Self Care Practices

I am a big believer in self care. I know that if I don’t do something for myself on a daily basis, everything in my life starts to go downhill fast. When I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or sad, I try to actually stop and think about what I need in that moment to lift me back up. Or if I can’t stop what I’m doing, I plan out something maybe more elaborate or time consuming that I can do for myself as soon as possible.

I define self care as doing anything that brings your soul joy. It doesn’t have to have any purpose other than it makes you happy. I feel like sometimes self care is seen as being overly indulgent or selfish or something that only spoiled people can have. And that’s just not true. Self care is loving yourself so you have love to give to others. Self care is giving yourself treats and pockets of time with no agenda other than to boost you up with joy and happiness. Self care is living your best life so that you have a longer life to live. It is vitally important and worthy of your time. YOU are worth taking care of.

The activities you choose to take care of yourself are different for each person. But I have a list of things that work for me that I thought I’d share today.

READ

Reading is always my go to because it can happen anywhere at any time and is virtually free. It’s the reason I wanted a huge cozy reading chair so badly for most of my adult life. I created a small oasis with the sole purpose of providing me a comfortable spot to relax and read. I also have books in just about every room of my house, started and bookmarked, just waiting for me to pick back up. Reading is an amazing escape and with the right genre at the right time, it can be the best pick me up. YA and romance are my favorites when I need a real mood booster.

WRITE

I know it’s not for everyone, but I can’t go a day without writing. Generally it’s in the form of an email (or two) to my best friend, but I’m trying to start shifting more of that energy into something more creative. When I’m extremely stressed out or irritated, nothing will cool me down faster than to sit down and just brain dump on the page. Writing is incredibly cathartic when I’m down and energizing when I need a lift. If you feel like you have a lot to say and nobody really to say it to – just write it down! It helps, I promise.

TV OR MOVIE AT A SPECIAL TIME

Nothing feels more special and indulgent than going to the movie theater in the middle of the day or sitting down to watch your favorite tv show at a time you wouldn’t normally watch it. I LOVE going to the theater by myself on a random Tuesday morning. It feels like such an escape from reality. Ideally I’d like to work this into my schedule once a month just because it’s such a treat. I also love saving my absolute favorite show (The Resident) to watch while I eat lunch – with NO sewing in front of me. This is pretty rare because it’s soooo hard to justify watching tv without multitasking. But when I do, it feels amazing. I also adore having a special movie night to myself, but Greg is only gone at night like two times a year, so that’s extremely rare for me. But I definitely make it happen on those super rare occasions I have the living room to myself in an evening!

BE CREATIVE

Since my entire life revolves around creative pursuits right now, I don’t turn to this option often. But it’s out there! It’s fun to try a new craft project, start something special for yourself or as a gift, or do a project you’ve been wanting to work on forever and never seem to find the time for. It’s so affirming to make something by hand from start to finish.

GO FOR A WALK

After breaking my ankle and not being able to walk for three months and then having four more really tough walking months, it’s been hard for me to shift my thinking and see this as a way of self care. But I’m really getting there. I’m slightly in panic mode about it because I know once the snow and ice come, there is no way I’m walking outside any more than I absolutely have to – I never, ever want to break a bone again. But at the moment, I’m trying to go on extra walks with Annie in the evenings just because I genuinely want to. It’s a good stress reliever after which is oftentimes a stressful dinner hour with super whiny kids.

GO TO THE DOG PARK

Get the fresh air, without needing to do the exercise (unless you want to) – plus be surrounded by cute dogs! Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get myself over there, but I never regret it. I love seeing Annie’s joy when she has freedom to just run and run. I love when there are other dogs she can play with. And I love when it’s just the two of us and we can soak in the fresh air and silence and beautiful scenery. It never fails to lift me up.

PLAN A SPECIAL SHOPPING TRIP

If you enjoy shopping. 🙂 I LOVE shopping, too much. I run almost all my errands out of town every week so I can go to more of the places I like with the best prices. Which is fun, but necessary. The real joy comes from planning and going on more niche shopping trips. For me, that’s maybe a few hours at the antique mall looking for new doll supplies. Or checking out the area thrift stores every few months. Or like this week, going to multiple stores that are releasing all of their Christmas inventory. Even if I don’t buy anything, it’s so fun to get out and see something different. Though who are we kidding, I’m usually going to buy something. But that’s how I find the best gifts for people and unique house decorations – something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

GO ON A DATE

I don’t know about other people, but I think it’s incredibly hard to stay connected to Greg when we don’t have any time away from our kids, our house, our neverending list of responsibilities. We’re fortunate enough that we usually have a weekly at home date night when the boys go to Grandma’s house, but I think it’s even more effective when we actually leave the house. I have something to look forward to, I have something to dress up a bit for, I don’t have to do any cooking or cleaning, and it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll feel closer to my husband afterward.

