I love the month of February. For 28 days, we are encouraged to celebrate love, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – except when people believe love is only about romantic love.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about romance. I write stories about love. I love my romantic husband. But there are so many different ways to celebrate love, and they don’t have to be about having a significant other.
Whether you’re part of a romantic relationship or not, this post is for you…because it’s about YOU.
Let’s talk about self-care.
Okay, I know that “self-care” has become the buzz word of the 2020s, but how many of you actually practice it? I’m not just talking about indulging in an extra piece of cake because dammit, you deserve it. You do deserve it, but that’s not the point. The point is how you schedule in time for you, and ONLY YOU.
Let me pause here. We are all in different stages of our lives, and time is a precious commodity. My time as a married woman with grown children is so much different than a single mother of little ones. I acknowledge that my ability to find time for myself is a lot easier than it is for someone caring for littles all on her own. That said, it just makes it more important for you to find help. I mention single moms because I was one. Also, this post might help you discover that much needed time.
And we’re back.
For me, self-care isn’t about bubble baths (because I currently do not have a bathtub) or long walks on the beach (because that’s not always convenient). I love bubble baths and beach walks, but that’s not exactly something I can do at a moment’s notice. So my self-care habits are more about what I can do with what’s within my grasp, and anything that can be done without planning.
Here are my favorite forms of self-care:
Yes, that’s right. I said breathing. As in taking a deep breath in, and then letting it out. Repeat. It’s so easy to breathe that we do it unconsciously. But here’s a secret about focusing on your breath – it brings you back to the present moment. When you find your mind running through past events (why did I do that? how could she do that? I can’t get over that!) or future scenarios (I wish I had that. I dread dealing with that. I want things to be different), STOP. Take a deeeeep breath. Hold it. Let it out slowly. Then do it again. This practice will relieve you of dwelling on the past or future, bringing you back to the present moment where you can find peace in just being in the NOW. Sounds kind of new agey, right? Wrong. It’s called caring about your mental health and giving your brain a rest.
I know what you’re thinking – Crissi, I’ve been walking since I was a toddler. Why are you telling me to walk? Because, smarty pants, walking is probably so second nature, you don’t even think about it. That’s why I recommend walking with intention. Practice your breathing while you go for a walk. Notice the things around you – your neighbor’s yards, the birds in the trees, the clouds in the sky, the smell of your neighborhood, the feel of the breeze…
Quarantine has made walkers out of so many of us, myself included. At first, I walked as a means to get out of the house. Then it was to counteract all the quarantine snacks I was enjoying. Then it became a chore. But when I started to use walking as another form of staying in the present, I began to enjoy it again. I love feeling the way my muscles are shifting, or how my legs actually crave walking. I love walking early because I get to see the stars still in the sky and feel crisp air on my cheeks. And it’s time for just me, no one else (because I prefer to walk by myself). It’s when I can listen to a whole album uninterrupted, or my favorite podcast of the moment. And when I’m done, I have the satisfaction of having walked. Plus, it’s one of the easiest forms of exercise. After all, I’ve been walking since I was a toddler.
Yoga & Meditation
Even though these are two separate practices, I am lumping them together because they do the same thing for me in different ways.
I have been doing yoga on and off for years, and two weeks ago I restarted my yoga practice with Yoga With Adriene and her 30 day challenge she’s calling Breath. It has been delightful! Adriene has been leading 30-minute practices that focus on breath work while incorporating movement. Everything I said earlier about breathing to stay present absolutely applies to this practice, and it’s been so beneficial in helping me transition out of my work day and into rest mode. Plus, I’m noticing more mobility in my neck and spine, which is where I carry all my stress.
For meditation, I use the app Headspace. You can absolutely meditate on your own without anything – all it takes is for you to focus on your breathing while you practice staying in the moment. But I really appreciate the guidance of Headspace. As soon as I hear the gentle voice guiding me back to the present, or focusing on the current theme of that meditation, I drop into the zone. When it’s done, I feel like my brain just got a massage. I’m new to meditation, and I absolutely see the benefits.
Without joy, what is life? What are the things you love to do or surround yourself with? For me, that’s reading and writing, of course. It’s also spending quality time with my family or a good friend. It’s taking long drives along the coast and stopping to take in the view. It’s sitting by the fire, camping under the stars, and falling asleep in the sun. It’s savoring each bite of a homecooked meal or spending an afternoon playing with henna. It’s sitting still with my cat in my lap or losing myself in a really good movie. It’s weeding the garden or studying paintings in a gallery.
Think about the things that bring you joy, and then schedule in time for it – at least once each week. I mean, you don’t want a joyless life, right?
These are my ideas of self-care. What are yours?
By the way, if making time for self-care feels impossible to you, you’re not alone. You’re also not alone if your busy life is keeping you from accomplishing your passion projects. A few years ago, I wrote a book called Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room for Your Craft. In it, I share ways to manage your finances, health, time, and more so that you can make more time for that thing that brings meaning to your life. If you’re in need of making time for the things you love to do, this book could help.