Self-Care Challenge (Day 361): Binge Watching a Series

a close-up of popcorn

I am not a TV lover. In fact, I often say (and mean it) that if it wasn’t for my husband’s love of it, I wouldn’t have a TV at all. I would much rather read or work on an artsy fartsy project.

That said, I do enjoy a good series.

With my husband on vacation, we decided it was the perfect time to snuggle in for a self-care series: House of Cards.

52 shows later, we were exhausted. As suspenseful as it was, I remember at one point thinking to myself, “Do I really need to see the end that badly?” Nevertheless we couldn’t look away.

While I admit that the 40-ish hours it took us to watch it is a bit excessive, it was kind of nice to lay our other distractions aside and get immersed in a fictional TV show. I don’t read a lot of fiction, so this was rare for me. (I have a little problem with suspension of disbelief.)

I totally get the attraction to binge watching. You don’t have to wait as long for the conclusion, you don’t have to carve out time from the normal busy week to watch it. But still, I cannot imagine doing this very often. Honestly, it was draining. Toward the end it felt like work.

What have you binge watched, and did it feel like self-care or work?

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 360): Feeling a Deep Sense of Gratitude

hand-forged wrought iron trivet

With each passing year, my sense of gratitude seems to grow a bit more around the holidays. My family may be small, and we may not always be able to be together on the holidays, but we always manage to send our love along with a few gifts.

Last year, we exchanged handmade gifts. My mom knit me a beautiful scarf, and my dad hand-crafted me a possibles bag–his first attempt at leather work. Those gifts weren’t just a scarf and a leather bag; they were reflections of my parents. They chose the colors, the style, the size. In a way, what they shared was an expression of their creativity. They shared their imagination.

And this year, even though we didn’t plan another round of handmade gifts, my mom made me a Christmas tree ornament (a chicken!) and a set of potholders. My dad made me a hand-forged trivet.

It was totally unexpected, and immediately brought tears to my eyes.

I’ve been blessed to have grown up with two creative parents who always seem to be learning new crafts and skills, and I’m certain this is where my insatiable sense of curiosity comes from.

But the amount of thought, time and energy that goes into making homemade gifts is the definition of love itself. It says, “I made time for you, and I want you to have part of my heart.”

When have you exchanged handmade gifts?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 359): Enjoying Holiday Traditions

Christmas tree with white decorations

Most holidays come with holiday traditions. Every family seems to have them: a set of unique rituals that mark the arrival of a particular holy day.

A feast. An exchange of gifts. Board games. Libations. And with the exception of Festivus, most traditions come with ample amounts of joy. Lots of laughing, a general feeling of excitement, gratitude, and celebration. No matter what the underlying belief system or religious celebration, delight and happiness seem to be a common theme.

Our holiday traditions are almost always low key. Intimate, quiet evenings at home. Why? Because that’s what brings us joy. Well, and also because our families live 2,000 miles away, and we don’t have any children. Even as a child, our family holidays were pretty low key. We didn’t typically travel, and we had a small gathering for dinner.

Yesterday, true to our Christmas Eve tradition, we watched holiday movies while enjoying a delectable spread of appetizers and wine beside a rumbling fire.

It doesn’t get much better than that, in my opinion.

What are your holiday traditions?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 358): Finding a “Plan B”

A long line at the supermarket

Grocery shopping around the holidays can be excruciatingly painful.

In recent years I’ve done my shopping earlier and earlier, simply because the crowds are more than I can manage. It’s just too frustrating to wait in line for hours, and it isn’t a good use of my time.

But this year my husband and I were a little behind on our holiday tradition of shopping for stocking stuffers, and we found ourselves smack in the middle of a holiday grub melee.

Honestly, I’ve never seen a grocery store this busy–in almost 40 years, and in any of the seven US cities I’ve lived in. People couldn’t even push their carts down the aisle because the line for the checkout extended to the middle of the store in every aisle. At one point, my husband called me to ask if I just wanted to bail…but then we had an idea.

Since we weren’t shopping for groceries, we might have another option. Electronics had a checkout, as did sporting goods. Yes. What would have been at least an hour wait turned into a 10 minute checkout process.

The rest of the night was ours.

Why do I consider this self-care? Because so often we find ourselves in situations where we feel helpless. We complain about it. We feel frustrated by it. Yet we don’t always consider our other options. We don’t look for another way. We become like the giant elephant that doesn’t know he can pull the chain from the ground and walk away.

When have you come up with a great Plan B to save yourself from stress and frustration?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 357): Having Coffee with a Friend

heart-shaped froth on a cappucino

You know how sometimes you meet someone and think you’d like to get to know them better, but then time gets away from you and it just doesn’t happen?

Yes, time. That elusive and somewhat imaginary concept that keeps all of us on our toes. There never seems to be enough time for doing the things we want to do, for getting together with friends and family. (Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.)

