With her love of fashion, fun, handsome men and humanitarianism, I’ve often wondered if I could have been Audrey Hepburn in another life. But what most endears me to her is her quote: “I was born with an enormous need for affection and a terrible need to give it.” What is so apparent to me in these words is a quiet desperation, desperation with which most naturally affectionate people immediately relate.

People who know me would describe me as very warm and affectionate, bordering on mushy. I’m a hugger. A kisser. A lover. A giver of warm words and gifts. It bubbles out of me almost constantly, like a well with a deep-seeded spring of passion. I don’t have to try; it just happens, and I adore when all of those things are given to me in return.

Recently, I realized that the spring was no longer bubbling. I was stunned by a emptiness as if the well had suddenly and irrevocably run dry. I tried to pass it off as “having the blues” for a day or two, but time continued to pass in which I had no affection, absolutely nothing, to give. It had been coming on a while, and I’m implementing some simple changes to get my groove back.

  1. Map out a plan for self-care. We need 8 hours of sleep. Our bodies need healthful, whole foods with lots of color. This step is so simple, but so immediate and necessary. We cannot be affectionate and loving when we’re exhausted and “hangry”.
  2. Manifest joy through music. Lately, I’ve been playing Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s Appalachian bluegrass record on constant repeat. Their affection for each other as a married couple with a new baby oozes out of every song they have lovingly crafted. It makes me feel so hopeful. I often take my favorite love song and instead of thinking about the one I love, I sing it to myself. That’s right, I sing love songs to myself.
  3. Mindfully consider the love of others. My partner is not used to this irritable, grumpy version of me. He has been walking around with a furrowed brow as he tries to figure out the fix. He does little things to show me love: goes and picks up a load of hay for the horses, gives me extra cuddles at the coffee pot, or happily runs a kid errand when I’m tired. When we’re feeling empty, it’s easy to overlook those simple acts of kindness from our loved ones as we struggle to keep our heads above water. But, I’ve found that taking a moment to close my eyes and let that kindness sink into my spirit begins to plug the holes that were leaking in my well and allows it to start to fill up again.
  1. Meditate with a furry creature. There is something so simple and so easy about connecting with animals. There is no drama and no emotional need on their part. For me, this is a connection with my horses. It’s pretty simple – as long as I’ve got horse cookies, hay, shelter, and a belly scratch, they follow me around like ducklings. I can bury my head in a soft, fuzzy neck and release all of the stress, allowing the warm body and rhythmic breath to steady me. They take it, no questions asked, and bear the burden for me. I don’t have to feel guilty about feeling too much or being too little.
  1. Master the art of alone-time. Some of my favorite alone-dates are indie movies (subtitles! Bonus!), French restaurants, trail rides, and snow shoeing in the national park near my home in Colorado. It is terrifying and refreshing to be alone with my thoughts in my favorite places. I treat myself the way I wish others would treat me; with great love and affection, spoiling myself with the riches that nature and the world have to offer.
  1. Monitor your results. Sometimes, we need professional help to get out of a funk. If sadness drags on too long, it’s a good idea to get some objective advice.

It turns out that affection is not a never-ending wellspring as I previously thought. I have to guard the source carefully; it is at once my gift and my curse, alternately causing joy and desperation. I have to love myself first, and then give it away with abandon, trusting that it will continue to be there when I need it most.