Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with the business of our lives, especially in certain seasons, that we put connection with others who don't cross our day to day paths, on the back burner. Shooting off a quick text or a making the effort to call just to say hi, check in and ask someone else how they're doing can go a long way to increase our sense of feeling connected to others and thus a little less alone and taken care of in some important ways. I have to work at not falling into the trap of believing I have to have an hour plus to dedicate to a phone call, or the concern that I will "bother" somebody on the other end by reminding myself that even calling or texting to say "Hi, I miss you and I'm thinking about you. I have 10 minutes before I have to move onto my next commitment, but want to know how you're doing?" feels so much better than letting another week go by without reaching out.
I may be the only one who finds this relaxing but I have planned several European vacation getaways (that have yet to be taken) while nursing newborns or while taking a lunch break from work. The acts of researching and planning escapes to exotic places feels like a treat even if I know it may be a while before I ever actually get to put any of my plans into action.
This feels like it has to be one of the most underutilized free resources out there. Most local libraries have online catalogs of downloadable audiobooks that you can borrow for free. I've been known to download an audiobook when I know I'm in a season of heavy commuting to and from work. It makes the commute and traffic so much more enjoyable- I end up looking forward to being in the car so I can continue whatever story I'm getting to listen to. Another recently discovered resources is the website Thrift Books. If you don't mind running the risk of getting a book that's has some bent pages or some highlights in it from previous owners, you can score some best sellers for under $5.00 a piece. Much cheaper than Amazon in most cases and free shipping with a pretty low limit.
For many people working out, getting to the gym or catching a live class with a live in the flesh instructor feels like the best kind of self care (though obviously for some it may feel like torture- so if that's you, that is entirely fair and you can feel free to keep reading and move onto the other ideas below). Many fitness classes and programs come with a high price tag (or at least a price tag of some kind) so if you find yourself craving a return to exercise without feeling able or willing to financially invest in previous options, consider searching YouTube for some free workouts that might fit the bill. I've had some luck finding free HIIT workouts of various intensities and lengths, Pilates and Yoga. After having taken a VERY long hiatus from exercise a while back, I discovered Robin Long of A Balanced Life who shares quick, low impact but effective pilates inspired work outs you can literally do from your living room floor on a beach towel or a yoga mat without any other equipment. A 60 minute class in a studio may not be an option, but I'm guessing we could all find 10 minutes between activities to sneak in some movement, if that's something that feels good to us.
I promise this is the last exercise related idea- even when I'm in my seasons of not wanting to work out hardcore, going for a walk can feel really good. I've had co-workers in the past who would walk around the interior of our air conditioned building to get in 10-15 minutes of movement during the work day which I thought was a great idea and offered them an opportunity to mentally reset and move their bodies. I like walking around our neighborhood lake, and sometimes even listing to a podcast or audiobook at the same time which incorporates two of my favorite types of self care into 1 activity.
Somewhere in the 7 years of having a pretty healthy commute to and from my job, I discovered podcasts and have not stopped listening since. They offer a healthy escape into a story and I love consuming media through this platform. You can find podcasts related to almost any topic that interests you- true crime, business/entrepreneurial, fashion, mom life, dad life, LGBTQ+ life, mental health/self help, investigative journalism, politics, finances- seriously almost anything. Some of my favorites have been Nancy, Coffee + Crumbs, Serial, Missing Richard Simmons and a bunch of entrepreneurial/business coaching ones- many specific to therapy. I pick what I want to listen to based on my mood. You can also explore podcasts through your podcast player's "browse" button.
This might cost a little money if you need to purchase any ingredients, but you might be surprised what you can pull together with some of the ingredients in your pantry. I love saving over-ripe bananas and sticking them in the freezer until I have time and a desire to bake- then I can turn them into banana muffins or bread. You can make some pretty killer cookies with box cake mix, an egg a little oil and 20-30 minutes. This also may lead into an opportunity or an excuse to connect with a friend in person, if you're feeling the desire to visit but don't want to show up empty handed.
Maybe after the majority of things are done for the day, instead of binging on the 3rd episode of RHOBH (just me?), turn off the TV and set yourself up with some bubbles (in your bath or in your glass). Target and Sephora have some pretty cheap single use face masks you can snag, or just look in through your existing supplies and see if there's anything that hasn't been used in a while that might feel like a treat. Maybe it's just soaking for an extended period with some candles or a good book. Not that self care can't look like indulging in the 3rd episode of your favorite trashy TV show, but this list is intended to help you think outside the box if that's beginning to feel less like self care and more like a time suck.
You notice you're feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and stretched way too thin. Look at your calendar for this current or upcoming week and pick one thing you can remove from your to do list. Say no. Send a polite text to let your bible study or your moms group know that you're going to have to miss this week, but are looking forward to attending again next week. Anticipate that extra above and beyond task that you know is going to be asked of you this week at work, and politely but firmly decline to take it on this week. Consider that dreaded dinner with your parents, your in-laws or whomever and politely give notice that you're going to need to cancel or reschedule for another day. Saying "no" to even one thing that you REALLY don't want to do during the week may just free up enough emotional bandwidth that you're able to feel a little more rested or a little more taken care of and keep you going for all of the other responsibilities and commitments on your plate.
Taking care of yourself does not have to mean someone is getting less because you are getting what you need. There is not a finite supply of compassion and kindness towards self and others.
*All blog posts are intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional therapy or treatment. If you need professional help or support, please seek it.*