Self-Care Six Ways

Good morning, Dear Reader! Today we face 100+ temps again – which makes me grumpy. But, fingers crossed! Possible rain at the end of the week just in time for a New Moon in Leo. If you aren’t familiar with a new moon, it’s the perfect time to set intentions for the next six months. I begin my ascent into the new moon season by journaling what I’d like to start/stop over the next six months. Later, I’ll take a peek at where I when it’s the Full Moon in Leo. Progress, Babycakes, is made one step at a time.

For me? I’ve got a few things I’d like to start and stop doing, so you better bet I’ll be outside the night of the 28th with my journal and a nice glass of buttery Chardonnay. If you want to know where I landed on my no-spend challenge – I did okay. I managed to save about $400, which I used on my trip. Now that the challenge is over, I’m kicking it into overdrive and going in for the long haul. I managed to NOT go to Menard’s yesterday to ‘look around,’ which I’m going to wager saved me at least $100. That said, I am on the lookout for a massive “Bird of Paradise” plant. Hit me up if you find one locally. Tending to and nurturing plants has become a new part of my self-care routine, and I’m digging it. I planted tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in a tiny little garden – some of which will end up in a lasagna at the end of the week.

Speaking of self-care…I harp on this a lot, but I do it more to remind myself of its importance. As a recovering people-pleaser, I make sure to take time to recharge. If you’re new to the whole self-care movement, don’t worry. Since COVID lockdowns, I’ve become quite the pro at it. I’ve learned so much about who I am, what I need, and how to break cycles that no longer serve me by making myself a priority. And that, folks, is where we find ourselves today.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s talk about self-care.

(But, before we get started, let us all congratulate my friend, Bonnie, for marrying the love of her life last weekend. Thumbs up, Girl!)

Now, let me just say that self-care isn’t all about chocolate and bubble baths. Sometimes self-care is the decision to simply not engage in any more idiotic fuckery. It can be something minor, like not responding to a text. Or something significant like moving across the planet to prove you are no longer accessible to dumbasses. Whatever you need to do to draw that boundary line, do it…with permanent ink. Ya feel me?

Thanks to Daylight Illustrations for this nifty infographic. Hop over and buy something.

To aid you in your self-care journey, I’ve compiled a list of six types. Got that drink? Good. Let’s do this.

1) Physical. Our bodies often tell us before our head does that something is off. I always know when I’ve consumed too much sugar – my joints ache, I’m tired, and I barely want to move. Physical self-care is anything we do to care for our bodies. Big or small – it all counts. More sunlight. A walk after dinner. A nap. A few laps in the pool or simply floating on your back. If it makes your body feel good…do it. (Yes, sex counts. So does masturbation if the idea of finding a sexual partner makes you break out in hives.)

2) Emotional. This one is about becoming more in tune with our emotions. It’s about being mindful of your triggers and the thoughts that you have. And on that topic, your triggers are your responsibility. It isn’t someone else’s job to tiptoe around you, so do the work to figure out your shit. If you are in a relationship that drains you, take steps to work on it or let it go. If you don’t feel valued at work, start looking for a new job or career. Limit your time with those who annoy, anger, or degrade you. Learn to say “No.” It’s a complete sentence in and of itself.

3) Spiritual. Do you know how I take care of myself spiritually? I don’t go to church. (Everyone in the Bible Belt just gasped.) Yup. Why? Because some of the nastiest, most hateful people I know go to church every Sunday, I cannot deal with those hooligans anymore. I prefer to grab a book, practice deep breathing, take a nap, or find something creative to do. Sometimes I’ll just sit back in my quiet space and pray/meditate. I mean, I’m a sinner saved by grace, and I dig Jesus. But his fan club is batshit crazy sometimes.

4) Intellectual. This includes doing something you enjoy to nourish and challenge your mind. I like documentaries about subjects I’m interested in, and recently I’ve started taking some online courses on herbology. It’s a break from my left-brained life of HTML and spreadsheets, but I’m still learning something. I’ve learned a lot about Bourbon from YouTube.

