, each phrase will be reasonably concise. To create your poem, you may wish to use the words and phrases you have identified from your notes.

Read over your lines so far. Do you like the way they flow? How do they make you feel? You might like to swap things around, substitute words or include new ideas. Or you may wish to leave your poem as it is. Congratulations! You have created your self-care reminder poem. Why not pin it up somewhere, as a gentle reminder to relax and nurture yourself?

This reminder poem is pinned up in my cupboard

Some notes…

If you’re anything like me, you may find that some self-care activities are more enjoyable than others! For example, I have a love-hate relationship with mindfulness meditation and this definitely came out in the first version of my poem on the subject. When I read the poem back to myself, I didn’t feel particularly motivated by it! So I returned to my notes and created a new version using imagery and phrases that were sure to make me feel good.

First version:

Come on,
you know
it’s good for you,
you’ll feel wonderful

Second version:

My body is still,
my mind is a sunlit room,
empty and waiting for me.
I am in control.
I am free.

What next?

Explore my Write to Relax series for more writing ideas and tips.

*What is a gogyohka?
A gogyohka is a five-line poem where each line represents a single phrase. There are no restrictions on how many syllables are in each line and there is no need to make the lines rhyme. Traditionally it is used to capture the essence of a single moment or event. This flexible form of poetry originated in Japan and bears similarity to Japanese ‘tanka’.

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