I tried Resetting myself by being a Cat for 1 day: What it taught me, what a Reset day is, it’s role in creating a Self-Care plan and 4 steps to take away.
The backstory (where did this idea come from?)!
The short of it? A cocktail of feeling I was heading for burnout, dowsed in unpleasant feelings like resentment, combined with spending time-too much time-in my head, imbalance and removed from my values.
And maybe surrounded by the presence of multiple felines over the years.
My cat would ideally like to take credit for this idea. All good. I gave it to her with a whole bag of ”Temptations” treats.
The long end of it?
With over 30 years of experience as a cat companion to several cats ( not an owner as I do not “own” them) I have spent a lot of time observing their behaviours, lifestyle, and analyzing their thoughts and emotions. Or perhaps I am projecting my own cognitive mechanisms, interpretations and assumptions on what a cat experiences. Either way.
I am currently living with my 16 year old indoor cat. Over the years, I have found myself coming home from a stressful day or just being stressed and overwhelmed and turning to my cat, with almost a taste of resentment. Why? I see that she just sleeps, nibbles on treats, plays, doesn’t have to worry about food and shelter, lies by the window in the sun, sleeps some more, sleeps IN, gets attention when she wants. Do you hear the resentment?!. She is also likely to not have constant streams of thought or at least not in language and words such as we use.
This life of my cat seems like a pretty good life, especially when I am a bit….. done.
So,with some recent feelings of overwhelm and stress, knowing I would be headed for burnout (which by the way is not only from work-you can be burned out from having too many demands on you, in any areas of your life, whether self-imposed or not), I thought, “ Hmmm…maybe, just maybe, instead of resenting the cat, I would try to learn from my cat. I had done enough self-introspection that I knew I needed to move away from resentment to a place of taking control of what I can control.
To a place where I am living my VALUES, living a life in alignment with what REALLY MATTERS.To a place where I am not taking things out on my cat (and possibly others, myself and inanimate objects-ever walked barefoot into a toy you left behind and then swore at it? ! ) and then addressing my stress from a different angle.
The words “self-care” rushed to mind. But not the same self-care I have been using. Something different-obviously, something was missing from what I had in place.
Yes. For this to happen, I needed a reset. To get back in touch with the basics, with my values, and what really matters. That’s really what I mean by resetting.
Thus, I decided to plan for a reset and schedule “A Day in the Life of a Cat” as my theme.
The following is an article on what I did (or didn’t do), what I experienced, reflections, and 4 steps on how you can reset yourself and use this to help you enhance your self-care plan.
The goal: It’s not that I wanted to be a cat for a day.It was to take aspects of what I valued about my observations and interpretations (and resentment) of my cat’s daily life to help reset and re-create a different type of self-care plan going forward.
First of all, I had to create space for this day. I selected a day (Saturday) and made sure not to schedule anything in my day and made sure there were no responsibilities or commitments other than the ones I place on myself. This included pre-planning including delegation. I had to prepare mentally and emotionally and this took a lot of self-talk to confront self-limiting beliefs (i.e you are selfish for doing this), acceptance of self, self worth, self-concept, values, and other areas. This was definitely going to be a step out of my comfort zone.
I had to put some guidelines and structures into place. This included:
I was not to have access to my phone or any social media related technology. I also told friends and family that this was an experimental “being a cat”. I could call a friend or family member and could receive calls. I would just be more selective, or particular…kind of like a cat is with other living things!.
I was not to look at the time(time does not exist in the life of a cat) and wanted to practice mindful information consumption, so aside from no TV, social media and online content, in any form. I was not to read or write on this day either as I wanted to have any information coming in either from body signals and the natural environment,or as natural it could get for the purposes of this experiment)
I also wrote down a ‘to do” list the day before to comfort my brain and let it know I will get to things I have to get to (usually self-imposed unnecessary demands) the next day. And hey, if the next day never came, well, then the list wouldn’t matter anyway, right?!
I was not to look into a mirror as I tried to eliminate physical self-concept as much as possible. I wanted to deconstruct my self-concept. At least for that day. I was a cat…or maybe I just WAS….which I suppose was my self-concept for the day. Hey- the point of this exercise was to take on some behaviours of the cat. I was still conscious of my thoughts and thinking. I was still a human or spiritual being. Maybe if I took some narcotics that alter your state of consciousness, this experiment would have had a different effect. In this experiment I tried to follow my natural instinct.
