My Top 5 Calm Practices and How to Design your Own Rituals
Self care is a term that is thrown around so much these days, and it has become this additional item on our to-do list that we need to keep up with – and advertise – to be the best version of ourselves. Cue all the rituals, routines and practices that all of us have to come to know – and loathe. But self care should not be something you think of as an obligation. Thinking of self care as a ‘to do’ item rather than a soulful and beneficial self love practice defeats its purpose. And also, newsflash: self care is not anybody else’s business. It is a deeply personal journey that looks different for everyone, and you should not look at what makes others feel good as this secret recipe for success and happiness. You need to find what makes YOU feel good, and what truly makes a difference in your day. Sure, exercise, meditation and yoga are all great, but are you doing them because YOU want to, or because it’s become the socially accepted norm of what self care looks like? For me, self care is a little different – it’s intentionally making space for, and creating, calm. Here are 5 things that I try to do every day to create that moment of stillness and quiet.
This one might feel counterintuitive and seems like it shouldn’t count as self care, but for me, it absolutely is. First of all, planning and organizing is something I thoroughly enjoy and am passionate about, but it is also something that keeps me sane and centered. Being able to map out my goals, plan my weeks, but also check in and keep myself accountable is essential to support my personal growth and work through my mindset blocks. Every Sunday, I plan the week ahead around 4 central themes: Personal, Business Development, Client Work and Creative Work. It gets rid of any anxiety I might have and makes me see clearly what my priorities are so I can stay focused on getting shit done. Every Friday, I go through those to-do lists and analyze my progress. Whatever didn’t get done either gets repurposed to the following week, or dumped on a ‘Later’ list because, truly, if it made the list but didn’t spark joy, sometimes it’s gotta go. At the end of each month, I do my Month in Review where I look at my bigger goals and analyze how I’ve moved the needle, the progress I’ve made and how I’m feeling about these goals. When it comes to goal setting, people set goals – usually at the beginning of the year – and feel this obligation to stick to them (or at least, pretend to) without really diving deep into the purpose and intention behind each one of them. I recalibrate every month to make sure these big dreams of mine are still aligned with how I feel, what’s happened in my life and allow myself the freedom to pivot, iterate and sometimes scrap things completely. My RoadMap is alive, ever evolving and dynamic, just like me! What are some of your power planning habits?
I have about a million thoughts running through my head every day, and about 100 tabs open in my brain at all times (like most of us do) and my brain plays tricks on me and tends to focus on what I could have done more of, or done better, or just simply done at all. Years ago, I did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and back in the day, I discovered some very helpful tools I need to utilize every day to reverse-engineer the way my brain analyzes situations. So every night, in bed, I practice gratitude with an app called Grateful, and I list 5 things that made that day a good day. They could be the simplest things, like the warm sun on my face during my coffee break, or very big wins like signing on a huge 6-month retainer client last December. Whatever they are, they help me reframe my thinking and go to bed knowing 5 good things happened that day. It’s especially useful during the crappy days, the days where everything seems to go wrong, and you feel discouraged. Because in those days, you realize you can still find 5 small things you can be grateful for. And this practice matters because the hard days are when you need it the most.
Time in Nature
I’ve recently moved to Italy, in a little town in the middle of the Alps, after almost a decade in the Gulf, surrounded by nothing but desert and skyscrapers. I knew I missed nature and greenery, but I never realized just how much I needed it and how profoundly it would impact me. So now, my day starts outside, in the middle of the trees and the mountains, walking my dog and sipping on my coffee feeling the sun on my face (we’ve had an unusual and quite worrisome sunny winter this year…) and I have to pinch myself because I feel so freaking blessed to be able to work from home, and build my own schedule and finally have the freedom I craved for so long. On the weekends, we go for long hikes in the forest, and we get to bask in the beauty of our planet and feel connected to nature. Last time I went for a run, with folk music blasting in my headphones and actually wept at how happy I felt. True story. So, all that crap about “go out and take a hike”? Yup, it works. Try it. NOW.
I’ve suffered from back pain and neck pain for years, and it’s only gotten worse since the pandemic and our sketchy WFH set up. Last year, I invested in a state-of-the-art work station with elevated monitors, a footstool and ergonomic chair to take care of my posture, as well as essential oils and a neck massager that I use religiously every evening after I unplug from my work day. I light some candles, a stick of white sage incense, and put my favorite Netflix show on and just unwind while my new best friend works its magic. And some days, I don’t feel like doing it, I decide to skip it, I slouch on my chair and pretend I’ll be fine, but those days are always the ones where I realize my body will not give me what I need if I don’t take care of it. I remind myself that slowing down, taking time out of my evening to nurture it and be intentional with my health routines is what will make me feel best. Which brings me to my last self care habit…
For me, being intentional means doing something with a clear and heartfelt ‘why’. And this ‘why’ needs to be deeply personal, rooted in my beliefs and my values, and it needs to make sense in my overall vision, otherwise, I won’t get the results that I’m looking for. I was watching a video the other day from Erin May Henry, this biz mentor and educator I follow, and she was talking about the fact that dread is the worst feeling she can possibly feel and that she does everything she can to avoid it. As soon as she feels like she’s dreading something, she drops it like a hot potato. And that got me thinking… There are a few things I dread doing on a daily basis, and I do them anyway. I’m not putting a positive intention behind it, and the reason ‘why’ I do it doesn’t quite click. I might be doing it because I have to, it’s what I’ve been taught to do, or it’s what successful people do, but they just don’t quite do it for me. At least, not in that specific format… If you spend time doing something, there needs to be a solid reason why. It needs to bring something to the table, and it needs to make sense to YOU. So I decided to take a look at the things I do every day and ‘clean house’. Remove the fluff, and truly hone in on the things I want to do because they bring me joy, and I will put a positive, productive and uplifting intention behind them. And I’ve made a decision to dump the rest. And by dump I mean either flip the script and do them my way, or just throw them out all together instead of sticking to the narrative that these things have to be done in order to be successful/healthy/happy/[insert widely believed cultural misconception here]. But more on those later…
Until next time.