What Otters Can Teach Us About Self-Care

We all know how important self-care is and how we need our own toolset to nourish ourselves daily, especially when we're feeling low. Without it, we merely soothe ourselves with things that bring instant pleasure but don’t nourish us. This toolset can look very different depending on the person and our emotional and physical needs that day:

  • Meditating.
  • Making art.
  • Taking a nap.
  • Taking a bath.
  • Listening to music.
  • Tidying up the house.
  • Eating nourishing food.
  • Spending time in nature.
  • Hanging out with animals.
  • Watching a feel-good movie.
  • Journaling about our feelings.
  • Exercising or going for a walk.
  • Saying yes to trying new things.
  • Saying no to things that don’t feel right. 

(Disclaimer: this is a sensitive introvert’s self-care list because that’s how I am. Your list can look completely different and that’s okay, as long as it brings you healing).

However, some days are harder than others. Some days we're just not strong enough to snap out of our limiting thoughts on our own. Some days we just want to curl up and do nothing but cry. And that's okay if we truly feel that is what we need, if we truly feel like releasing difficult emotions, memories or pain of any kind. It is important for us to sit with our feelings, to not avoid them, to not judge them, to not judge ourselves for feeling low. It is human to feel low.

But that is one thing, and another thing is to let those emotions engulf us over and over. I'm not talking about processing difficult things like grief or trauma. I'm talking about those moments in our life when one thought leads to another and before we know it, we've gone down the rabbit hole and our life suddenly seems pointless when it was looking just fine a few hours ago.

When you go down the rabbit hole and stay there for too long, you need to get out. 

But what happens when you're so deep in the hole you can't see the way out? What happens when you can’t find the motivation or strength to do any of these nourishing things?

You grab someone’s hand.

You see, otters are known for practising something called “rafting”: they hold hands while sleeping and resting on the water so that they don’t drift apart. They do this to keep their families together (and stay close to their food source). 

Self-care is also about having nurturing relationships with others. Many of us feel we’re supposed to figure things out on our own and not burden others with our problems, or feel embarrassed because we’re struggling. But we all struggle, and we all need a tending hand. Otters know they need each other. We, somehow, forget.

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I’m lucky to share my life with a man who is so aware and sensitive to other people's feelings. Whenever he sees me drifting, he reaches out and grabs my hand. At first, I want to fight it. I want to stay comfortable in my cocoon of misery and feel sorry for myself. But then he does what we do when we're feeling bored, angry or sad.

He tickles me.

Suddenly I feel a rush of adrenaline. Suddenly all my senses scream, "protect all the ticklish areas!" Suddenly we're fun-wrestling in a battle of fingers and teeth (I'm the biter). And before I know it, I'm rolling over laughing and the dark cloud that was hovering over me disappears. 

When we change our physiology we change our emotional state, and my wise man knows it. And when the battle is over I am myself again. I am out of the hole. I have been unstuck.

All it takes is tickling. It’s so simple, really. 

Perhaps for you it's not tickling. Perhaps for you it means calling a friend or a family member and laughing at silly things. Perhaps it’s dancing with someone and letting the music speak through your bodies. Perhaps it’s sharing your thoughts and feelings with another human being and realising we all have those thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it’s simply exchanging a smile. Or perhaps you need the kind of help therapy offers*.

Whatever it looks like, grab that hand. Let the current do its thing, knowing you’re being held. 

Be like an otter.


*If you feel yourself drowning too often, I recommend seeking medical help. My blog is based on my own personal opinion and is intended to help readers find beauty and joy in the small things in life but sometimes we need expert help before we can even see any beauty and joy.

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