The truth is that we make time for what’s important to us. Whether it’s social media, art, music, or visits with friends, if it’s truly important–if it brings us joy–then we usually find the time.

Thankfully, Facebook (despite all of its flaws and irritations) does make it pretty easy to reconnect with old friends. A quick search can revive a friendship in matter of minutes. And that’s exactly what it did for me recently.

Yesterday, I met a friend for coffee as my self-care activity for the day. It had been more than a year since we had seen each other, but in just a few clicks we had a coffee visit set up.

It reminded me just how important it is to stay in touch with friends, no matter how long we’ve known each other. People tend to come into our lives for a reason, and it’s up to us to stop and share and figure out what that reason is.

Is there someone you need to reconnect with?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 356): Being a Caregiver

Headshot of a smooth, red mini dachshund

I was caught totally off guard when my dog got sick. It wasn’t on my schedule. In fact, I had plans to go out of town the following morning to visit a friend for the day. But those plans quickly changed when I noticed my miniature dachshund, Zoey, was having trouble breathing earlier yesterday morning.

She had been sneezing for weeks, but I wrote it off as allergies, or the dry heat of the furnace, which has been on almost constantly after the weather turned cold. Until that morning she had been eating, drinking, and doing all of her normal diva routines.

But it turns out that she has pneumonia. (I didn’t even know dogs could get pneumonia.)

As is the case for most caregivers, when a loved one needs us, we quickly shift gears and jump in, focusing our attention solely on the needs of those who are in greater need. But that focused attention often comes at the the expense of our own health, which only impairs our ability to care for others.

Fortunately, this particular situation wasn’t so emergent that minutes mattered. I didn’t have to run out of the house in my underwear. No, this time I had a few minutes to think and plan ahead.

My self-care activity for the day involved preparing myself to be a good caregiver. I had no idea how long the visit to the vet would take, but it was already 2 PM and I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t be home before dark, which meant I would need to get the chickens tucked in safely before leaving. I also had no idea if I’d have a chance to stop to eat, so I tossed some water and a few snacks into my purse before leaving the house–but not before remembering to grab a book too.

It’s a good thing I did, because the first emergency veterinarian didn’t have a vet available due to an emergency surgery. And that added another hour’s drive to our commute.

While I waited for the results of Zoey’s x-rays, I read my book. I drank some water. I had a snack.

When I finally arrived back home around 8 PM, I didn’t feel starved. I didn’t feel dehydrated. I didn’t even feel exhausted or flustered. And that was because prepared myself to spend an entire day away from home. And that little bit of preparation made me a better caregiver.

How do you prepare yourself to be a good caregiver?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 355): Reading Old Journals

A stack of journals

I admit that I haven’t been very good at doing this over the years: re-reading my old journal entries. The truth is, there are usually at least a few experiences that I’d prefer not to relive. The disappointments. The losses. The bury-your-head-in-the-sand embarrassing moments of life. We all have them.

So instead, my journals typically get tucked away into a dark corner of the closet.

But this year my brilliant coach wisely suggested that they be used as a learning tool. I mean, why shouldn’t I put them to good use? I spent hours and hours and hours pouring my heart and soul into them, after all.

So today, my self-care activity was to re-read my journals from 2016. Sure, there are still a few more days left in the calendar year, but most of my recent entries have been reflective in nature, and will probably make more sense if I read them at the end of 2017.

Wow. I didn’t realize that simple act could feel so empowering.

It seems I’ve been quite busy this year. Traveling, taking classes, visiting friends and family, celebrating life’s special moments, writing, and coming up with copious amounts of ideas–some of which I experimented with and some I left on the page.

But it turns out that many of my journal entries have become a reality. I set out to widen my network, to make new friends, to build connections with others who are working toward similar goals. And I’ve done that. Even as an extreme introvert, I’ve done that.

I published a book, something that’s been on my bucket list for years. I sold more than I expected to, and I’ve received encouraging words from readers. Writing is an undeniable part of my soul.

I’ve also managed to keep up with this self-care challenge. For 355 days now, I’ve been intentionally engaging in some form of self-care. I’ve been experimenting with activities to see which ones are restorative, and which ones just feel like more work. (To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it a full year, but it has been so rewarding that I’ve pushed myself through the rough days even when I really felt like quitting.)

It was hard not to smile as I read through the many twists and turns of my life. In these 12 short months, I’ve considered many different business models, product offerings, and life paths. Some doors opened. Some doors closed. And some I’m still pulling on. But I have to admit that I’m almost more grateful for the doors that have closed because they’ve prevented me from drifting back to where I started this amazing journey.

Much of what I’ve written about over the past year isn’t new. These thoughts, desires, and ideas have been with me for years. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if I cracked open a journal from my college years, I would find many of the same words scrawled across the pages.

