Real Life Self Care – The Best Gifts I’ve Given Myself in the Past Year

Love you moreHOW MANY TIMES have you googled self-care ideas?  And how sick are you of the take a bath/use lavender oil/drink water/take a dance break lame advice?  I’ve done it, too, but the fact is that self-care is really individualized and there’s not a lot of real help that the internet can give you.

This list (in celebration of my birthday!) is of the best gifts I’ve chosen to give myself in the past year-ish; some of them have been a long time in the making, some of them are old habits that I’ve brought new love to, and some of them were snap decisions.  All of them are things that I genuinely do EVERY day.  While these specific ideas might not appeal to you, I hope that the point does: self-care means giving yourself what you really need, even if it’s not listed on Pinterest.

These seven changes and habits have made my life way better!  If you’re waiting to make changes to make your life better, I recommend starting today…next week, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start last year.

1. Making My Bed (new habit)

I wasn’t required to make my bed when I was growing up, so I never got into the habit.  I’ve had my moments where I made it for a day or two in a row, but frankly I’ve lived alone for most of my life and it just seemed silly to me to take the 30 seconds to pull up my duvet and rearrange the pillows when I was the only one seeing it.

However.

Making your bed is on just about every list of productivity and happiness tips out there, so I GAVE IN.  Now I’m a convert. It takes NO time, and I genuinely feel better when bedtime finally comes around – there’s more of a division between “awake time” and “sleep time”, and my bedroom looks organized all the time, which stops Clothes Mountain from forming because I don’t want to mess things up.

water with fruit2. Infusing Water (new habit)

I spent $5 on a pitcher that I love and I toss in a few slices of cucumber or citrus fruits, mint leaves, strawberries, or whatever is handy before I fill it up with filtered water.  The pitcher holds the exact (minimum) amount of water I need to drink in a day, it’s easy to clean, and the locking spout keeps it from spilling in the fridge or from needing an infuser insert, since it works as a strainer as well.  Why did I wait so long?  It really took this specific tool to make this easy enough to do every day.

3. Keeping One Stream (refined habit)

All of my ideas, to-do lists, appointments, tasks, and other mental clutter-in-the-making go in ONE place.  I used to have separate lists in separate notebooks, notes in my phone, post-its in four or five places, and my mental list, but as of about 2 years ago I consolidated to ONE list.  This year, I improved my process by being more honest about how I needed to organize my information, being diligent about getting temporary info into its permanent home, and making time every week for reviewing my notes/plans/goals and updating my planner.

4. Only “Touching it Once” (refined habit)

This habit has been in my productivity arsenal for about 12 years, but I finally made space (see the next change!) for my filing system to work for me.  I didn’t invent this tip – I got it from a blog or book wayyyy back when – but the basic idea is to only touch an email/paper/text/to-do item/object one time to get it to completion.  I was always good about doing this when I had an office job, but I wasn’t as diligent when the task or item only affected me.

For example, after I check the mail, I immediately recycle the junk, open and file papers like bank statements or useful coupons, and take care of anything that needs to be taken care of like bills, insurance nonsense, etc.  At no point does a stack of mail or paper land anywhere to be handled “later”.

If I open an email, it’s because I’m prepared to reply to it or do whatever needs to be done.  When I change clothes, the clothes I take off go into the hamper or into purgatory (hooks on my closet door) if they’re in that limbo not-clean-but-not-dirty state.  Nothing ever gets too far out of place, and I save a lot of mental energy from only having to process each item or task one time.

5. Konmari-ing My Life (new-ish habit)

What I loved about the Konmari cleanout (or my version of it) is that it finishes the job.  Everything is out, so everything has to get dealt with.  There’s no halfway nonsense, and you are focused on the present moment and what objects and processes are going to help you live your life today in the way that feels great to you.

AMEN.  I’m much happier living NOW than hanging out and waiting for someday.

I did one very thorough round in January that took about 3 days, another small round in March, and another round that mostly focused on just 2 categories of stuff in May. I didn’t own all that much to begin with, and I still donated 3 carloads of stuff and sold another good chunk of my former belongings – and yet, I have more than enough.  My environment feels peaceful and settled, everything has a home, and my closets and cabinets are almost stuff-repellant – it takes a lot to make it into my life these days!

I got 99% on board with the idea of keeping zero paper, which is what made change #4 so much easier – there’s room to file the things I need to hang onto for the next year or so for taxes, and the occasional scrapbook-worthy card.  (To be honest, I also have a storage crate of tax archives and similar papers, because I’m 9999 years old inside and I get antsy getting rid of every single paper.)

6. Taking a Lunch Break (new habit)

How sad is that line?!  I have always worked through lunch if I didn’t have social plans, which is terrible for your health but at least kind of makes sense if you’re in an office environment and don’t have access to your comfy house and kitchen at lunch…

…so it’s sort of the worst that I hadn’t been taking real lunch breaks until February of this year.

Since I opened Tiny Fitness, I had scheduled other tasks on top of my lunch break to make it more “productive” – email, blogging, instagram, replying to texts, basically anything that didn’t require me to be face to face with someone or talking with my mouth full.  Holdover habit from working in an office?  Silly nonsense?  Denial?

Now I actually eat lunch and relax for at least 30 minutes (if it’s good enough for OSHA, it’s good enough for me), and it’s wonderful.  I don’t end up weird and anxious at the end of the night from overworking myself, and I’m much faster and more focused when I do get to all of those digital tasks.  I seriously don’t think I’ve taken lunch time just to eat lunch since I was in middle school, which makes no sense now that I know how great lunch breaks are, especially because all the time I was “saving” probably just went to trying to relax at night after it was too late.

gratitude is peace7. Focusing on Gratitude (refined habit)

2017 has been a YEAR for me so far, and there were a couple of points when it would have felt really good to totally freak out.  Instead, I upped my gratitude levels and kept moving forward.

I’m not the best about keeping a gratitude journal.  I’m probably kind of okay at telling/showing people I appreciate them.  But where I practice gratitude the most is in my attitude.  Things don’t always (ever?!) work out how we expect them to, but there’s still good to be found and appreciated in every situation.

One of my favorite gratitude reminders is my dog, who is SO enthused to go on the same walk over and over again.  He reminds me to stay excited about each blooming flower and scampering squirrel that we come across.

Being grateful doesn’t mean staying stuck – it just makes the process of moving on to the next step so much smoother.

What do you do to take great care of yourself?  What are you putting off until “later” for yourself..and why not do it now?

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