5) Social. Humans, by nature, are social creatures. Even I – the quintessential introvert – like a bit of human interaction. Each night I (still) tuck my kiddo into bed, and we snuggle for a few minutes. Fortunately, he is still into snuggles. I don’t want to think about the day he no longer wants those. I also take solo trips and love them. I get just the right amount of social interactions along the way to balance out the “Ew. People.” feeling I have 90% of the time.

6) Sensory. This self-care category includes anything that engages the senses in a positive way. Baking, listening to soft music, and getting a massage can accomplish this. Me? I love my peeps, and still…my favorite days are when the house is empty for a few hours. I carve out time to sit in silence. I don’t read, listen to podcasts, or distract myself with my phone, television, or computer. I sit in the absolute quiet and breathe. This simple act of self-care fills all my buckets.

So what about you, Dear Reader? How do you practice self-care? Which of these six categories is your favorite? Comment below – I love those!

Until next time, here’s your song for the week. Self-care is about embracing the simple things in life and saying ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t support you. I like Teddy Swims and have followed him on YouTube and Spotify for a while. His voice is like butter. And we all know that everything is better with butter. Amiright? You betcha!

Five Ways To Clear Distractions

True to form, months ago, I bookmarked the ‘upcoming’ documentary from The Minialmists on Netflix, anxiously awaiting its arrival. The DAY it was released, I watched it and was again inspired to get back to simplifying life. I’ll be honest, though: There was NOTHING in this documentary that was ‘new’ to me. Living a clutter-free life has been an ongoing process for over a decade now. But, I was reminded

And so, we continue – you and me – toward a simple life and so on. A significant part of being ‘clutter-free’ includes keeping your internal environment free of distractions. I’m not talking about your living room or that junk drawer. I’m talking about your Self. 

I’ve written so much about Busy’s Glorification and how ‘Busy’ is the new ‘Fine’ I’m not sure it is worth repeating. Except…it is. It absolutely is worth repeating because I asked six people last week how they were, and each of them stated, “Busy. So busy.”

You know how this goes, right? “How are you?” they ask. “Busy,” you reply, rolling your eyes with a tone of exaggeration. “Busy” has become a badge of honor, as if being busier than the next person wins you some kind of prize or something.

Honestly? How can you be so busy? The fucking world is shut down because of Covid-19. So much has changed to reduce time constraints. You can have someone else shop for and deliver your groceries. There are people at the ready to arrive on your doorstep with prepared meals. If you’re lucky enough (yes…lucky enough.) to work from home you can wash, dry, and fold that laundry (dishes, etc.) on your breaks. (Ahem. Yes. Breaks. WFH doesn’t require 9 hours of desk time.)

There are a lot of reasons why people get so busy. We take too much on, refuse to set boundaries, can’t accept failure as an option, blah, blah, blah. But what if one of the real reasons we are all so damn busy is that we let too many distractions into our life? I guess, if you think about it, it is a bit like not setting boundaries, but here are five of the ways I find myself getting distracted from the things that really matter.

1. My Smart Phone Made Me Do It. Yes, I really did just compare my smartphone to Satan. (Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit?) That darn thing is nothing more than a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. I finally had to set up a Do Not Disturb auto-turn on at 9 pm because I’m so darn undisciplined with that gadget.

“Our phones live not just in our pockets, but in front of our eyes. The influence of the Internet and its constant stream of information is accessible from nearly every corner of our world. Breaking news breaks into our day at breakneck speed. And we are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements on nearly every flat surface. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources.” – Josh Becker.

2. Getting bogged down by the “C” List.  I keep a running “Priority C” list (‘C’ stands for Crap That Bugs Me). C-list items are the tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete. I designate a time each day to knock out as many as I can in a half-hour. If I don’t do this, I get distracted by those items and forget to do the essential things. Also, my Priority C list includes personal stuff, too, not just something at work. I find it hard to focus if I have too many “C’s” buzzing around. Because, folks, I don’t believe in a work/life balance. It’s just life…and it has to work. David Allen writes about this practice in his best-seller “Getting Things Done.” Here is a summary.

