So often I am caught up in my to-do list and daily practices that I forget to celebrate the small milestones and victories. Recognizing our successes and acknowledging where hard work has created something new encourages us to keep moving forward. Making celebration a part of my life energizes my routine and sparks new ideas. Noticing what is working well helps me refine my course of action and to pursue more of the same.
Two days ago I greeted my first client in my new office space. It was the first day I was officially in residence, so it felt really good to be present with purpose and to support someone who was in need of pain relief. The ego, which is never satisfied and always seeks to criticize, thinks that I should wait to celebrate when I have a full schedule of clients who return regularly and maybe even a waiting list. While I will indeed celebrate that day if and when it arrives, I shall joyfully commemorate this week’s success in the meantime.
My celebration was a simple and brief affair. It was, after all, a long workday before another of the same. I took ten minutes out of my schedule to sit quietly and savor the feeling of having achieved a small step on the road to launching a new business. Bathing in the sensation of accomplishment and soaking up the vibration of success was much more rewarding than any champagne I could have sipped. I took an mental snap-shot of that feeling so I can pull it up when I need motivation. All I need do is remember that wonderful sensation and the desire for more of that will inspire me to persevere.
When I pay attention, I am able to receive clues intuitively about how to best take good care of myself. I’ve been writing a lot lately about making plans and following through to achieve maximum results. While that is entirely true, occasionally I get an “override” message that has a new, updated plan encoded within.
For example, Tuesday night I came home from a meeting so amped up that I spent an hour and a half writing after my normal bedtime. Last night I was planning to go to a fun social event but was instead guided to go home early and rest. Right now I’m typing these words with my thumbs on my phone as I wait for the train because I used my planned blog writing time at home to respond to a very meaningful email.
As important as it is to have a map of where I’m going and the commitment to move forward, it’s likewise necessary to be real and acknowledge when it’s time for a new plan. I often use an analogy borrowed from Abraham Hicks about floating downstream with the current rather than paddling furiously upstream. Everything I want is downstream!
So when I get a nudge to correct my course, I willingly drop my paddle and my plan and tune in. After all the goal of this project isn’t to cross tasks off of a spreadsheet and earn a gold star. It’s to give myself (body, mind, heart, and soul) the support I need to feel good and do my best work. That’s not always going to happen by following a neat and tidy plan.
This week I’m lucky enough to have four social engagements on my calendar. For an introvert who recharges best at home, this is highly unusual. Maybe the full moon energy is pulling me out into the world this week more than normal. Whatever the reason, I’m enjoying meeting friends one-on-one for meals as well as looking forward to a social gathering tonight.
Research shows that people who have healthy relationships are not only happier, but live longer than people who feel lonely. As much as I cherish my solitude, I really value my friendships and the heart-felt conversations, laughter, and feelings of belonging and connection that they engender. I’m blessed to have wonderful, supportive, kind, and fun people in my life who are available for merry making and meaningful conversations.
While the self-care practices I’ve been exploring so far have been mostly solo activities that I have crafted into daily routines, buddy time is often sporadic and rarely fits into an open time slot. If I waited for my schedule to present two or three hour gaps that lined up with other people’s gaps, I’d be rather lonely. So instead I make a consistent effort to create those gaps and work my other responsibilities around them. If I’m too busy to meet in person, I often schedule a check-in phone call. Seriously, I make the plan with a friend and book it in my calendar. It’s too important to me to leave to chance.
Once again I am finding that planning and follow through are just as important as the act itself. My work schedule often interferes with socializing during evening and weekend hours. This means I need to make extra effort and consciously seek out interactions. Four events each week is not sustainable during this time while I’m launching a business, but two is manageable. The venue and activity aren’t at all important; it’s the making time to spend together that is. The resulting joy is well worth the effort.
Being super-busy means I need to be super efficient when it comes to exercise. Being human means I need to enjoy the activity that I’m doing otherwise I won’t continue. Being in the midst of a hot, humid, seemingly endless summer, I need to be somewhere cool. All of this adds up to my favorite indoor exercise: rebounding.
