Self care 101

Hi! I’m Wendy. And I have a problem with making time for myself. The word “relax” is not a new word in my vocabulary, but a new concept to my life. My idea of “relaxing” is looking up every idea that comes across my mind, typing it into my phone until it leads me down a rabbit hole of clicking and I don’t realize that it’s been two hours and I was supposed to start dinner 45 minutes ago. Oh, and I was “supposed” to be watching that TV show I put on to “catch up on.” And responding to every little red notification circle that catches my attention.

And the unfortunate part is that I know I’m not alone.

Now, I don’t have children, but I do have a ton of commitments. In addition to being a teacher, I am a wife, currently enrolled in grad school, moderator in the #langchat PLN on twitter, the leader/scheduler of a volunteer team for my church, I run a small group Bible study with my husband, and I am in charge of food/beverage purchasing for my church. That doesn’t include keeping my house “clean” or providing for my basic needs. I am busy.

And the first thing I think of when I’m busy is that I need to be doing more for other people, and that taking time to slow down will only hinder me in the long run. I have to keep working, because things need to get done. People are counting on me. But all of these responsibilities caught up with me last year and I want to share a little bit about how I’m turning that around.

My husband, bless his soul, is the epitome of the word “chill.” He gets worked up about almost nothing, never feels bad for sleeping hours past when he “should” wake up, and his perfect day involves never leaving the house or, if possible, the couch. I have a lot to learn from him. He’s always reminding me to relax, slow down, and for the love of everything, put my PHONE DOWN.

One of the things that set this change in motion for me is that I picked a #oneword for 2018 – not for my professional life, but for my personal one. I put it up everywhere as a reminder – in my planner, in my office, and as my cell phone background. The word I chose is present, and I also wrote down the quote, “wherever you are, be all there.” (Jim Elliot)

This started with simple tasks, like putting my phone down while I’m watching TV so I can focus on the show. Turning off my phone’s notifications (for almost ALL apps) so that they wouldn’t distract me from a task. Turning off the TV as “background noise.” Not taking my cell phone into my bedroom at night, ever. These tasks started to bleed into my professional life: not checking my email while my students were working. Leaving my cell phone in my office for the day. I was trying with all my might to be in the moment that was in front of me without distraction. Much of my distraction was technology based.

Then, I started doing little things for me as with the time I was gaining from not being distracted in 1000 tasks at a time. I started painting my nails weekly. I was able to finish mundane tasks at home because I was spending less time on my phone and TV. I was able to read before bedtime because my phone was elsewhere. I was able to focus on my morning scripture reading because I didn’t pick up my phone to see notifications first thing in the morning.

This summer, my husband and I took a vacation for our belated “honeymoon” (only five years later) and I was able to turn my phone off for a few days and all I did was lay in bed. And I, surprisingly, didn’t feel bad about it. Then, I started unplugging from my phone every Sunday to recharge.

I resolved to start doing more things for me, until I was finally able to relax. And this has been the most restful summer of my life. So, I’m going to share some of the self care ideas that have worked for me. Because, as I’m always reminded, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Self care 101, as narrated by me:

  • Paint your nails. Alternatively, schedule a manicure/pedicure. Don’t cancel.
  • Listen to a podcast that has isn’t inherently informational. I listen to EarBiscuits by Rhett and Link, who I already liked. It makes me think a little, but mostly makes me laugh. Lean into the laughter.
  • Read a book. If you’re like me, a fiction book is a three hour affair. Save those for Friday nights, or alternatively, read before bed (fiction or nonfiction, but nonfiction that doesn’t relate to your job.)
  • Unplug. No, seriously. Do it. Chances are, there will not be any urgent messages/calls/emails/posts that you miss. And if so, they’ll still be there tomorrow.
  • Alternatively, log out of your most used social media for a week. Physically log out. If it’s too hard, have a friend change your password temporarily. You’ll be surprised at how much time you have for other things when you’re not mindlessly scrolling.
  • Start a self care journal. Document the happy moments of your day, one way you took care of yourself, or how you feel.
  • Spend time each day with your favorite hobby. I love papercrafting and hand lettering and I resolved to spend time on either every day in June. It was relaxing, helped me focus my creative energies, and FUN.
  • Meditate. I started meditating in the evenings this summer and it helps me to clear my mind before bed. I use the Headspace app and since I got it at a discount, it is totally worth the fee. There are free alternatives, too, but none I liked as much.
  • Go shopping. Or, if you’re on a budget, window shopping. Better yet, skip the store and schedule a Stitch Fix, so that you can try everything on in the comfort of your own home, with no real pressure to buy. It’s where most of my clothes come from these days.
  • Call a friend. On the phone. I have a phone date once a week with my best friend during the school year and I try to be as present as possible. Sometimes I’ll be driving or at the grocery store, but I do my best to give her my undivided attention.
  • Plan for it. If you don’t know, I LOVE paper planning and scheduling time for myself is always fun. It gives me something to look forward to among the 57 reminders that my laundry is forgotten in the washing machine.
  • Plan an activity with a friend or a spouse. My husband and I love playing video games, but we also love cards and board games with our friends. Laughter is the best medicine, followed closely by taking out enemies in a first person shooter.
  • Sign up for a subscription box that surprises you each month. You’ll start to look forward to the mystery and trying out the products you receive.
  • Indulge yourself by signing up for a meal delivery service. Spring semester of grad school was brought to you only by HelloFresh, or I don’t think I would have seen a single vegetable. It was nice to have two meals a week that I didn’t have to plan or think about. I really love cooking, but I really hate meal planning.

I hope that gives you a starting list, but really, find what works for you (and your budget!!) I hope that you take the time to take care of yourself, and that it continues, even when the school year starts back up soon!

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