Self-care, part deux!

So last time I talked about what I’ve given up or limited this month–Twitter, alcohol, sugar, etc. That is half the equation. The other half is what I’ve added. These are things I’m doing regularly and in most cases every day. I’ve been doing this for the last three weeks or so and the peace of mind is incredible. (Two other things I forgot to mention I’ve given up: the news and multitasking. I haven’t missed anything significant by keeping off the news, and I’m still getting everything done and I have even MORE time without doing several things at once. It also helps immeasurably with a sense of calm not to have eleven things on the go simultaneously.)

*Flow Magazine’s 19 Days of Mindfulness special issue. I had this one sitting in my TBR stack since I bought it a few months ago and this was the perfect time to whip it out and give it a go. Each morning I read that day’s essay and try to apply what I’ve read to help increase my mindfulness. This issue includes a small journal with numbered pages to encourage a daily practice of jotting down thoughts, so I clear my head in the morning by doing this when I read the daily essay.)

*Italian lesson. Grazie, Duolingo! If I ever need to walk up to a person in Rome and tell them they’re eating an apple, I’m all set. It’s fun; it’s practical because we want to go back to Italy, and working on another language is one of the best things you can do to keep your cognitive function sharp.

*Morning walk. I tend to do this anyway, but I’ve been extra committed, going even when it was so humid and hot it felt like walking in a terrarium. I’ve set the alarm for 7am because that’s when traffic is light, the weather is coolest, and the neighborhood rabbits are out snacking. (I count them as a way of practicing mindfulness on my walk. The record is 14!)

*Workout. After my walk comes a protein shake and a workout–25 minutes of weights, Swiss ball, and kettlebells. One morning my routine got shifted and my first thought was, “Well, I guess I’ll have to skip today.” AND I WAS SAD. Color me shocked. I’ve always hated sports and considered myself totally unathletic, but I finally realized THOSE were my problems. First, I’m not unathletic–I was just out of shape in spite of being slim most of my life. Second, sports is not the same as fitness. I LOVE being fit and strong; I just hate being around other people when I do it. No gym, no classes for me. When my daughter graduated from college, I claimed her generous attic room for my own and set it up as a very calm space to practice yoga and lift weights. (Hand weights; let’s not get crazy.) This is where all the yoga mats and kettlebells and free weights live, and it works perfectly for me–anyone taller would brain themselves on the slanted ceiling.

*Yoga. After I write, I have been heading back up to my workout space to do yoga, half an hour with the Down Dog app which I HIGHLY recommend. I left myself on the Beginner level for far too long, thinking I wasn’t ready to level up. When I was strong enough to flip from upward facing dog to down dog without putting my knees to the mat, I knew I was ready. This practice unravels all the knots I tend to acquire when I write.

*Meditation. After yoga, I pop down on my meditation cushion and give it ten minutes on the timer in the Calm app. (You’ll notice my smartphone is a big ally in my self-care these days.) Ten minutes is not a long time–anybody can do it–but I find it’s really making a difference. The other day I was in a potentially VERY stressful situation, but I kept scanning my body for tension, breathing into the tight spots, noticing when I was holding my breath, and pretty soon it was over and I was markedly calmer than I would have been otherwise. Progress!

*Mocktails. I don’t miss alcohol, but I do miss the ritual of prepping a special drink to enjoy at the end of the day with my husband. Enter the mocktail. I’ve been experimenting, and my favorite so far is a generous tablespoon of elderflower cordial over ice, finished with sparkling water and a slice of lemon.

*Feel-good entertainment. I’ve put a moratorium on anything too challenging right now. I love Wimbledon and the Tour de France, so most of my TV watching is taken up with those. I’ve also started on the Netflix reboot of QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY which is so uplifting I almost can’t stand it.

*Daily Instagram post. One pic a day to document the mindfulness practice. Nothing aspirational or fussy, just a simple photo to mark the day and make sure I’ve been paying attention to what I’m doing.

You’d think with all these new/refined practices that my day would be jam-packed and I’d be rushing from work to yoga mat to mocktail bar. On the contrary, peeps. Without all the extra noise from Twitter, news, TV, etc. I’ve got AGES to get everything done. I’m spending more time connecting with the people I care about; I’ve read several books, and I’m perfectly on track to finish revisions next week. The house is tidy, and best of all, I have a level of relaxation I usually only find when I’m on a beach somewhere. It’s an absolute joy to realize I can DO THIS AT HOME. And to do it while I’m revising? A revelation.