As my cat would only be exposed to me, neighbours, family and friends when over, I limited interaction (again, no commitments) to neighbours I may cross paths with. My cat does get outside on the patio (never jumped in 16 years!)
Here’s how it went.
In order to do this you really have to get in touch with your primitive drives and instincts. But keep it civil at the same time.
I let myself sleep in and allowed my body to let me know when it was ready to wake up. I opened my eyes and did some stretching in bed. I took some deep breaths, looked around the room and then got up to wash my face (a little grooming).
I went to the kitchen and grazed on some cereal with milk and fed the actual cat.
I attended to some bodily needs (no, I did not use a litter box. I didn’t become a cat!)
I then looked around and…I felt tired. So after some grooming and feeding, I went and laid on the couch and dosed off. I woke up again. I did not know the time but guessed by the location of the sun hitting my apartment, I gathered it was around noon.
I again went and grazed on some food and water, as I felt hungry. Then it was time for some play and entertainment. So, I went outside, took my “skip it” (equivalent to a cat toy?) and played around with it for some time until I felt tired and went back in.
I called a good friend (you know, the type where you just feel…valued, loved and with reciprocity). They were not a threat to my territory lol. Or ego (now that’s for a totally other interesting topic!)
I ate a little more. Went to the bathroom. Then I went on my patio and laid on a chair and just gazed towards the park in a state of mindfulness. I watched a mosquito and followed its path. Wondered what its purpose was-and then what mine was.. Saw some trees shedding their leaves marking the end of their time. Observed a squirrel who seemed to have the happiest moment in its life with a nut it found, holding it in its mouth as if it were the prize of a lifetime (and it likely was-it needs food for survival and trimming those teeth!). No I didn’t chase any of these things-mosquitoes, squirrels, falling leaves….although who knows…maybe if I was in the wild having to fend for myself….and also I don’t have the heart to kill a mosquito. I believe it deserves to be here just as equally if not more than myself and I did not see it at the time as a direct threat to my existence). I do acknowledge however that they carry and spread virses and could be a threat (but so can we).
No, a cat likely does not think about its existence this way. Hey, as I mentioned before, I could not simply erase the essence of self-awareness or actually adopt the consciousness of an actual cat, whatever this is anyway. Maybe I could with some mind-altering hallucinogenic substance….or through natural mind-altering shifts in consciousness…like in dreams.
What I did do that was cat-like and that my mind was capable of doing without hallucinogenic? Delved in CURIOSITY. Doing my best not to judge.
And if I caught myself judging? I did a “catch and release”
Note: I swear my cats judge me….although it might be my own judgements of myself being reflected back at me through my cat?
By this time, I noticed the sun was setting, watched it. I went back in. I did some more stretching. Ate some dinner. Fed the actual cat. Took a shower (more grooming).
And that really summed up the day.I probably laid on and slept on every piece of furniture in my home (making sure to mark my scent, right?!)
Sure, there were some automatic thoughts and associated emotional reactions that came up. I acknowledged them and let them flow by, choosing not to engage or interact with them. Whatever they were, they were either made up, not important, ridiculous, self-defeating and could wait for tomorrow.
Ok. Now I did incorporate a couple of fun challenges here. I tried a cat treat (Temptations, dental care and hair ball deterrent, chicken flavour). Yeah. Not going to be in my self-care plan in the future.
I also meowed at fellow neighbours instead of using English and hissed at a few that are not ….well, my favourite people
Ok. That one was a joke. The treats were real though. Ugh….!Maybe next time I’ll try the salmon supreme.
Raw notes from my journal: What I learned during my reflections the next day.
At first I thought, “I did not feel very productive”, although I believe rest and restoration is productive. I did however have a lot more energy for productivity in the days to come!
I’ll break things down into how this experiment affected me into 3 categories:
Here are some raw notes, or streams of cognition, from my actual journal. Unedited.No. Correction. I took out the curse words to keep things clean.
Physical: I reconnected with my body.I realized how disconnected I have allowed myself to get from my body. I actually listened to my body. Really listened. Was I hungry? Tired? Bored? Did I always have to analyze what I was feeling going forward? I had no idea what I looked like…and it was actually quite liberating not have a reflection, likely distorted through cognitive errors, looking back and judging me.
Mind: Most of my stress comes from self-imposed demands stemming from living values that are perhaps not my own, and falling into deconstructive comparison traps.
That most of the items on my “to do”list….really did not matter too much and there was a large percentage where I scratched my ears )get it?0 and thought, why is this on my list anyways?
