self-care

Expanding Our Definition of Self-Care

self-care

The best definition of self-care I've heard goes something like "creating a life that you don't need to escape from."


So yes. Buy yourself flowers. Book a spa day if you can. Sink deeply into the bath tub (you'll find me there most nights during the winter) and light all of the candles. Eat the chocolate. Jump on the bandwagon for Treat Yourself Tuesday.


And also - be courageous enough to look at the things that you might be trying to escape from.

Get quiet.

Tune in.

Go for a walk in the woods, alone with your thoughts - free of podcasts and music and photo sessions for Instagram.

Bust out your journal (any old notebook will do) and a favorite pen.

Write down whatever comes up.

Hire a coach (I know some people).

Find a good therapist (it can be hard but they exist).

Have the tough conversation with your co-founder or mom or sister or friend.

Dare to take a good, hard look at the big stuff, the messy stuff, the things that it can feel easier to try to escape from.

This - doing the hard work, having the tough conversation, looking deep within, and being willing to face what we uncover - is perhaps the most loving and impactful act of self care that we can do.

Ways to Stay Grounded During Ungrounding Times

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It's been another week of heartbreak and tragedy in our country.

2017 continues to test our resilience and our optimism. Each time we momentarily catch our breath from one tragedy, it seems, another occurs. 

This cycle leaves us in a seemingly constant state of fight or flight mode. It's hard to create positive change when we are elevated, stressed, and reactive. We create positive change through intentional action. Intentional action requires that we are present and calm.  

We often hear that we must first fill our own cup so that we may fill the cups of others. This is especially true right now. Below are a few strategies that help.

1. Make a list of things that make you feel calm and grounded. Do at least one thing from your list every day. 

My list includes cooking, delicious food, hot baths, time in nature, movement, writing and quiet reflection, flowers/plants/planting things, and time with soul sisters. When I'm feeling ungrounded or overwhelmed by the events of the world, I know that these activities help me feel more grounded and put me in a place where I can more consciously digest what I'm reading and learning.

I invite you to make a similar list - a list of things that are both accessible and powerful. Ideally, they don't require a lot of supplies, travel, or advanced planning. One of my clients keeps her list visible, and references it as a checklist whenever she's feeling overwhelmed.

2. Make a list of the people in your tribe. Connect with them regularly.

These are the people who get you, who fill you up, and who raise your average. These are the people who ask you how you are and then really listen to your response. They are the people who are thoughtful and kind, and who leave you feeling nourished rather than depleted after you spend time together. 

If you are feeling uncertain about whether your current tribe mates meet the above criteria, I lovingly encourage you to expand your tribe. Life is too short for friends who make you feel shitty. Consider attending events or Meet-Ups, volunteering, or perhaps even apps like Bumble BFF - I have a number of girlfriends who are having great success meeting new female friends via this app.

3. Be still. 

Whether it's quiet reflection, prayer, meditation, or just slowly drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, create time each day for stillness. I recommend doing this first thing in the morning  (more here and here on morning rituals and routines). This doesn't need to be two hours. It can be five minutes. And it's more essential now than ever. 

4. Bookend your day.

"Bookending" is a term I've been using for a strategy that I've been experimenting with for the last year or so. The idea is: start and end the day in a way that feels joyful. I've found this to almost always lead to a really good day. The bookends don't need to be fancy - but they should be things that feel fun and nourishing (you may want to consult your list from #1), and ideally they should be one of the first and last things you do each day. 

5. Avoid reading the news first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. 

If you took my Efficiency and Flow course, or if you've ever been in one of my leadership courses, there's a good chance that you've been part of a passionate discussion about not checking email from bed first thing in the morning. This also applies to the news. Checking the news first thing in the morning or right before bed, especially right now, can wreak havoc on our mood, our sleep, and our productivity. In the morning, I recommend reading the news only after you've completed your morning routine (see #3 and here and here). In the evening, I recommend reading the news for the final time at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.

6. Take action. 

It can be easy to feel helpless and hopeless and think "there's nothing I can do." But there is always something we can do. Make donations to organizations that support the causes you care about. Join groups and organizations that are talking about the issues that matter. Get involved locally. Contact your representatives. Write letters or have a postcard writing party.  Make a commitment to yourself to take some sort of positive action each day, or each week. Enlist members of your tribe (see #2) to join you. We will not create positive change by ranting on Facebook or losing hope. We will create positive change through action. 