3. Kill the clutter. My desk usually looks like a tornado blew over it. At least once a day, I take two-three minutes to reduce unnecessary clutter from my desk and my office. On one of my breaks, I take a loop around the house and straighten up any thing that is quick to fix or clean. I battle Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have learned that unnecessary clutter creates anxiety for me. If things are messy, I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I cannot focus. 

4. Get rid of digital clutter. I recently revealed my ‘email inbox’ while conducting a remote desktop share with a client. They gasped and I felt like an email master. I had something crazy, like, five emails in the ‘inbox.’ The key is that I have rules set up so all the ‘unimportant’ stuff filters into folders. (I get to determine what the difference between unimportant and important. They don’t.) I designate a time each hour, day, or week to read what needs to be read and either delete it or file it immediately. I don’t have a lot of unnecessary communication distracting me from what really needs to happen that day. Also, I am not a significant “IM” participant (Is it IM, PM, DM? I get so confused.)  “Instant Messenging” of any sort is simply the Evil Satan-Spawn Child of the Smart Phone. I. Loathe. It.

And my favorite? First, a disclaimer. I can’t take credit for this. I stole this one word-for-word from Josh Becker because, well, I owe my minimalist lifestyle to him. So, he wrote this, I didn’t. I just try to implement it daily:

5. Care less about what other people think. “The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand: There is much value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who loves you. But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.”

I once heard a someone say “The Devil has three main ways of getting to you. He’ll distract you, disappoint you, and disorganize you.” I’ve experienced all three lately, so I’m thankful for good counsel (like Josh) and others who have their priorities straight. So, what about you? What is your biggest distraction? (If you say “Pinterest,” I’ll give you a big AMEN and possibly a sticker!!!)

As always, I leave you with a song. This one is by The Weepies. Who doesn’t love The Weepies, right??

New Old Ideas: 12 Reasons To Simplify

I have something to say.  Really.  It’s crucial.  Are you ready???

Since I embraced simplicity, my life has changed.

Yes.  It. Has. Changed. Dramatically.  Radically.  Completely.  Outside of the most unexpected gift of becoming a mother, I declare that saying “NO” to consumerism and vowing to live a simpler life has been the best thing to ever happen to me.

In 2010 I started reading about simplicity.  I kept thinking I needed a change.  As a massage therapist, I had always told my clients that stress is the number one cause of over 90% of diseases in our modern-day.  Yet…I was really stressed.  Rushed.  Tired.  Unfulfilled.  Every New Years past I wrote down my goals:  This year I want PEACE.  PEACE, Dammit!!!  I NEED IT!!!  (Hmmmm….see the irony?)

Then, one night amid my lifestyle-induced insomnia, I came across a blog post by Leo Babauta. From there, I started following other bloggers like Josh Becker and Tammy Strobel. And now I follow several bloggers who, like me, are finding that ‘minimalism’ is more about simplicity…and less about living with nothing at all. Quite frankly, these people became my teachers.  I have so much gratitude for each of them for the introduction to a simpler life.

Last year I was determined to get my finances in order, take a much-needed vacation, and get my mental and emotional health back on track. Looking over the last year (even during a global pandemic) I accomplished my goals. Dare I say that this is the first year I did achieve my goals – so maybe…just maybe…I needed the forced ‘slow down’.

In 2021 I plan to focus on my physical and spiritual health. I haven’t outlined what that will look like eventually or even how I’ll measure that (Cue SMART Goals), but I’m still working through it. I know that simplifying my engagement calendar will be vital for successful goal management. For starters: Every Thursday at 7 pm, I will continue my yoga practice. Boom. Physical & Spiritual with one stone.