Rebounding is jumping on a mini trampoline. It’s very low impact but can be high intensity. It’s convenient as I don’t need to go anywhere, and fun as I’ve learned to dance/bounce. (If you need some fresh new music, I can recommend creating a Pandora station from Booty Swing, an electro swing song- it will keep you bouncing!) I put the rebounder in front of the air conditioner, turn the music up, and have a great time for 20 or 30 minutes. Often I’ll go straight to my yoga mat to take advantage of muscles which have already been warmed up.
In addition to the obvious health benefits of a cardio workout and endorphin release, rebounding is said to be great for the lymphatic system. Dr. Christiane Northrup includes rebounding in an article called How to Increase Your Lymph Flow and Why. She’s a guru in the field of holistic health and a brilliant advocate of healthy lifestyle choices.
The rewards for me are phenomenal- joy, ease, convenience, vibrant health and energy without any negative consequences, and affordability. Pretty amazing for an activity that can be done solo from the comfort of home while enjoying funky tunes and air conditioning! If you think exercise requires suffering and pain, I invite you to reconsider that belief. Just as with any form of movement, if you have a medical condition, please do consult your doctor. If you’ve been cleared for moderate exercise, bouncing really could change your attitude about fitness.
Launching a new business while working two part time jobs feels a lot like rafting down the rapids without a paddle. The current takes me along for the ride and I do my best to hold on. I just keep doing the task that shows up in front of me and steadily moving forward. There’s really no point in struggling or trying to push the river, as that is just exhausting and rather pointless. I’m reminded of my hero, Louise Hay, saying that she started her now-international publishing company simply by opening the mail and answering the phones. Meaning: do the work at hand.
Well, it just so happens that there’s loads of work at hand! My to-do list keeps growing and yet there are still the same number of hours in each day. Inspiration comes and goes, sometimes at inconvenient times, and interrupts my plans. Yet I’m committed to taking good care of myself; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that I may remain healthy and happy and have a full life. It has become apparent that protecting my downtime a necessary step in this discovery process.
I’ve been failing at guarding my personal time. It’s somewhat scarce these days and all the more precious for that. Carving out time for self-care practices each morning and evening has become second nature to me: I have blocked out an entire morning each week for pajama time , I make an effort to connect with my friends, and I’m clear about which hours are reserved for work. The spaces that remain I consider to be recreational: reading a novel, watching Netflix, listening to music, going for a walk, or puttering around my home are some examples of how I fill my personal time.
The challenge lies in that it’s easy to be distracted by another task on my to-do list. One more email, another revision to my website, updating my calendar, folding the laundry are all important items that can interrupt me and before I know it, the small window of opportunity to play has slipped away. I now recognize the importance of having unstructured downtime in my self-care regime, and the need to create boundaries to protect it. So I’m silencing my phone and resisting the urge to check messages or the weather or my schedule or… whatever when I’m reading or watching a show. I’m learning how to overlook my unmade bed and piles of unopened mail. I’m allowing emails to accumulate until it’s time to clock into business mode.
Basically I’m choosing to focus on the activity that I’m doing in each moment and get every morsel of pleasure that I can out of my brief and priceless downtime. I’m generating awareness that while my work is indeed very important, it is not the only, or even the most important thing. I’m creating a rich and full life for myself that includes balance between work and play and that means unplugging every day, if only for 20 minutes, to enjoy myself and be free. Downtime. It makes uptime more productive!
First of all, I’m psyched to celebrate the completion of my first week of radical self-care. I gave my maximum amount of massages over the past four days and rather than feeling depleted and sore, I am rather energized. That’s great news because today is my only day off and I’d be bummed if I was couch-ridden or immobilized. Clearly my increased emphasis on taking good care of myself (body, mind, heart, and soul) is paying off!
