I recently posted a question box on my Instagram story, asking my followers to “Ask Me Anything.” The first question to come in was this:
What do you do to take care of yourself … besides yoga?
I really loved the question, and thought it was an important one. I wrote out a list of things I do to take care of myself (besides yoga) and realized only shortly before sharing that I was writing a post about Self-Care. If I’m being totally honest, oftentimes when I see the words “Self-Care,” I quickly lose interest. Self-care is a hot topic in the wellness world right now, and as with any subject that gets spoken about a lot, the topic (for me) began to lose its power. However, my aim is to offer you something different here than what you may have seen thus far about self-care.
These are 9 different-from-the-norm things I do to take care of myself (hint: the last one is the most important) and fuel and re-fuel my heart again and again. I hope you’ll love them, too:
If you haven’t read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, click here and order yourself a copy ASAP. Humans are meant to create. Whether you identify as a “creative” or not, you are. We make things. We make houses and meals and art and businesses. We build careers and families and homes. We write and use our voices and our hands. Think out of the box about the ways in which you create, and how they fulfill you. And then do more of them.
“When I refer to Creative Living, I am speaking more broadly. I am talking about a life that is driven more by curiosity than by fear.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
I make it a point to involve creation in each week, if not each day. I journal or write a blog post. I write music. I dream and write up business plans for ideas that run through my mind, regardless of whether they come to fruition. I take photos - for others or myself. It’s not about creating something beautiful or even something that I want to share, but it’s about creating something that is important to me.
2. Change It Up Frequently
This is a really big one for me! When I find that I am feeling stuck or need to check in with my self-care, often times what I really need is a change in what I’m doing. I can take a change of scenery by stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. I can take a change in pace by switching from deep computer work to calling a friend. We see this even in kids - when a child is crying and you think you’ve tried everything to calm them down, if you simply step outside or take a change in scenery or pace, they’ll be laughing in minutes. Acknowledging bigger ways to “change it up” are also a part of my routine. I often make a point to re-evaluate my routines. Do something different. Try something new. Humans are creatures of habit. I find it so fascinating how we are in a constant state of change, yet we create habits that stick around much longer than they are useful to us. Anytime I’m feeling antsy or stagnant, doing something totally different is likely to help me turn things around.
3. Get Outside
I spent this winter in Bali where even the “indoor” spaces have a lot of open air areas that expose you to the outdoors. I felt as thought I lived outside for three months, and I’ve never felt so grounded and connected to the outdoors. When I arrived back in Montana in March, it was -16 degrees F. In that kind of weather the only time spent outdoors is walking to and from the car. I noticed a drastic difference in my energy levels and overall happiness very quickly. I have learned that spending time outside is really important for me - even if that means I’m answering emails from my laptop sitting on the porch or choosing the outdoor seat at my favorite lunch spot. Here are a few statistics about the benefits of spending time outdoors:
Helps fight anxiety and depression
Overall mood elevation
Better academic performance
Reduces mental fatigue
Increases short-term memory
Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.
4. Do the opposite of what you want to do.
I had a conversation with someone recently about the different styles of yoga. We were talking about how high energy, high intensity people oftentimes end up in a Vinyasa or Power class, when they might really benefit from Yin. And vice versa, people who are very grounded and slow/intentional moving often find themselves in slower paced or yin classes, when they really might benefit from more movement. I have a good friend who feels like the embodiment of yin, who shared recently “I go to a high intensity spin class once per week, specifically because I don’t want to.”
There are times when pushing yourself might not be what you need in the moment, but I challenge you to try something that compliments the energy of what you already do. I know that on the mornings when I wake up and really don’t want to do cardio, I’m always thankful afterwards. I think it’s important to note that self-care isn’t always about feeling good in the moment. Sometimes it’s about pushing yourself to do the things that you don’t want to, for the sake of a bigger and longer-term benefit. That might include eating your veggies or apologizing to a loved one who deserves it.
5. Laugh. Play.
Did you know that kids learn through play? If you watch a child play, they will bring whatever they’re learning in ‘real life’ into the game they’re playing. You’ll hear them talk about death if someone in the family dies, or sickness or money or any lessons being presented to them currently. Healthy kids are given ample time to run and play with other children. Play is an incredibly important part of our development and integration of new information. As we get older, our idea of “play” shifts, but I believe it’s really important to make time for it. Play allows us space from our work, time to recharge, and have you ever heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine?” Laughter releases endorphins in the brain, which are our feel-good chemicals. Whatever play looks like to you - a day on the lake, watching a funny movie, or traveling to somewhere new - I promise your mood will boost when you make time for it.
Even if it is just for 15 minutes per day, I make the time to read (You could also journal if that resonates with you more). Find a topic that inspires you, and then choose a book accordingly. I really enjoy going to the bookstore and browsing until I find a book that I’m really excited about. Personally, reading books about Buddhism and Psychology fascinate and inspire me. For others, it might be a romance novel or a biography of someone interesting. And pro tip: if you start reading a book and aren’t inspired by it, move on! Maybe save it for another time when the information might feel more relevant. Find a different book that speaks to you now. Life is too short, ya know?
This is a new one for me! I was lucky enough to photograph an event called Dare to Detour where 50-something women of all ages and backgrounds gathered together for the sake of connection and personal development. One of my take-aways of the day came from a talk about Ritual. Ritual doesn’t have to feel like a ‘woo-woo’ set-up with sage and chanting (but it can!). It’s simply something you do with intention that can be repeated whenever you need it. Cue, the bubble bath and skincare regimen! Or the sit in meditation, sage the house before bed, take 15 minutes of silence before the kids get home from school, have your morning tea with your partner — Whatever it is that allows you to re-center and ground. The only tip is that it’s got to mean something to you.
You can download an app such as Insight Timer, set the timer on your phone, or just get comfy and close your eyes until you decide to open them. There are many studies showing the benefits of a consistent meditation practice (which I’ll expand on in a separate post), but the bottom line is that meditation is an extremely powerful tool in finding more presence and mindfulness in your daily life. I feel more grounded, a stronger ability to make decisions, overall increased mood and decreased anxiety when I am meditating regularly. If it makes you nervous to think of sitting in a meditation for a longer period of time, start with lying on your back for 10 minutes! I dare ya.
I think this could be the most important one of all. Get to know yourself really well. Have daily, weekly, monthly check-ins where you’re asking yourself what is working and what is not. Developing an intuitive relationship with yourself will help guide your decisions so that self-care becomes second nature. Get in the habit of asking yourself “How is my body feeling today? How is my mind feeling today? How is my heart feeling today?” Or, “What is the quality of my movement, of my thoughts, and of my emotions?” And ultimately, what can you do to align them all with your future goals and happiness?
Thanks for reading, friends! Be sure to let me know in the comments what resonates most with you!