Let 2021 be your year.  Whether you decide to consider the concept, are ready to begin cleansing your life of clutter, or even prepared to take it to the next level and help others…Turn 2021 into a year that can change your life forever.  Make it the year to embrace simplicity; to let go; to feel free.  Say yes to relaxation and happiness.  Say yes to getting your life back.

To further convince you, here are 12 Ways (and Reasons!) to Simplify this year:
(Disclaimer:  Some will bring on immediate benefits while some will be worth the wait.  Just be open.)

1. Reduce the physical clutter in your home.  By reducing, you will have less to clean, less to maintain, less to organize, less financial burden, and less emotional distractions.  Owning less eventually gives you ‘more’ in other areas of your life. 

2. Say “No, thank you” to a commitment.  Booked-solid people have no time for rest.  And people who have no time for rest are mean.  Seriously.  They spend that spare 15 minutes folding laundry instead of reading to their children.  They take a 20-minute drive and use the ‘windshield’ time to return phone calls instead of singing silly songs with their kids or merely taking in the sights around them.

3.  Start each morning with these words:  “Thank you.”  Feeling gratitude only expands the reasons to have more of it.  With less to occupy your attention, you’ll be able to see how blessed your life is.  And, if you find it isn’t as ‘blessed’ as you’d like it to be you’ll have the time and energy to find ways to make it more blessed. 

 4.  Simplify your menu.   I mean, REALLY.  In the book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne suggests making each day the “Fill In The Blank” day, such as Monday-Pasta; Tuesday-Rice;  Wednesday-Slow Cooker, etc.  We typically eat the same twelve menu items over and over. Don’t believe me? Really? What’s your ‘go-to’ meal on hectic days?

5.  Focus on prevention.  It is so much easier to STAY well than to GET well.  You can apply these ideas to your body, soul, material possessions, and bank account. 

6.  Realize you don’t have to live your life the way you’ve been told.  You don’t have to own 2+ cars, a boat, and a 3500 square foot home with a craft room, workshop, and separate living areas.  You don’t have to work in a job you hate.  You can have, be, and do more with your life.  I’ll introduce you to this concept throughout the year, starting with this movie trailer. (Since 2013, I have watched this movie every New Year’s Day to remind me!)

8.  Reduce the clothes in your closet.  Americans wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.  You don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll have a challenge for you in March that will prove me right.  You wait and see. 

9.  Find a creative outlet.   Hopefully, it won’t be one that encourages you to turn an entire room into a smaller version of Hobby Lobby, BUT in the event that it does you’ll be amazed how much adding creativity to your life breeds happiness.

10.  Schedule nap time.  Or just some downtime to sit in the sun.  Don’t have the time??  Not to sound judgmental, but that’s an unfortunate commentary on your life, and I want to help!  Refer back to #2, and we’ll discuss this more during the year.

11.  Limit your time on Social Media.  Seriously, the drama factor on FakeBook alone is enough to prove my point on this one.  There is no bigger time suck than Social Media. The comparison factor alone creates opportunities for you to be stressed.

12.  Have a place for everything.  Even those pesky clipped coupons and scrapbook paper need a place to rest – and your kitchen counter, isn’t it.  Many of us are working from home now, and our ‘office’ is the kitchen island. Except it isn’t. (Listen again: The kitchen counter/table/island is not your office.) So, get yourself a file box or briefcase and put all that stuff away each night as if you were working from your favorite coffee shop.

I’ll post challenges centered on reducing clutter and improving your life quality over the next year. No worries, they will be simple. (Simple…not necessarily easy.)

So, what would you like help with this coming year? Where can you simplify? Which of the twelve ideas resonates most with you?

5 Lessons I Learned By Making Orange Juice

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”Thich Nhat Hanh

The baby is sleeping a little later these days which translates into a few hours in the early morning to use as I deem fit. Mostly, I walk around the house looking for things to do because, as we all know, I don’t relax well. But occasionally, I take some of those peaceful moments to be more mindful.