Today’s realization is that it’s important for me to have one morning each week without any plans. Even better if I could get a whole day, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I’m claiming one morning AND one evening. I call this pajama time. Not having to focus on leaving the house at a specific time creates a sense of leisure that I find to be incredibly restorative.
Pajama time may or may not coincide with a day off. This week is does not, and that’s what sparked the awareness that I need to carve out another morning and reserve it to stay at home. Today is my day off, meaning I will not see any clients or do marketing or accounting or website updates. However, I am planning to go to a yoga class and get a facial afterwards. Which means a 6:00 am wakeup, body brushing , meditation, spiritual practice , breakfast and plenty of time to get to class at a leisurely pace. It is most definitely not a less is more, or a pajama day.
So I actually just blocked off time in my schedule tomorrow morning to remain at home. It is a work day, but the work I need to do is computer tasks, and it can be done easily from the comfort of my room, with messy hair, while wearing my favorite Oscar the Grouch T-shirt. I’m not joking; I take this so seriously that I entered “pajama time” into my iPhone as a repeating event for Wednesdays. I might move it around from week to week, but having a digital record of this commitment will help me to reschedule it if something comes up.
Making time to rest in this fast-paced world requires some ingenuity and a great deal of devotion. How do you reserve space for restoration in your busy schedule?
I’m in the midst of a busy stretch at work and feeling incredibly grateful for my commitment to maximum self-care. Tremendous benefits, including increased awareness and steady energy, are emerging consistently. I’m making lots of small decisions throughout the day based on what would be kindest for my self in that moment. This is a huge shift for someone who tends to follow a routine and stick with what she “thinks” “should” be the best option. Tuning in moment by moment allows me to be more authentic in my exploration.
Today my attention is drawn to the rewards of body brushing. If you’re not familiar with this technique, Google provides articles and videos galore to guide you. Basically you stroke a brush with soft, natural bristles over the surface of the body to exfoliate skin and stimulate lymph flow. I’ve done it for at least a decade now and really appreciate the softness of my skin as well as the fact that I rarely get sick. Healthy skin and lymph flow are two key components to promote a strong immune system, so this practice has double benefits.
I had a steady habit of dry brushing before I get into the shower each evening. However, since it’s been so hot and sticky icky here in Philadelphia this summer, I’ve been skipping it. Today I realized it’s time to upgrade this habit so that it works for me, rather than avoiding it through the summer. This morning I decided to brush first thing. Even before I meditated! I might fine-tune the timing, but it felt wonderful to get back into the swing of this healthy habit by releasing my attachment to the “when” aspect of dry brushing.
I’m learning that alongside commitment, flexibility is a major component of self-care. If the routine is too rigid, it will break rather than bend when there is a challenge. If there’s no commitment, it remains a lofty ideal, but never happens. Finding balance seems to be the key, in the arena of self-care as well as in life in general. Since my intention is not perfection but kindness and optimal wellbeing, it makes a lot of sense to allow the freedom to mix things up. Otherwise I’m just checking things off a to-do list, and really there’s not much joy in that.
Increasing busy-ness at work has inspired me on a mission to fine-tune my routine and optimize my feel-good practices. Today I’m focused on giving myself plenty of time to get to where I’m going. It seems that no matter how long I’ve been awake, I’m always rushing to get out the door. This causes a fair amount of stress that erodes the self-care practices I’ve developed. Really what’s the point in meditating in the morning if I run around frantically trying to get ready for work in 4 minutes flat!?!
This morning, in an effort to be more kind to myself, I allowed more spaciousness in my schedule. I reserved a full 20 minutes to get dressed, gather my lunch, and double check that my wallet and other essentials are in the proper bag before heading downstairs. Yesterday I panicked because I couldn’t find my transit pass, ran back up to my third floor apartment to ransack various purses, only to realize it was in my pocket all along. ARGH! Not a peaceful entry into the world.
