Practical Ways to Take Care of Yourself

The Basics of Taking Care of Yourself

If we're not at our best, it's hard to act our best and get done what needs to be done. Ask me how I know. Actually, just read my vulnerable sharing of my slow and steady self-care over the long haul from last week. This is a follow-up to that with some more practical ideas, because self-care isn't all bubble baths (although, for me, sometimes it is).

*Affiliate links used. See full note below.

Schedule Doctors' Appointments

This was my number one goal for starting the new year. I made a list of appointments I knew I needed for the year (dermatologist for a skin screening, routine cleaning at the dentist, yearly exam with the gynecologist, sessions with the counselor). Then, I sat down one afternoon and made all of the appointments. Often my neglect of going to the doctor is making the appointment; once the appointment is made, all I have left is to follow through. I put them in my calendar, so now I don't have to think about it again until the date approaches. This is my first time doing this. For the last few years I scheduled appointments last-minute or not at all, and put off going to the doctor even when I was having obvious things going on (lethargy and such that ended up being deficiencies in iron one time and Vitamin D another time). It's not worth putting off, when a visit and a blood draw could potentially lead to an easier solution than I'm imagining. (Side note: I realize this is a bigger deal or harder to do depending on your health care plan. Start with knowing what your plan covers, then prioritize and work toward the essentials if you have a problem that needs addressed. For instance, a hurting tooth could lead to a bigger expense later on.)

Move and Stretch

This is my super low-key daily exercise routine--"move" in the morning and stretch in the evening. I know I should do more, but I'm learning to let go of the shoulds and pick up what works for me in this season. And what works for me in this season is moving at least a little--a few exercises in my room at the start of the day or even walking the kids to and from school like I used to. And ending my day with some stretches--it's basically an at-home yoga flow with some vinyasas and my favorite poses or stretches thrown in. Eventually I'll do more. For now, this is enough to build from.

Drink Water

Thankfully I actually like water, so this isn't necessarily a hard one for me. What's helped is using a stainless steel tumbler with a straw that makes it easy as can be to take quick sips all throughout the day. (With no concerns of spilling it on myself or fumbling with a lid.) I fill it at night so I can drink it when I first wake up, then I refill around breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I've had morning sickness or needed something extra, I just add fresh lemon slices for a yummy and healthy twist.

Take Supplements

I was in the supplements-are-a-scam camp before some doctor's visits at different times proved I was deficient in iron and Vitamin D. I've since taken my supplements a little more seriously, especially being a busy mom of picky-eaters (and being picky myself) means we don't always have the most well-rounded meals. I continue to take Vitamin D, a Vitamin B complex, and iron year-round. Your doctor can help direct you on which would be beneficial for you to take and how much.

Go Outside

No seriously. Step outdoors. Or am I the only that forgets this simple, healing act? Fresh air and sunshine (doesn't have to be direct) can do so much for overall health, especially in the de-stressing realm. A quick walk around the neighborhood, reading on the porch while the kids ride their bikes, or exploring a nearby state park or trails are my favorites.

Get Offline

I've written many times before of my love-hate relationship with technology and especially social media. The hate side comes with how addicting and distracting it can be, as well as how I find myself feeling stressed or even anxious after just scrolling through my feeds. I set (and try to stick to) daily limits for myself--don't log on until I've gotten certain things done, check-in but don't keep scrolling, post when I actually have something to post, put my phone down when the kids are around, and log off at least 30-60 minutes before bed. I also make sure when I'm on it, I'm using it for the love-part--connecting with people, making plans to get together, writing and sharing encouraging things.

Write Morning Pages

I learned about this from a friend and it has made a huge difference in my mental and emotional health. I've always kept a journal that I use during my morning devotional time, but the idea of morning pages is a little less directed. You simply write anything on your mind for a set limit of pages (my friend did 3) or a set amount of time. I could sit forever, but in this season I've gotta work on my doing, so I simply write 1 page processing a Bible text and 1 page writing anything on my heart/mind. It's been so therapeutic to have a place that I can get my thoughts out right at the start of the day to think a little clearer about the tasks ahead of me. Then, I sometimes go back later in the day to write a little more if I have more to work through. Of course there's value to an actual therapist/counselor, but this has been a necessary addition for a daily therapy.

