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).
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Schedule Doctors' AppointmentsThis 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 StretchThis 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 WaterThankfully 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 SupplementsI 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 OutsideNo 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 OfflineI'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 PagesI 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 BathI 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 CandleI 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 FriendSpoken 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 TruthHonestly 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.
new? start here...
30 ways to slow + rest
self-care over the long haul
slow reader to book lover
*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!