This morning I removed my grandmother’s citrus juicer from its sacred place, grabbed a basket of beautiful organic oranges (a gift from a neighbor) and proceeded to make myself a wonderful glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This is important to share because I have a perfectly good, very expensive, electric juicer sitting just a few inches from where I spent my time in mindful meditation this morning.

orangejuice

“How silly,” you might think. “You could have had that orange juice in half the time if you would have used that overpriced kitchen gadget.” Yes, you are correct. But I also would have disturbed the quiet of the morning (the overpriced gadget is very LOUD), created a mess with five moving parts I find completely annoying to clean, and…I wouldn’t have looked up from my task to find two bunnies playing in the yard. There is something miraculous that happens when one decides to take the simpler route.

At first, deciding to be mindful can be challenging. But I’ve found in my personal journey to seek simplicity in all things that true mindfulness can be really cathartic. When our attention is diffused we might be aware of something, but not really focused on it. Like me, with the bunnies. I know bunnies play in the morning. I just didn’t know these bunnies played in my yard in the morning. Get it?

Another thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to become proficient. Sure, some take it to the extreme and build a hut in the middle of New Mexico to sit for days in formal meditation. Others…well…we make orange juice. I’m just saying that mindfulness can take place informally with everyday activities. Here are some ways I have learned to be mindful – and I hope you’ll learn from these too:

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Corporate America would have us believe that multi-tasking is a skill we need to move up the ladder. In reality, the multi-tasking as it relates to productivity is a complete myth. Resist the urge to do several things at once. In other words: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen proverb)

2. Don’t rush. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The same can be applied to making orange juice by hand or with an expensive juicer. Take your time. Be present. Move slowly. Relax and focus. It is hard at first. Keep trying.

3. Forget your to-do list. The less you do, the better you are. My ‘to do list’ became a ‘project list’ after the baby was born. I only attempt one project a day. This way I focus on one thing at a time. Yes, it takes me longer. That’s the point. I also do a better job. (Today’s project: Vacuum. That is quite an accomplishment when living with an infant.)

4. Be present when you eat. This advice comes directly to you from a woman who sits with an infant in her lap trying to cut her food and eat with one hand 90% of the time. Look, I never said I was a Zen-Master, so we all have things at which we can become better. I’ll work on it if you will. One last thought on this: research indicates that mindful eating helps one to actually eat less.

5. Savor your chores. When you become mindful in the daily tasks you really start to learn to notice things you have never cared about before (shall I mention the bunnies again?). I have started folding laundry in the quiet laundry room instead of sitting in front of the television. (Didn’t realize I had so many socks with holes in the toes. Also, my ‘unmentionables’ are looking a bit ratty these days which may explain…um…never mind). Mindfulness while preparing dinner helped me realize my kitchen design was completely wrong for cooking. I ended up moving my refrigerator, microwave, and all my cooking pans to different locations.

For all of you, I encourage you to just keep at it. Mindfulness takes time. Be gentle with yourself. Decide to be completely present for one task today. Just one. Your mindful task will eventually turn into a mindful day and from that…a mindful week. Finally, you’ll realize a mindful life. But you have to
start with something. Maybe with a glass of orange juice?

This week’s challenge:

Spend five minutes each day doing nothing. Be aware of your breath. Be aware of the tension in your body. Be aware of your thoughts…your feelings…your desires. Did you emerge from your five minutes with more insight? More relaxed? More aware of the aches and pains? Take a moment to let me know.

Announcing the March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Need more encouragement? See how others have taking the plunge and cleaned up their closet:

Tips for Simplifying Closets and Clothes
5 Steps To Decluttering Your Closet
Decluttering Tips From An Aspiring Hoader
How I Decluttered My Closet

PS…I would be remiss to not mention my new editor who has enriched my life in more ways than one.  Please consider buying her book, The Farmer’s Story.

PSS…I started to use ‘amiss’ instead of ‘remiss’ but I knew my editor would shake her finger at me if I chose incorrectly.  So I Googled it.  See how her presence improves me?  We all have someone who makes us better, right?