Take an Epsom Bubble Bath

I love a good bath, but usually avoid it because we've only ever had bath tubs in rental homes that are quite shallow and don't at all measure up to my luxurious fantasy. Then, I started getting more regular headaches/migraines and dealt with some anxiety, and a hot Epsom bath seemed to be one of a few things that actually helped. When I have a persistent headache, I put peppermint or muscle relief essential oils on my neck/shoulders, take a bath with a scoop of Epsom salts, and put a pack of frozen veggies wrapped in a tea towel on the back of my neck--the combo works wonders. When I'm feeling stressed or anxious, I make the bath with Epsom salts and a couple cap fulls of Epsom bath bubbles--the hot water is grounding and the bubbles are calming.

Light a Candle

I actually forget to light candles. Even when they're sitting there smelling good and looking pretty, even when I have matches or a lighter nearby. Lighting a candle when I'm reading or taking bath, when I'm getting work done, or after doing the dishes, is a tangible reminder to slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. Woodwick candles are my favorite, because the crackling adds an extra sensory reminder beyond the scent. And blowing it out is like a sweet take-care until next time.

See a Friend

Spoken like a true introvert that seeing friend's isn't natural for me and has to be added to my reminders. Talking with a friend in person is a form of self-care, even for true introverts like me. Humans were not created to be hermits--we're better together, even if together happens in small doses.

Read Truth

Honestly I don't know for sure if we think our way into doing or do our way into thinking, but I believe life is a little bit of both. And directing my thoughts starts with reading and dwelling on Truth. For me, that's reading my Bible at least a little bit everyday--even a text or two. It's also choosing to read books that inspire and encourage, or even challenge me to do hard, but good things like love others. Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown are two I've read recently that especially felt like a boost in self-care. Reading often gets pushed off the priority list, especially if you're a slow-/non-reader like me. But I've learned putting reading into my daily routine, at least for a few minutes after lunch and a few minutes before bed, can be just the antidote I need to life's chaos.

This isn't meant to add to your already long list of to-dos. It's meant to be the routine foundation of a healthy, thriving life that's even capable of tackling a to-do list. I've had to go about this one tiny habit at a time. Putting a place in my planner to actually checkoff when I take my vitamins or stretch or write my morning pages. Those are my new daily minimum, because when I do at least that, I am almost always able to do all the other things I tell myself are more important.

But how important are they really if I neglect myself to the point of lifelessness? It's not worth it. Ever.

It's your turn. Pull out a pen and paper (or a notebook you can collect these sorts of things in). Write "Ways to care for myself" and start listing whatever comes to mind. Then try to choose just one to actually do over the next month. Whether you already have good self-care routines, or need a self-care intervention, putting some effort into the hard and slow care of your own health is never wasted. You deserve it.


also see:
new? start here...
30 ways to slow + rest
self-care over the long haul
slow reader to book lover
simple emails

*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Any purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Slow and Steady Self-Care Over the Long Haul

My venture in slow and steady self-care over the long haul: Letting go of my false hopes of where I think I should be and accepting the deep peace knowing this is exactly where I need to be. Which is slowing to let myself grow in my own time.

My now 7-year-old was 6-days-old, laying on a blanket with sun pouring on him through the condo window. I laid on the floor beside him, soaking in the same sunrays and locking the sweetness of the moment into memory.

Not even an hour before, I was on the beach just a block away.

It was my brother's destination wedding weekend in St. Pete Beach, Florida just a 2-hours drive from our home at the time. It was Sabbath, the day before the wedding, and both families (my brother's and his bride's) were out enjoying a warm January morning on the beach. Beaches are my absolute favorite, so of course I longed to join them.

Sure, I'd delivered an 11-pound baby just 6 days before. But I figured if I could get out to where everyone was, I would just sit and enjoy the scenery and let my postpartum body relax. How hard could it be?

Apparently harder than I thought. Not even a few yards into the sand, I felt like I'd paced a dessert and back. I was hot, my calves ached, and I felt heavy like I was sinking further into quicksand with each step. I knew I wouldn't be able to make it to where everyone else was, and certainly not make it all the way back. My husband walked baby and me back to the condo where we could get some real rest.

At first, I felt defeated. Who can't simply walk on a beach?