Since I don’t bother with makeup and it takes only 30 seconds to comb my hair, this 20 minutes allows the leisurely pace of my spiritual practice to extend into my commute. No doubt the lack of frenzied rushing will set a tone for a much more peaceful day at work. I’m thrilled to say goodbye to a bad habit that I’ve ignore for too long; one that is caused by trying to do one more thing before I leave the house. Once again, I’m remembering that sometimes less is more, and that good planning is the foundation for reducing the amount of stress I subject myself to.
I am entering a four day stretch of giving lots of massages. I think most people understand that it’s a very physically demanding job. I want to give each and every client the best treatment possible; that means that I need to be especially on top of my self-care. I’m grateful for the exploration over the past few days with doing less, meditation, and yoga as these are all essential elements of my daily routine. Another element that is a priority for showing up as my best massage-therapist-self, is nutrition. I need to be well fueled to remain focused on my clients and not on my upcoming snack.
The way I accomplish this is a food plan. Not very mystical, I know! Yet it works wonders for me to have a general idea (I do like to leave room for flexibility) of the meals that will sustain me over the next several days. I keep it simple usually by preparing several servings of a whole grain that can be reheated each day for breakfast, prepping lots of veggies to throw together quick salads, and my favorite to-go lunch, green smoothies.
Making the food plan helps assure me that I have all the ingredients on hand that I will need for several days. I really don’t want to be bothered with a trip to the store for one item. Certainly not in this 98 degree weather! It also helps me remember when I need to defrost or soak anything overnight. It takes just a few minutes to put together and then forms the basis of a shopping list of necessary ingredients. This moment of foresight allows me to relax a bit more knowing I will have all the nutrients I need to perform well at work.
I divide my day planner into three columns for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then I pencil (important as I change my mind frequently!) in abbreviations for the meals I have planned. I keep it as simple as possible. Millet/CB/MS/GB is my breakfast porridge with coconut butter, maple syrup, and goji berries. It’s easy to confirm that I have all those ingredients and to remember that I like to soak the millet overnight. If you’d like more structure, Kris Carr offers these detailed instructions and a downloadable planner here.
If you’re interested in avoiding energy crashes and urgent trips to the vending machines or fast food joints, this is a great tool. Planning meals might sound like a hassle, but for me it allows a loose structure that I can relax into. It’s comforting to know that I have everything I need for the next several days and that I won’t be getting hungry (or irritable!) at work. It’s a foundation that allows me to save money on impulse foods and helps me avoid unhealthy snacks. In my eyes it’s a win-win-win practice!
Already I’m feeling the benefits of enhancing my self-care practices. Taking on a part-time job to enable me to pursue my dream of operating a Reiki practice has turned up the pressure, making it necessary for me to optimize my wellness routine. After exploring the rewards of doing less and of daily meditation, today I am renewing my devotion to yoga classes.
I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending classes regularly after moving to a new neighborhood. Traveling to my favorite classes has suddenly become incredibly inconvenient and I adjusted by finding some great videos online and stepping up my home practice. Yet I have been missing the magic that happens when practicing with others, the individual attention of an experienced teacher, and the personal growth that is possible in a class environment.
Yesterday I tried a class at a studio near my home that sounded just right for my particular needs: convenience, hands-on adjustments, knowledgeable instructor, and good timing. I was so delighted by the results that I have decided to block that time off on a weekly basis to continue my exploration. This commitment seems to be the most important part of self-care; intention without action is meaningless. So I’m devoted to getting there every Thursday, and if for any reason I’m unavailable at that time, I’ll choose another class as a substitute.
If you happen to live in the Philly area, I’m delighted to wholeheartedly recommend Alex at Magu Yoga in Mount Airy. She’s a true yogini and a wonderful teacher. If you’re not in the Philly area, I encourage you to do some research and find a class that is both convenient and inspiring. Without those two elements, it’s easy to flake. The rewards of attending a class regularly are priceless and the feeling of bliss after each yoga experience is a tremendous motivator to keep coming back.