A few weeks back, I committed to ramping up one area of my life significantly. It was clear that something different was needed. Some rest, yes, and a few tweaks. Maybe another level entirely.
So, I decided to start with me (favorite strategy #1: all good change begins inside) — with self care. The plan was to take something I’m already pretty good at (favorite strategy #2: develop your strengths) and make it even better.
Taking good care of ourselves is the opposite of selfish.
How we treat ourselves forms the foundation for how we are “out there” in the world. More than we’d all like to admit. Not on board with this idea? Consider what makes you feel really, really good inside. And then think about how “fantastic” your life would feel if every single day went by without having any of those experiences.
Conscious self care — giving those experiences to ourselves — is, for most of us, a process. It’s a commitment and a choice to create the habit. It requires questioning and listening and taking action. It asks us to know who we actually are, what matters to us and what we need at this point in our lives. (Basically, it’s like everything else in life, right?)
Ramping up my own self care has also been an invitation.
An invitation to look at what it means to integrate self care at a fairly radical level
An invitation to pay attention to how I feel when I am doing that and how that impacts who I am being everyday
An invitation to see what happens when when life stands up and says, “Oh, you’re committed? Here’s a little test. Or two. How committed are you now?”
In my “up to 12” enthusiasm, I scheduled the usual self care appointments I keep — all in one week. I threw together a hastily planned and fun vacation, one that put me out in nature and created space to relax, play, connect and explore. I cleared off my work plate a bit and scheduled even more time with friends.
It was perfect. Glorious, even. But just a start…
Self care is not pampering.
Self care gets a lot of press now. In the circles I run in, it’s even trendy. Yet a lot of self care discussions quickly default to what we think are delicious treats: massages, mani-pedis, beach vacations, eating delicious food, taking time to do that one thing we’re craving to do for ourselves– even if it’s just reading a book by the fire or going for a run.
I’m a big fan of that stuff. I think it’s all important. But it’s also barely scratching the surface of what it means to care for oneself in a meaningful and life-changing way.
Here are 10 more ways I’ve been inching self care to a 12 on a scale of 1-10 lately:
- Reckoning. Sometimes taking the best care of ourselves requires getting clear about where we have not necessarily been doing that. If there are changes that need to be made, now’s the time to rip off the band-aids. Tough love has been the order of the day for me — with my work, my schedule, my daily habits. Kindness rules, of course, but so does honesty.
- Awareness. Being mindful pays big dividends for me. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had plenty of reminders. The biggest one: the injured knee that I brought home from my vacation. In one mind-wandering, falling asleep moment while hiking in a river through a narrow slot canyon, I fell. Hard. That one moment of not being mindful of my surroundings has provided 2 weeks of painful and inconvenient consequences.
- Backup plan. My injured knee has kept me out of yoga practice for half the month. Same with hiking. No yoga? No hiking? No climbing stairs in the park? That’s crazy talk to me. And it’s made me realize the need for double backups in the plan of what I do to calm my mind and exercise my body. Sometimes you just can’t get to your go-to plan.
- Spring clean. Seriously. I like my environments to be reasonably organized, clean, colorful and calm. And when it’s not, I feel it. And I am not just talking about my living environment — anywhere we spend time and energy counts.
- Accounting. Taking care of business — and money — is a really big piece of caring for ourselves. In my case, accounting tasks are not my favorite thing to do. Which means they can easily end up backlogged or ignored for a while. So, I’ve needed to rethink how my accounting processes can become more of a partner, not my nemesis.
- Reserves. I like to play a lot and I am choosing right now to invest time in evaluating how my two businesses work and how I want to change them. With those priorities, it’s become clear where I can use a reserve of time in my schedule. Knowing what reserve of work to count on and reserve of money makes it possible to be choosy and experiment with changes and new directions without losing sleep over money or losing playtime motivates me to keep that reserve in place.
- Smiles. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me smile. And making sure there are plenty (see #6: a reserve of smiles never hurts) of those things happening every day. These are “the little things” that people are always talking about. They’re mostly easy. And yeah, they do matter.
- Absolute yes. If it’s really a yes, self care is going in with both feet and being present for it. All of it. And this can be a practice. But if it’s not worth that kind of attention, then it’s probably a good candidate for #9.
- No thank you. Making room for the absolute yes requires saying no. No, I don’t have time this week for everything that sounds good. No, I don’t want to do that. No to what’s not in the highest good of me and the people in my life. No to drama and things that feel icky. No, no, no leaves much more room for “yes” and “thank you.”
- Full acceptance. Sometimes we want things. And we get them. And sometimes the things we think we want are elusive. Either way, the control we have is over what we do and not the result. Whether we are kind and loving to ourselves in the process makes a huge difference, right? My personal practice has been allowing and accepting with grace and love, and remembering once in a while to trust the yummy life force in all of it. In me, too.
If you were going to crank up the self care in your life, what would you add to the list? (You know you want to.)