Then, nestled with baby on the condo floor, I looked over at my sweet little chub filling out his size 0-3 month onesie. I felt the warmth of the sun washing away my false hopes of where I thought I should be and felt a deep peace knowing this was exactly where I needed to be. With my brand new only-a-newborn-once son, relishing the view of watching him sleep. Letting my body slow and rest to allow the post-childbirth bleeding to stop in its own time, rather than making it worse by pushing myself in the name of not missing out.


My venture in slow and steady self-care over the long haul: Letting go of my false hopes of where I think I should be and accepting the deep peace knowing this is exactly where I need to be. Which is slowing to let myself grow in my own time.

That's the image that keeps coming to mind as I think about my venture into self-care over the last couple years. Except I've had a long walk off the beach away from what I wanted, to be able to find a little more of what I needed. And that was some good old fashioned self-care.

I've had to say "no" to so many things I wanted, including after saying some haphazard "yeses" on my good days. I've felt guilty over disappointing people with my lack of follow-through, and simultaneously embarrassed that I didn't understand what I was going through so couldn't use it as an explanation.

I've had mornings that I strongly felt I couldn't go on without a nap at 9 a.m., or some naps I've woken up from and prayed for the energy to get out of bed. I've been unable to cry and felt like I'd explode from the pressure, and I've been afraid I felt too much and might not be able to stop crying if I started. I've experienced my first panic attacks and my first realization that some low-grade anxiety has maybe always been part of my life, the same way low-grade depression has.

I've lost passion for things I've loved to the point of thinking the words, "I miss being alive." Of course I knew I meant I miss feeling alive, but in my head it was being fully alive that I missed.

And honestly, all of this has gone off and on with outsiders hardly able to notice unless I told them so. There were still tons of good and capable moments and days to make me believe I was fine or just having the occasional "off" day. I wasn't clinically depressed with a "fix" one diagnosis and prescription away. Instead, it was a web of symptoms connected to a web of causes that ebbed and flowed, leaving me not always able to decipher if the chicken laid the egg or hatched from the egg.

Untangling the web has included slow and steady self-care over the long haul. Yearly doctor's appointments and blood draws that at various times pointed to low iron and low Vitamin D as the culprits to my lack of energy, loss of passion, mixed up emotions. Starting my own routine with a counselor, because no amount of my encouraging others to see a counselor makes up for my not seeing one myself in 10 years. (And realizing I didn't even finish what I first started in counseling 10 years ago.)

Not accepting the explanation that I have 3 kids and that's why I'm tired, as if this inner aching is the life I can expect from here on. (You would not believe how many times people remind me I have 3 kids as if that's reason enough to be incapable of living my life to its fullest.)

Regularly taking iron, a Vitamin B complex, and Vitamin D even in the summer (because it was still summer when I first tested low in it). And more daily habits including nightly vinyasas, less caffeine and more water, writing morning pages for a little daily therapy, making an effort to see good friends, saying no when old me could have said yes, allowing space for the feels even if they're uncomfortable, and grace for not being able to fit in a day what I once was able to.

And the doozy for me: Finding my value in something other than productivity. Seeing that God gave me worth in my mere existence (based on His mere existence), not in anything I'm capable of and can produce. When I had newborn babies, I felt accomplished when the laundry was clean and the dishes put away. Now when I do only those things, I reprimand myself for not having done more.

I have a long history of depending on results I can see and checking off lists, so I've had to make new lists that simply ask, Did I put pen to paper today, even if it was just in my own journal? Did I take my vitamins? Did I read truth from God's Word? Did I unplug and sit in the uncomfortable stillness if even for a moment? Did I truly see my loved ones and be present with them? Can I find at least one reason to be grateful? If yes, then I succeeded in living today.

The results of getting things done will for sure fade away; the deeper meaningfulness of life cannot. Because even when we're gone from this Earth, we are forever safely in God's care. And that's enough for me to trust. And give thanks.


My venture in slow and steady self-care over the long haul: Letting go of my false hopes of where I think I should be and accepting the deep peace knowing this is exactly where I need to be. Which is slowing to let myself grow in my own time.

