5 Vital Self-Care Habits That I’m Not Doing (Yet)

There were times in my past when my life was very organized, health conscious, and perhaps even mindful. I’m not sure what exactly has changed all of that, but over the last decade my life has gotten so busy and I have had such a difficult time saying “no” to new projects that I have allowed my self-care to slide a bit.

Unfortunately, I see the effects of this decline in my work, relationships, self-image, et cetera. It’s not of ultimate concern yet, but in an effort to shore myself up and avoid catastrophe, I have tried to isolate the 5 self-care habits I would benefit from most right now.

Should one incorporate them all at once? Of course not; maybe one per week if you are ambitious.

1. Respect your sleep schedule.

My husband and I doggedly observe our son’s sleep schedule. Dinner, warm milk, pajamas, teeth brushing, story, and bedtime. This routine occurs like clockwork on most evenings, and he is almost always in bed by eight o’clock. I, on the other hand, often lured by one digital gadget or another, can carry on rather effortlessly until eleven or even midnight—under the guise of I am “working.”

Of course, “work” during these very late hours usually consists of probing Twitter and Pinterest for the keys to the universe, such as: how to make a soup less salty or what blush brush I should purchase next. Needless to say, if I were to treat my sleep schedule as we do our son’s, I would be a more efficient worker and be . . . well, less exhausted.

New Objective: Treat bedtime with the same importance as work, meal, or any other integral time of the day. Creating a scheduled sleep schedule is ideal, but if occupational and family duties don’t allow for a consistent schedule, at least create a bedtime cutoff (i.e. “I will go to bed no later than…”).

2. Get ready everyday.

Have I ever spent an entire day in pajamas? You bet! Of course, I  regret this at times . . . Like when the neighborhood kids accidentally flop their football over my fence or when various mail/delivery drivers arrive bearing packages (and they need to be signed for, indubitably).

Additionally, I am also slowly beginning to realize how not “getting ready” can sap my working energy as well. The days I don’t follow some sort of morning schedule tend to be “lost” days or days I’m not productive or checking many things off of my (various) lists.

Conversely, on those occasions that I do make an effort to put myself together and face the day at a reasonable hour, I am usually more efficient than I expect. I’m making a concerted effort to get ready every morning now, because “you never know what life will throw at you” (and the UPS driver probably doesn’t want to see your pajamas).

New Objective: Simply put, get ready everyday. Create a morning routine that is quick, easy, and satisfies all the components of morning preparation important to you. Try your new morning routine for a week, regardless of whether or not you have work or family obligations. See if it works for you. Notice if it makes you more productive or more “present.” Change your routine if you need to in order to better fit your life and schedule.

3. Drink enough water.

I know this is a subject discussed at length. I do understand the human body is made mostly of water, and we require it to maintain various bodily functions and overall health . . .

It’s just that trying to keep up on my water intake while simultaneously speaking nonstop to clients and colleagues makes it really difficult to remember. (I wonder if anyone would notice a Camelback at the office?)

New Objective: If thirst doesn’t drive you to drink (water), try to create some type of reminder in order to maintain hydration. Consider setting timers on your phone and make an effort to take a few sips at each interval.

drop of water

Elixir of life?

4. Exercise, obviously.

This is another glaringly noticeable shortfall of my current daily routine. I used to be so competent at keeping up an exercise routine that I never even questioned its existence as a part of my day. A few years later, I seem unable to commit to any exercise program, even the seven minute ones.

I know exercise makes me feel better, more alert, and puts me in a far better mood. So what holds me back? Sometimes I wonder if it’s just inertia, and if simply starting a program and planning to do it a week at a time would eventually turn it back into a ritual.

New Objective: Try super short workouts in the beginning. Attempt to be consistent with just one day a week and try to move up your frequency gradually.

5. Take a break.

I’m sure this sounds very odd, given how lazy I have portrayed myself to be so far. I would argue, though, that a self-image of laziness drives me to be working at something most of the time. For instance, I might be in my “lazy clothes,” but I’ll bet I’m contemplating my next project for work, or how I’m going to finish executing my own small business plan.

Of course, this constant need to be busy (even if it’s just internal) is quite exhausting. Days off don’t really feel like days off and meals with family tend to be dominated by conversation about business.

New Objective: Schedule time for breaks. Remind yourself that you are human and that humans were not built to toil continuously. Make the time for family, friends, and self-care.

morning coffee

With so much vying for my time and attention these days, forcing myself to step back and perform self-care can feel a little like taking myself out of the action (perhaps I have some “fear of missing out”). It can be hard to remember taking care of myself will allow me to perform better in future endeavors and keep sane.

What helps you feel refreshed and ready to take on your days?

Thanks for the read; stay cozy!

The Power of Sleeping on it…

Although it has taken me half a lifetime to learn, I am still amazed at the power that a night of sleep can have on the decision-making process. I’m not certain of the science behind it, but I am confident that delaying a decision with a night of rest has saved me from bad purchases, unacceptable job offers, and general malarkey.

