Self-Care Challenge (Day 364): Snowshoeing

orange and black snow shoes

Snowshoes are just plain awkward. They’re big, bulky–and Lord help you if you have to turn around or back up. Everything about them makes laughing inevitable. I’ve only been shoeing twice in my life, and both times I ended up giggling like a little kid while traipsing around in them. But, hey, at least they make walking possible when the snow is deep.

For Christmas this year, my husband bought each of us a pair of show shoes. (I’ve been resistive to the idea of learning to ski or snowboard since I prefer that my bones stay intact.)

Snow is just a quick 30-minute drive away, and yesterday seemed like a great day to try them out. Plus, a little bit of physical activity sounded like a nice self-care choice after a few days of gorging on holiday leftovers.

The week between Christmas and New Year is always busy in the greater Seattle area, no matter where you go. Hiking trails are full, restaurants and stores are full, ski slopes are full–so being an early bird is your only hope (though early is relative). Even at 9 AM the parking area was full, but we managed to find a spot.

As we walked up the trail, we passed hordes of families sledding and playing in the snow. Kids were still wearing their seasonal smiles, and a few parents were sipping on adult beverages (clearly unwinding from all of the festivities). It felt great to stretch my legs and gaze in amazement at the snow-covered trees. Once again I was reminded that I’m just one of the many living things tromping around the woods.

What a great way to send a little gratitude into the universe.

Self-Care Challenge (Day 363): Unearthing My Core Desired Feelings

The Desire Map book cover

Obviously, I’m on a Danielle LaPorte kick.

After listening to the audio version of her book The Firestarter Sessions (Amazon Associate Link) last week, I realized that I was still craving more. I hadn’t quite pinpointed my core desired feelings, and it was clear that I needed to dig deeper.

The Desire Map (Amazon Associate Link), another of her inspiring books, sounded intriguing to me, and after deciding that I couldn’t live without it, I persuaded my husband to make a quick detour to Barnes and Noble. (Nope, this time I could not wait for Amazon Prime. I know, I know.)

This book is the perfect blend of creativity, spirituality, and common sense. In fact, this unique goal-setting approach–which focuses on feelings rather than metrics–is quite disruptive. Move aside, SMART goals.

But identifying our core desired feelings is just the first step. After blowing the dust off of those innate desires that have been living within us since birth, we have to do some work. We have to seek out environments that generate those feelings. We have to find and explore opportunities and experiences that cultivate those feelings. And we have to surround ourselves with people who nurture those feelings within us.

It’s a softer form of goal-setting. And while I know that it’s not for everyone, it speaks quite loudly to me.

My self-care activity for the day was to distill my core desire feelings down to three words–words that will serve as my guidepost for the coming year. If it doesn’t make me feel beautiful, open and warm, then it simply isn’t going to work for me.

Beauty

Openness

Warmth

What are your core desired feelings?

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 362): Having Breakfast in Bed

Iron skillet breakfast

Breakfast may very well be my favorite meal. (I guess it’s convenient that we have chickens, isn’t it?)

Yesterday, my self-care activity for the day was to enjoy breakfast in bed.

On weekends, my husband and I often take turns fixing breakfast, which means we also get to take turns sleeping in and having breakfast and coffee hand-delivered to our pillow.

While this activity does require the loving assistance of another person (hence, not entirely self-care), it still produces the same effect. And taking turns implies giving and receiving. It’s a total win-win if you ask me.

Breakfast in bed doesn’t have to be relegated to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, something that’s only thought of on special occasions.

Why not make it a regular practice?

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?