I'm still in the midst of it. Soaking in the Son-rays washing away my false hopes of where I think I should be and accepting the deep peace knowing this is exactly where I need to be. Letting my body slow and rest to allow the metaphorical bleeding to stop in its own time, rather than making it worse by pushing myself in the name of not missing out.

I've meant to write about self-care for a while now, but imagined more of a how-to post or list of ideas for you to use (updated: here's that list of self-care ideas). I suppose simply telling you my vulnerably honest experience these last couple years is what really needed to come forth, despite it's melancholy overtones. The full human experience includes the range of joy and pain, sometimes even at the same time.

If you can at all relate, may you feel a little less alone and be encouraged to get the help that you need. You are every bit worth the effort and the care, dear friend.


also see:

The Yes Effect: An Unofficial Book Guide

The Yes Effect: An Unofficial Book Guide printable with quotes + questions to engage the main concepts in the book by yourself or with a small group.

My favorite books--the ones that affect me and change me and pull me closer to the heart of God--are books like The Yes Effect by Luis Bush with Darcy Wiley. The stories and ideas are both powerful and practical. They inspire God possibilities for everyday people like me.

This is a blog of yes. From my first post: Journey of Yes. To the start of the Epic Beginner blog series: Say Yes. So I knew from the moment I heard about it that I wanted to read and share this book my friend Darcy Wiley helped write.

Our yeses matter. It especially matters that we spend our yeses on the best in life--Jesus, people, and putting love in action for both. And that's just the sort of yes this book inspires.

Books like this just beg to be discussed with a small group, journaled through on your own, or a combination of the two. The Yes Effect (aff. link; see full note below*) is not just a book of good stories, it's a book to spur action--a change of heart that effects a change of life.

Thankfully, Luis and Darcy concluded each chapter with thoughtful questions to do just that. Invite a few friends to go through the book with you, or pull out a notebook to reflect on the content and action ideas yourself. I compiled a few quotes and corresponding questions below to get you started.

Quotes + Questions from The Yes Effect

Following are some of my favorite quotes and corresponding questions from The Yes Effect by Luis Bush with Darcy Wiley. Use these as you go through the book yourself or to go through the concepts from the book with a small group. (Find this list in printable form below.)

The bold headlines are chapters from the book; quotes used with permission, see copyright information below.

1. Follow Your Leaders

"Listen for God's invitation to join His transforming work in the world around you. And be ready to say yes." (p. 38)

Who impacted you with the Gospel? Whose words or ministry influences or inspires you?

2. Open Your Heart

Resist "flitting from one thing to another and becoming desensitized to the most dire needs around us." (p. 55)

What one outside need brought a strong response in you recently? Write or sketch what captures your heart for that situation.

3. Fix Your Eyes

"Imagine if we became more overwhelmed by the presence of God than by the worries of the world." (p. 78)

Carve out a few minutes to pray about the needs that burden you. What is God bringing to your mind or pressing into your heart?

4. Move Your Feet

"Your response to God's daily invitations will determine how much of His renewing work in the world you will get to see. ... it's your turn to do something, to get on your feet and see what happens." (p. 101)

Where is God inviting you today?

5. Find Your People

"We do our part, other people do theirs, and God causes the increase." (p. 121)

List the gifts, skills, and resources God gave you. Meet with someone already connected to the situation on your heart to discuss the needs and your possible contribution.

6. Stand Your Ground

"If we focus on the joy set before us, our faith and work will be more informed by the good ahead than the gloom here and now." (p. 141)

What resistance, internal or external, are you facing in your effort to help others?

7. Celebrate Your Chain Reaction

God "gives us an invitation to look back on what He has accomplished in and around us" to renew our vigor. (p. 164)

Have you experienced Jesus personally? Has he moved you to act in faith or share your faith?

8. Lead Your Followers

We have the privilege of walking alongside young people, "helping them grow in the Lord and say yes" to their own invitations. (p. 188)

What youth has God placed in your care or influence? How might you intentionally mentor them?

For more of The Yes Effect:

What yes is God leading you to or reaffirming in you?

Quotations taken from The Yes Effect: Accepting God's Invitation to Transform the World Around You by Luis Bush with Darcy Wiley. ©2017 by Luis Bush. Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.


also see:
new? start here...
epic beginner
email sign-up

*Note: affiliate links used. Purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you!