7. Connect through kindness.

Make eye contact with someone you don't know. Smile. Buy a stranger coffee. Let someone merge in front of you on the highway. Say "thank you" and "I love you" and "you did great work this week." Send a hand-written note, flowers, or a small gift to someone dear to you. Look up from your device and at another human. 

We cannot control the events of the world at large. But we do have the ability to impact how we engage in our own worlds. We need to be the change that we want to see in our world - and that is an opportunity we have every single day. 

The 5 Essentials of a Great Morning Routine (or, how to have an awesome morning, every morning)

 

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of morning routines. I find that starting the morning in an intentional, reflective, and mindful way leads to a better day - with almost 100% correlation. Similarly, I find that skipping my morning routine leads to more chaos, more running around, and a less productive, less easeful day - again, with almost 100% correlation.

Lots of people have written about morning routines. Hal Elrod talks about the 6-Minute Miracle Morning. Alex and Mimi Ikonn have this so-cute-it-might-make-you-throw-up version on YouTube, and it’s one of their most-viewed videos of all time. I recently found this website - which brings us a new morning routine every Wednesday. And, many of us have heard about incredibly successful and famous people who swear by their morning routines.

Different people swear by different types of morning routines. Based on personal experience, client feedback, and research, I’ve found that these are the essential elements of a great morning routine.

Creation over Intake.

This might mean drawing, writing, journaling, or planning for the day. The most important thing is that the first part of the day is free of intake - meaning no emails, no Facebook, no Twitter, and I even say, no news (online or otherwise) first thing. This allows us time to connect with ourselves, our thoughts, and our deepest desires - rather than starting the day with requests, updates, and information coming at us from various directions. For me, this involves journaling and writing. For one of my clients, her new morning routine was as simple as “not checking email on my phone until after I get ready” and picking out her outfits the night before. While these things sound small, they were large shifts for her (she was used to checking email on her phone while still in bed each morning and a very chaotic morning, every morning), and they were transformational in reducing the chaos and putting her back in the driver’s seat for the start of her day.

Reflection.

Reflection can look however you want it to. For some people, this means meditating for 10 minutes each day. For others, it means a peaceful walk around the neighborhood before others are awake.  For one of my friends, it’s quietly sipping a cup of coffee. For me, it’s quiet sitting, journaling, and writing. The important thing is that you have at least a few minutes to be alone with your thoughts, before the chaos of the day takes over. We spend a lot of time throughout each day getting in touch with other people’s thoughts and requests - the morning provides a chance to connect with our own.

Solitude (at least for part of it).

Some of us are lucky enough to share parts of our morning routine with another person. When we’re organized enough, Jake and I like to share our Five Minute Journal entries with each other. Several friends of mine have morning workout buddies. And, well, you saw Alex and Mimi. Sharing parts of your morning routine with another person can be a great way to make it enjoyable and to hold yourself accountable. And, I strongly recommend that at least part of your morning is spent alone - even if for just a couple minutes. Most of us spend a lot of time each day on the phone, in conversation, and surrounded by others. Thoreau said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” While we may not agree entirely with Thoreau, we start to uncover the magic within us by slowing down, tuning in, and listening.

Movement.

This doesn’t mean you have to run 6 miles or do an hour-long yoga class each morning. It can, however, be helpful to get your body moving and your blood flowing first thing in the morning, even just for a few minutes. This can be as simple as some gentle stretching, a bit of breathing, or perhaps a walk around the block. It can also be fun; a couple years ago, my friend Vicky took early morning daily walks to the lake near her house, and snapped a photo each day. Through her morning walks we were able to view the freezing lake, the falling snow, the spring thaw, and the different colors emerging. I’m a firm believer that movement of any kind should be fun - so find something that works for you and that you find enjoyable.

Simplicity.

This is, I’ll argue, perhaps the most important component of a great morning routine. It must be simple and easy to do first thing in the morning, every morning. I highly recommend that it’s also portable, so that your morning routine can go with you wherever you are. When I’m traveling, my morning routine helps to ground me even during the busiest weeks onsite with clients. I also enjoy the challenge of making time for my morning routine during jam-packed days - this might mean waking up extra early or taking my morning routine “supplies” with me while grabbing breakfast. Inspired by my friend Lisa’s blog post, I recently created a morning “basket” to house all my favorite items for the start of the day. In addition to keeping things organized, this basket brings me joy, because it contains some of the things I love most for the beginning and end of the day.

This is my list of essentials for a great morning (and therefore a more productive and easeful day), formulated based on personal experience, feedback from my clients, and ongoing research on this topic that I love dearly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts - what is your favorite way to start your day?