That my idea pf productivity might be a problem and working through this might be a solution to my stress and anxiety.
I also realized that this day ended up being MORE than self-care or that maybe the concept of self-care for me was different and much more expansive than I had originally thought.
I realized that allowing my mind to wander, without schedule, and step outside of myself is an important part of my emotional and mental well-being and from now on needed to be included in my self care plan.
Spiritual: This was the most profound area where awareness was evoked.
The value of experiential appreciation. Embracing the present moment. Connecting with nature and things outside of my internal thought processes. Remembering that mind thoughts are not world events but mind events. Realizing I spend way too much time suffering from existential anxiety. Reminding myself of my deepest values-peace, tranquility, serenity and calm, quality time with loved ones, simplicity, imperfection. Questioning the concept of time and how I really wanted to experience it going forward
So, would I do this again? YES! And no, I would not likely survive in this society if I did this all the time.
I may not be able to have a “cat day” regularly but I know that I could take parts and aspects of what I did/didn’t do, think/didn’t think, and implement these strategies and practices into my daily life – just not a whole day of it.
I would not have a day of this or do exactly the same things as some things would evoke more stress and I would not consider self-care (i.e they went against my value system, were impractical and unrealistic, and not in line with how I want to live my life. Going against one’s values can actually backfire as any self-care action you take, make sure it includes things that YOU value, feel good about and aligns with your goals
I learned that going forward, a lot of the internal struggles I experience are created by me and that my life does not have to be stressful. I just need to realign my priorities so they match my values:)
How to create and incorporate a day of Reset into your self-care plan in 4 STEPS:
The point of this experiment was not only for me, but for me to try out, reflect, learn and then pass on my findings, in hopes that it will help others who find themselves overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out.
- Select an animal or pet (if you do not have much experience with cats) that you have experience with and have maybe thought, “hmm, wouldn’t it be nice to be a _____ for a day.
- Observe some of the behaviours and what your interpretations of these are that you would like to experience. For example, it’s not that I wanted to become and be a cat (I did when I was a kid though, for sure!) but I wanted to experience some of the behaviours and ways of living that a cat experiences (given, indoor and sheltered).
It could be what I call a self-care thought or absence of a thought: i.e wouldn’t it be nice to be my dog and not have to worry about work? (You can choose to not worry about work for at least some time -I hope!)
Or not worry about what other people think (or what I think they think) about my weight?
Or behaviour: To have food served to me and everything cleaned, or sleep wherever and whenever and for however much time I want?
- Identify and Create your self-care routine! Select an analogous, realistic thought and behaviour and create space in your schedule.
- Reflect.Keep a journal and make a notes of what you did, how you felt. This will be very different from others. One’s idea of self-care is subjective. Your own concept of self-care may also change depending on your situation in life and where you are at.
Ok. So for non-cat people. You could use another animal, domesticated or not.
Our consciousness, the endless stream of it, is also our biggest problem, so looking at an animal can help us relate more to our primitive side when things were less complicated and . They have something we don’t. You could use a dog, rabbit, I have use a squirrel (I observed how happy it looked (or that is the emotions I made of things) when it found a nut and then realized I too can experience such joy, with something so simple. And now I do, everyday! But let’s start with the cat.
You could use another human if you feel they live aspects of what you determine would be good self-care measures for you. A human is an animal!
The biggest learning curve? Putting the existential experiences and trip I went on aside:
a. A day of Resetting is an essential component of Self-care
b. I need to schedule more self-care into my days and a sign I need to do this is when my resentment towards my innocent cat goes above a 3/10.
I now know too what a self-care plan that works for me looks like.
As for the initial resentment, I have actually let go and feel I am at a 0.5/10. Why it went down? I identified what I really needed, explored my projections, anger and frustration (coming from my needs not being met), explored what I had control over, and took control. I placed myself back into an internal locus of control mindset, again reminding myself that the only thing getting in my way was myself.
We have more control over my thoughts and actions than we believe we have.
I hope this read has provided you with some insight and helpful tips so that you can assess whether a Reset Day might be of help to you and use it to create a self-care plan, one defined by you, defined by your values.
I would love to hear your thoughts or if you give this a go, how it goes for you! We can learn so much from each other.
This article is dedicated to my beloved Main Coon, Moose, who gave me 14 wonderful years of love and joy. He passed September 14th 2020 in the comfort of loved ones..