My heart seems to know what it wants; my brain just isn’t always open to listening. But with “openness” as one of my theme words for 2017, I have a feeling things will be different.

What is your heart telling you that it wants?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 354): Listening to Danielle LaPorte’s Firestarter Sessions

A fire burning in an old wood stove

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to Danielle LaPorte’s work. Her approach to manifesting goals is quite different from the popular SMART goal-setting method that most of us are familiar with. (If you’ve read my book Uppward (Amazon Associate Link), then you already know I’m not a fan of the latter method either.)

Instead of beating our heads against the wall each time we fall short of our unforgiving, SMART goals, LaPorte suggests that we shift our mindset. (Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.)

I had almost forgotten about the Firestarter Sessions (Amazon Associate Link) until another vibrant influencer in my life suggested it. Thankfully, she also suggested the audio version rather than the book. (For those who haven’t yet had a chance to hear Danielle LaPorte’s voice, it will seriously lull you into a trance.) Check out her free workbook for a little taste of what it’s all about.

Yesterday’s self-care activity involved carving out some time to knit while I listened to the Firestarter Sessions. I’ve learned that when I listen while I’m also working with my hands, I absorb messages differently. I hear more of the emotions behind the stories rather than simply the meaning behind the words.

LaPorte’s inspiring words poured over me as I moved the yarn across my needles, mentally preparing myself for the new year.

How do I want to feel? Hmm.

It had been a long time since I’d asked myself that question.

My focus this year has been on self-care: my health, my well-being, my ability to live up to my fullest potential. I wholeheartedly believe that if we truly want to live our purpose, we must be whole. And good health is our greatest asset when it comes to being capable of achieving our goals.

But in my pursuit, I often find that I take the positive energy out of my goals. I set them as if I’m pouring concrete, believing that success is firmly defined by a single outcome: a digit, a number, an amount. Anything less is failure. Sure, we can say that failure is an opportunity for learning. (And it is.) But it hardly ever feels that way. (It feels more like a slap in the face…a lot of effort for a tad bit of learning.)

“What we cannot measure, we cannot improve,” you say?

Well, maybe not.

 

According to LaPorte, the pursuit of our goals can also bring us joy–if we are clear on what we truly desire, that is. Success is a feeling. (I must say, this is particularly appealing to the “F” of my INFJ personality type.)

Because isn’t what we’re really after a feeling? Confidence. Love. Joy. Connection. Power. Peace. Health. Contribution. (The great thing about feelings is that we get to define them any way we want to.)

Indeed, I can feel the fire rekindling.

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 353): Challenging Myself

brown knitting needles

Staying in my comfort zone feels, well…comfortable.

Earlier this year I wrote about my experience with leaning into discomfort after agreeing to be interviewed on camera. As an introvert, this is definitely not something I consider to be one of my strengths by any stretch of the imagination. At first it felt really awkward, but as time went on it was fine. In fact, afterward I couldn’t remember why I made such a big deal about it.

No matter how much we may try to resist leaving our zone of comfort, we almost always get pushed into other zones. And I’ve learned that change is much easier when I’m the one doing the pushing.

Throughout my self-care journey this year, a large number of my activities have involved taking a class, reading books, or learning something new. Love of learning is definitely one of my VIA signature strengths.

It seems I’m always finding new interests or hobbies. For example, a friend of mine once invited me to a bead show, all with the sole intention of having me pick out some beads that she would eventually make into a necklace for me.

Nope.

Instead, I loaded up on supplies and set out to learn how to make my own jewelry. I couldn’t help myself. I loved the idea of a challenge.

So yesterday, it’s probably not surprising that while casually perusing a yarn shop, I noticed a beautiful scarf that nearly paralyzed me in the middle of the aisle. It was clearly not a beginner’s project, but that somehow didn’t register in my brain.

Instead of thinking, “I could never make that!” I heard “how can I make that?” echo inside my head.

How do you challenge yourself?

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 352): Going to the Symphony

Seattle Symphony stage

Last night my husband and I attended the Seattle Symphony’s performance of Handel Messiah.

I have to admit, I usually prefer instrumental performances over vocal ones. But this was a worthwhile deviation from the norm. There’s something really powerful about the scale of a professional orchestra that makes it impossible not to have a strong emotional response. And, for me, easing into that emotional space is an act of self-care.

(It’s almost hard to believe that George Frideric Handel composed the piece in just three weeks in 1741.)

Until I read the program, I had always considered this particular composition to be specific to the Christmas holiday, but I learned it was originally intended for an Easter performance.

The performance itself was so mesmerizing that I noticed quite a few heads bobbing after being jolted awake by a shift in symphonic arrangement. Every detail of the performance was synchronized.

It amazes me how talented and creative human beings can be–especially as part of a group. I wondered how many hours of practice a performance like this required. And then I didn’t want to know.

Attending the symphony was a wonderfully different way to spend a date night.