SEE YOUR FRIENDS

Friend time is so important. I always struggle to write about this because I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone that might read this. I wish friend time was a bigger part of my life because it’s almost always life-giving. It’s a chance to connect with someone outside your family, it’s time to vent and get things off your chest, and it’s usually a whole lot of fun!

MAKE A MEAL YOU WANT TO EAT

I’d say about 90% of the time, I want breakfast and dinner to be easy and fast. It’s stressful making food that everybody likes. It’s never fun trying to put together a meal when the whole family is hungry and cranky. But every once in awhile, when I know I might have some extra free time in the afternoon, I like to sit down with a beloved cookbook and pick out a meal that I truly want to eat. If I know the kids won’t eat it, then they can just deal with some chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly. I think it’s totally worth it to give yourself the freedom in the kitchen to actually create a delicious and incredible meal every once in awhile. For me, since I work at home, I’ve been trying to do this more often at lunchtime as well. If I have some amazing chicken tacos prepped and ready for my lunch, I’m a lot less likely to snack on crap all day long.

BAKE SOMETHING

This used to be my ultimate self care. I’ve loved baking my entire life. It’s kind of fallen to the wayside in the last few years because my family has very strong opinions on what they do and don’t like, and most people are watching their weight and just don’t want baked goods as a temptation. Which is kind of a bummer! But if there’s some sort of occasion (or create an occasion!) that might require a fancy dessert, go for it! Or just bake a loaf of bread! The reward of making something so simple can be such a delight.

RESEARCH SOMETHING

For me, it’s new books. I already have more books on my kindle than I’ll probably ever read. Same with books on my shelves. But you better believe that doesn’t stop me from my standing date with my computer every Tuesday to check out the new releases! I’m constantly looking at book blogs, listening to book podcasts, and grabbing book fliers from the library and bookstores about upcoming books. It’s my favorite hobby – besides actually reading. It’s free, it can be done anytime, and it makes me so happy. I also occasionally like to research things like future vacations, presents for people, or clothing I might want.

GO ON A TRIP

I know this isn’t always a feasible option, but if you can make it happen, it is SO WORTH IT. Solo vacations are kind of amazing. Greg always encourages me to go when something pops up (Colleen Hoover’s book signing in MN last August, The Popcast live show in Chicago, my trip to DC, my Book Bonanza trip to Texas next summer). But occasionally I try to get a night or two away with absolutely no agenda, like when I went to Door County last fall. It’s definitely an indulgence to justify a hotel and travel expenses and food just for a vacation by yourself. But it’s so refreshing and amazing, I totally think it’s worth it – at least once a year.

CREATE AMBIANCE

This is another super easy practice that can really give you a personal boost. I love having spaces around the house that are carved out for relaxing. While most of the house is filled with clutter and kid or technology related things, there are a few spots that I try really hard to always keep clutter free and clean. In fall and winter I love having scented candles lit in every room to add a huge cozy element to the house. Recently I added a candle to my desktop which I light every time I’m going to be at my computer for a longer stretch of time. It makes me ridiculously happy. I also like to do things like play soft worship music in the morning when we’re getting ready, use linen sprays on my bed and furniture, buy the softest pajamas I can find, have multiple blankets available on every couch and chair, and spray my favorite perfume on whenever the mood strikes. There are so many tiny little things you can give yourself every day to amplify the joy in your life.

This is far from an exclusive list of self care ideas, but these are my favorites and what work for me. Hopefully the list might prompt you to take charge of your life and start giving you a few options for your own self care plan!

More Than a Number

This is only the second time in my life I have actively been trying to lose weight. I don’t like diets, I hate feeling deprived. I have been of the mindset for the last many, many years that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and that generally includes making and eating delicious food. I want to accept who I am, no matter what I look like on the outside, as long as I’m doing my best to be kind and happy and joyful on the inside. I want to believe that I will be loved by my husband and my kids, whether I’m overweight or not. And if I love me and they love me, then does it really matter?

