Self-Care Challenge (Day 366): Reflecting on My Year of Self-Care

blue-green lake with mountains in the distance

Yesterday, on the 366th and final day of 2016, I spent a few hours re-reading my blog entries over the past year. It’s hard to believe that this 366 Days of Self-Care Challenge has finally come to an end. To say the least, the year has been full of challenges, surprises, losses, and celebrations.

Start here to read from Day 1.

It certainly didn’t play out the way I envisioned, but that’s one of the reasons it was so rewarding.

It’s also why “openness” is one of my core desired feelings going into 2017. Surprisingly, being forced out of my comfort zone this past year has felt really good. For someone who has always been a planner (and a control freak, if you ask my close family and friends), it was liberating and exciting to sit with my curiosity, wondering what might happen next.

self-care-activity-logAt first, it was pretty easy to come up with self-care activities. I started with what I knew: manicures, pedicures, getting enough sleep, eating well. You know, the basics. But as time went on it became more challenging to come up with new things to try. And it was even more challenging to carve out time to blog consistently about it every day (not to mention snap a photo).

There were times when I wanted to quit, to move onto something else–the next shiny idea or project. But I honored my commitment to myself because I knew it was important.

Thankfully, I just made a few adjustments and pushed forward.

Early on, I started to notice some patterns emerging. Many of my activities involved books–journaling, reading, writing. And I read A LOT of books last year (67 to be exact, up from 58 in 2015). For me, it doesn’t get much better than reading in solitude, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. In fact, most of my self-care activities were solo adventures. I relish my quiet time. It’s not a luxury; it’s a requirement for my basic functioning.

I also spent a lot of time outside. I made several visits to the ocean, floated the Deschutes river, went for walks in the woods, did some snowshoeing, and spent a lot of time gardening. I explored eleven US cities and traveled to Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Looking back on the experience, I wouldn’t change a thing. There isn’t much I could have done to better prepare myself for the journey ahead anyway. Without a doubt, I learned more about myself in 2016 than any other year of my life. Now, after a year of deep self-exploration, I’m ready to enter 2017 with a clearer understanding of what truly restores me.

This journey has helped me develop a meaningful self-care practice–one that consistently refills my cup and leaves me better suited to love and care for others.

Are you ready to develop your own self-care practice?

Yes, please.

Self-Care Challenge (Day 365): Whitening My Teeth

Purple toothbrush

Yesterday’s self-care activity involved whitening my teeth. I mean, why not greet the new year with a bright smile, right?

Using a whitening kit that I picked up at my last visit to the dentist, just before bed I carefully positioned the trays in my mouth and watched the clock tick.

It was super easy. (In fact, the most difficult part was avoiding coffee and red wine.)

Sometimes it’s the simplest acts of self-kindness that make the biggest difference in how we feel–and that impacts everything else we do (or don’t do) in life.

What will you do for yourself in 2017?

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?