I didn’t employ this method of contemplation (or procrastination, as some have mistaken it for) until I was well beyond the years of frequenting malls and going out to eat or drink with friends and acquaintances incessantly. I sometimes regret all the money I wasted on things that I didn’t really want or need to enjoy the moment. That’s something else I’m just currently learning as well, the value of my time, but I’ll save that for a later occasion…

Enjoying a night of repose has helped me fight urges to make frivolous purchases. It has helped me so much that it is a technique I generally employ for any purchase over twenty dollars. It’s not necessarily a strict rule, but I find that when I make use of it, I am able to resist temptation more easily. I believe that this is true for two reasons. First, I have had time to let the initial “charm” that an item might have, wear off, and secondly, I have had the opportunity to define where (and even if) that item will actually fit into my life. As I strive towards a more organized space, I have to be more conscious of the items I bring into it.

money

This is not to say that “sleeping on it” prevents me from making any and all purchases. In fact, I still invest in items regularly, but I’m usually much happier with my decision after I’ve delayed it for an evening. If I still want something after stalling, I can safely assume that I am desiring the article for its own merit rather than its perceived attributes.

For big-ticket items, of course, several days (and several slumbering nights) may be necessary to be able to give a final stance. Though, I try not to discount the small items that I spend money for either. It all adds up, and if I’m not careful (as was true in my youth) all those small acquisitions can turn into a very sizable bill (see my youth, above).

Something that also regularly happens for me these days is that my mind will (or has the opportunity to) come up with different solutions to an issue overnight; for example, I am perhaps smitten with some particular organizing bins in the store, but after waiting for a night I recall that I already own such items, they’re just packed away and I need to retrieve them. On other occasions, I will realize that I can borrow an item, or perhaps search for it second-hand.

Although I do very much regret spending money that I don’t need to (frivolously), I would like to make clear that I have no reservations about spending money on a well thought out purchase. To me, the point is to make sure the item fits my personal criteria (budget, usefulness, aesthetics), and then procure the item without guilt or self-reproach.

Being responsible with one’s money is a form of self-care, in my opinion. Take care of your money, and it will take care of you; a good night of tranquil repose might be helpful to both…

Rest easy, and stay cozy!

The Evening Wind Down

The transition between the waking hours and the sleeping hours can prove to be a tricky subject for many folks. These hours can provide relaxation and connection time for some, but for others they can be the final moments to get in more work after an already strenuous day. For yet others, the need for “transition” between stirring and slumber seems like a frivolous or unnecessary behavior. I believe, though, that even in this turn on/turn off, stop/start world, allowing time for transitions can be important for your mental health as well as your sleep quality.

In my younger years, the evening wind down usually consisted of reading a good book, or watching Netflix and maybe having a glass (or two?) of wine with my husband before bed. We would always dim the lights about an hour before bed and perhaps light candles in the colder months. It was a process that took hours and I think we both slept better (wine not withstanding) after an evening of quiet chat and relaxing activities.

Today, my schedule is a bit more erratic and neither of us have the time for the slow evenings that we used to. The latter half of our day usually consists of tidying, preparing something for dinner, tidying some more, finishing up some work bits, and helping our son prepare for bed (“did you brush them all?”), all the time in a dash against the clock. I notice, though, that when I do get the chance to read before bed (even if it’s Peter Rabbit rather than something by Marian Keyes), or remember to turn down the lights after dinner, I do tend to sleep a bit better.

In the medical world, the idea of creating better sleep and pre-sleep habits is referred to as “sleep hygiene”. WebMD and many other reputable sites have loads of recommendations for improving sleep quality. Here, I will convey what has worked best for myself, some conventional, some not.

Tea/Warm Fluid: It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s chamomile tea, warm lemon water, or even warm milk (my son’s favorite), slowly and deliberately sipping something warm before bed has always helped me relax.

Read/Avoid Screens: A lot of sites recommend reading before bed. It gets you away from screens and the “blue light” that is notorious for interfering with sleep patterns. I would assert though, that reading something calm or peaceful before bed will treat you much better than horror or mystery. For instance, I love Michael Crichton books ( I think that I have literally read them all), but I don’t like to read these types of books right before bed.

One could also try a magazine that you enjoy if you’re not into books. Whatever you do, just try to put down the phone (I understand, believe me).

Lights: I have actually noticed that this affects my young son more than myself these days. If I let the lights stay at full force right up until bedtime it seems that all of us, but especially the youngest, have a hard time settling down before bed. Unfortunately, with our (generally) jumbled evenings, I don’t always remember to turn them down or off a little while before bed and this usually leads to some extra time elapsing between bedtime and actual sleep time.

Time Together/Time Apart: People are social animals and therefore have a biological need to feel connected to other humans. Having family time before bed can help both adults and children gain much need connection after a stressful day and improve sleep for both parties.

Conversely though, if you work in the service industry, or you parent full-time, what you might find useful is some time alone. Ask your partner for 10 minutes to yourself, and use those 10 minutes wisely. Read, think, or just breathe; whatever you need.

Write/Schedule: If I can navigate the various tasks that have become my evenings and still manage a few minutes of writing, I feel so much more accomplished. Writing can also help by allowing me to empty my brain of the concerns of the day. Some people enjoy using a gratitude journal at the end of the day to count their blessings.

What I also find truly relaxing is scheduling my next day’s tasks before bed. I hate waking up in the night only to realize that I have something important to accomplish the next day that I forgot to plan for. Scheduling at the end of the day lets me relax, knowing it’s all there in my planner, and I don’t have to face the next day blindsided by my responsibilities.

planner 2

For me, creating a better evening strategy is primarily centered around decreasing sensory input, doing something relaxing, and maintaining a solid connection to myself and my family.

What do you do to wind down?

Stay sleepy…I mean cozy!