Well, when it starts to negatively affect your health, then yes, I think it matters. As much as I am loathe to admit it. Getting the high pressure blood medication two months ago was quite a wake up call to me. Having a liver ultrasound that could have potentially given me some very bad news was definitely the jolt that pushed me over the line and made me say that yes, I DO need to lose weight. I need to be healthier. I need to live longer. I need to set a better example to my kids so they can in turn be healthier and live longer and set good examples to their own children.

I have started making some pretty major changes in the last two weeks. I refuse to say that I’m on a diet, because I don’t want this to be a temporary thing. I am working really hard to genuinely change the way I think about food and what I decide to put into my body. I don’t want to live like I am denying myself. Which is definitely how it felt that first week. The second week has been easier. I still catch myself a little bit desperate to sneak into the pantry at the slightest hunger pang. It’s been taking an arsenal of tips and tricks to avoid the things that are bad for me. I’m not entirely confident I can stay on this path for the rest of my life. But I’ve also been seeing so many changes in just two weeks – changes beyond just the number on the scale – that I’m feeling much more confident about this journey than I was even a couple of days ago.

On the Noom program, they require you to weigh yourself every single morning. I believe on Weight Watchers, at least when I did it six years ago, you are supposed to weigh in once a week. I was strongly against doing it every day, until almost every morning when I see the scale drop a little bit more. That’s about the best motivation ever. But I also know there will be days it’ll go back up. Like the other night when I had my late night peanut butter toast and a Kit Kat bar after hating what I made for dinner and feeling extremely hungry. I knew the scale would go back up and it did. But today, even after eating out for lunch yesterday and sitting in a car for almost the entire day, it went back down. I love the encouragement of it going down, but live in terror of it going up. I don’t want to live like this either. I don’t want my entire life to be structured around food and calories and beating myself up over making mistakes or refusing to let myself indulge in special circumstances. I want to be more than that number and it scares me how much that number has affected my thoughts all day long in the last week and a half.

My goal as I continue on this journey to better health and happiness is to focus on all the changes beyond the number on the scale. I’m quickly realizing there are so many benefits to eating healthier besides my actual weight dropping. I love that to coincide with thinking about this, my Noom article this morning had a huge list of potential changes. I’m going to list a lot of them now (almost word for word from Noom), so I can remember them in the future. These are the things I want to focus on as I pick an orange from the fridge instead of pretzels from the pantry. As I skip that third taco and eat a small salad instead. As I avoid the aisles in the grocery stores that I know hold my biggest temptations. As I go for an evening walk instead of eating a dessert for the fifth night in a row. These are the changes I want to see and celebrate and take with me as solid encouragement that it is worth a little upheaval to be a healthier human being.

Physical Changes

  • Weight loss
  • Inches lost
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clothes fitting better (please, yes!)
  • Working out longer and with more intensity
  • Less aches and pains

Psychological Changes

  • More confidence in my skin
  • Less anxiety in uncomfortable situations
  • Limiting myself to one dessert
  • Conquering a trigger
  • Eating a mindful meal
  • Feeling empowered to make the healthier choice
  • Feeling pretty great about life

Social Changes

  • Being more social
  • Being complimented by others
  • Choosing healthier choices at a restaurant
  • Resisting temptations at the grocery store
  • Turning down treats I don’t actually want
  • Getting my family turned on to healthier food

Other Progress

  • Meal prepping for the week (yes! all three meals!)
  • Cooking new recipes
  • Bringing lunch with me on long errand days
  • Trying new healthy foods
  • Developing a distaste for unhealthy food
  • Cooking at home more often than eating out
  • Taking the stairs or the long route more often
  • Reaching step goals every day

For me, I really just want to feel better. Physically and mentally. I don’t want to feel bloated and slow and heavy anymore. I want to have a lot more energy to just be a better person overall. I’d like to think that despite a few temporary setbacks when knowing something I really want has too many calories, I’ve been happier this last week and a half. My brain has felt so much more clear and focused. I would LOVE to see the scale keep dropping and I’d love for my clothes to fit better and to feel more confident in my skin. But just plain FEELING better has been a pretty great motivator. I hope I can keep it up. 🙂