7 Habits That Make Me Feel Like My Best Self
"Self care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what's left of you." - Katie Reed
December is often the month that we refer to as the most wonderful time of the year, but for many of us it can be challenging for a long list of reasons. While some of us may be missing a loved one or struggling with winter blues, most of us are probably also doing some form of self-reflection during this time of year. With a new year and an entirely new decade approaching, this often serves as motivation to start setting some goals or resolutions to help better our lives.
I’m writing to you about this topic now because of some requests I received to write about these habits that seem to work for me, and because I recently found myself stuck in one of those weird “funks” of life. You know, when you feel like you are just going through the motions of life but not truly feeling fulfilled or really enjoying any of the things you’re doing? I found myself having one of those reflective moments, racking my brain to try to figure out why this feeling of being stuck in a rut seemed so overwhelming. I mean, is this an example of “first world probs” or am I justified in feeling burnt out?
I have a lengthy list of things to be thankful for and I have been religiously practicing gratitude in multiple ways each day. Most recently, it feels like I am seeing so many of my long-term goals and dreams come to fruition and that is extremely fulfilling on my best days. And yet, I still have days where I find myself with this sense of dread and lack of motivation to keep pushing on.
After a year and a half long journey spent with a counselor (who I ironically always said felt more like a friend or life coach, and has since continued a business as a life coach), I learned how to implement a lot of important strategies to get to my mentally and physically healthiest point in life. Yet somehow, about six months post-therapy, I found myself slipping back into old familiar ways: overcommitting and stretching myself too thin, leaving very little time to prioritize the most important things in my life, and falling back to former coping mechanisms. As they say, old habits die hard.
On the bright side, the fact that I spent hard time really learning what works for me means that I’ll always know where to find the solutions to pull myself back out of any “funk” or “rut” phases that I’ll undoubtedly find myself at different points throughout my life. Here is my list of the 7 habits that make me feel like my best self:
1. Cleaning/Organizing How lame is this? You guys are probably thinking, “Seriously? This is what I came here for?” Hear me out and hang on until the end… Back in the day when I was the Queen of Overcommitting, my house was often a war zone of clutter. I would let laundry pile up for embarrassingly extensive periods of time, could never find anything because there was no system of organization and things were just thrown around haphazardly, and the concept of making my bed seemed completely ridiculous and wasteful of my already limited time. Through my journey with counseling, I actually started to learn that organization and order takes away an added element of stress to an already stressful life. Honestly, who enjoys scrambling around panicking and ending up running late because you can’t find things that you need? I found a system of organization that works for my home and family, started scheduling a day each week for laundry/house cleaning/reorganization, made a habit of tidying up at the end of each day, and even started making the bed every day. It was somewhat difficult to get into these habits at first, so I began by setting reminders on my calendar until it eventually became part of my regular routine that I cannot function without now.
2. Exercising Regularly If I hadn’t already been hanging on to my title as the Queen of Overcommitting, I may have been the Duchess of Anti-Fitness. If you’ve followed along with my running journey, you know that I also dubbed myself the Girl Who Cheated the Mile Run in P.E. Class. The only form of fitness or exercise that ever meant anything to me was competitive dance team, and outside of that, the thought of working out “for fun” was seriously disturbing to me. When I found myself in my first counseling session, it was just before Christmas 2017 and I was unhappy with a lot of aspects of my life at that point, including my diet and physical health. I began a journey to a “cleaner” lifestyle by focusing on consuming more of a whole food based diet, and I started slowly by jogging and trying different 30-minute exercise routines as a way to get in shape. What I didn’t know at the start of that journey was that exercise would become a mental outlet for me and a way for me to clear my mind during times of stress. Some days when it feels like it’s the last thing that I want to do, exercise can be the perfect way to bring some calm to the storm.
3. Meal Planning & Eating Healthy Along with the exercise and diet changes that I implemented, meal planning has become a huge part of what provides balance to my family’s busy lifestyle. On Sundays, I look over our calendars for the week and start planning our meals so that we don’t have to panic and stress each day over what we have time to cook, what we have in the fridge, or forget about meals altogether until we end up starving and making unhealthy last-minute choices. Making healthier food choices on a more regular basis also makes me feel better physically in a lengthy list of ways (less bloating/fatigue/anxiety, etc.).
4. Limiting Unproductive Distractions I’m looking at you, screen time. You guys, I’ve looked at my phone approximately 683 times just while writing this. For me, the biggest time waster and productivity sucker is my phone. Don’t get me wrong because I love having the ability to communicate with people anytime, anywhere. It’s important for me to connect with my husband, family members, and friends through texting and social media, because we all have busy lives and don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like. I’m a blogger, so obviously social media is a big part of what I do and I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Moderation and knowing when it’s time to step away is key. Maybe for you it isn’t a phone or social media, but can you think of the things in your own life that drain your time and energy? They may bring you some form of momentary joy, and I’m not talking about completely eliminating anything from your daily life. I’m just talking about limiting your consumption of anything that sucks up huge amounts of your time and leaves you feeling worse in the end.
5. Setting Boundaries The Queen of Overcommitting had a really difficult task last year of relinquishing her crown and starting to say, “NO,” to things for the first time ever in order to find peace and prioritize what is really important. If you find yourself overcommitting or simply feeling the pressure to agree to things that add to your stress level or take your focus away from what you want your priorities to be, I’m here to tell you from experience that you have permission to stop doing that! It is OKAY to tell people no. It is perfectly acceptable to pass up on events or opportunities that don’t align with your schedule or priorities, and it is absolutely necessary to limit your time expended on things that drain your energy in a negative way. You should not have to explain yourself for doing what is best for you!
6. Practicing Gratitude I’ve said it once (or a thousand times), and I’ll say it a million more: gratitude and mindset are everything. I’m not saying it’s easy to turn your mindset around when you’re feeling burnt out or disappointed or sad, and I know that from experience. What I also know, however, is that if you actually take the time on a frequent basis to be mindful about all the good things in your life, really do your best to live in the present, and not take the things you currently have for granted, it will have a ripple effect on your joy in all areas of life.
7. Giving Myself Permission to Rest The entire list above – all six previously stated items – mean absolutely NOTHING if they become non-negotiable requirements in my life. As a perfectionist, I have had to learn the hard way that it is okay to break from routine and to just let yourself feel whatever it is you’re going through. Sometimes on super crazy weeks, it takes me a few extra days to put the laundry away. Some days I feel sad and overwhelmed and burnt out and the absolute last thing that I want to add to my list is squeezing in a workout. If I start a workout or a run and my mind is not in it, it becomes a chore and takes away from its core purpose entirely. In those cases, I give myself permission to stop. Some weeks my family has day and evening commitments 7 days in a row, and I get so overwhelmed that I don’t even think about meal planning and we end up eating out or bringing home take out or throwing random meals together last minute just to survive the week. Sometimes I can waste a ridiculous number of hours in one day zoning out on social media. (I usually don’t feel good about that and it doesn’t add value to my life at the end of the day, but it happens.) I have a gratitude journal that I write in at the end of each day, and some days I purposely skip writing in it because I need to allow myself to have a bad day and not punish myself during a sour moment to sit and think about things I should be grateful for.
The morale of the story is that it is absolutely necessary to give yourself permission to rest. When you are beyond the point of burnout and your healthy habits start feeling like even more chores to pile on to your mile-long list that is starting to feel like a mountain that’s about to crash down on you, give yourself permission to rest. Don’t quit and throw in the towel entirely, but slow down and take some time to allow yourself to feel the way that you do, rest, and recover from it all.
It’s never too late to become the best version of yourself. Happy New Year!