Intentional Self-Care

I took a sick day today. The binging-mysteries-on-Netflix, napping-with-the-cat-and-heating-pad, drinking-hot-tea kind of sick day.

It was neither the flu nor the general bug that always seems to be making its way around. Instead, it was a mix of an emotional two weeks, my body adjusting to being off of a long-time medication, and the underlying anxiety of it all. In other words, I took a sick day because of life.

I’ve discovered since entering the corporate world that sick days, even vacation time, is viewed as a luxury. Explaining a missed workday without doctor’s note for the flu or a family emergency has gotten me odd looks, while coworkers have asked me how I got to take a full week’s vacation (that I had earned and saved up) when I had only been at a company for a year.

The concept of taking time for ourselves, even when most companies grant time for it, is lost on most of us.

As part of our journey into minimalism, we have set one our goals on self-care with the intention of focusing on our physical and mental health. While simple in words, undoing a habit of putting your own needs behind others’ takes time and intention. But a few, simple changes in our interactions helped us refocus our energy on our own health, putting others second and letting go of the guilt that comes with it.

Aligning your methods for self-care with your life values will also help you move toward a simpler, more intentional life.

Asking for help

One of the simplest and most beneficial things we do is ask each other for help when we need it. My partner has a condition that affects her joints; when it flares, it can be painful to walk or reach or grip. I have anxiety and OCD tendencies. Both of us occasionally struggle with daily activities.

We both used to try to do things on our own when we we’re having trouble, but we’ve learned over time that asking for each other’s help simplifies matters tremendously. And it benefits both of us. Admitting when I can’t do something by myself gains me the support I need while granting her the opportunity to support me. It strengthens our relationship while making our lives easier.

By aligning self-care with our goal to support each other, it keeps us from feeling like we are going at everything on our own while making life a little easier.

Resting

Sometimes we forget to stop and breathe. Taking time to rest is a necessity to keeping our bodies and minds at their best. When we sleep or rest, our muscles, our minds included, are able to recover from the constant running at the hamster wheel.

Too often, however, we overlook the fact that we are not actually resting our minds and bodies when we think we are taking a break. We are watching television, scrolling on social media, texting, chatting with friends. Taking a true rest means taking control of your focus and centering it on your breath and your body. Self-care means focusing on your breathing and giving your muscles a chance to take their own breaths.

Hydration

Water. Water. Water.

It’s as simple as that. Few of us drink enough water to keep up with the demands we put on our minds and bodies. I didn’t understand the significance of staying hydrated until I began drinking water throughout the day at my partner’s insistence. It’s amazing what a glass of water will do for our bodies,  taking care of symptoms of dehydration that we often ignore: headaches, stomach aches, foggy-headiness, sluggishness.

A regular glass of water is one of the best methods for ensuring self-care.

Staying Aware

We get most of our nutrients from our diet, but not all bodies are made equal. At the insistence of our nutritionist, I recently took a blood test and discovered that my body does not convert B vitamins into their necessary forms. As a result, I was deficient in more than one vitamin, which had been causing at least two bothersome symptoms for the majority of my adult life. A mutlivitamin and a vitamin B supplement later, and I’m already on my way to feeling better.

Self-care requires us to stay on top of how our bodies are working. While not everyone is up to working with a nutritionist, I do recommend that even those who feel healthy have a blood test to ensure all is as it should be. It’s interesting the little things that doctors don’t think to consider when it comes to traditional medicine.

Mental Health

The new phrase is taking a mental health day and for good reason. Whatever it is that gives you peace of mind–reading, exercising, meditating–do that. It does no good to focus solely on our bodies when our minds do at least half the work.

Self-care includes focusing on mental health. This can be as simple as taking time for something that relieves stress to talking to someone who can teach you techniques for better mental health. By incorporating time to ensure good mental health, we find that life is a little less overwhelming and are able to focus on the good every day.

My self-care day was brought on by life and my body telling me it was time to take a break and let everything reset. But a few hours of rest, hydration, and listening to my body is all I need to get back on track because we have learned that practicing self-care is an important part of a well-centered, intentional life.

Self-care is often overlooked, but incorporating it into your daily life as a part of living honestly can make a difference in how you approach life–and how life approaches you. How we go about it is unique to our situation: how you go about it will be unique to you as well.

However you do it, practice self-care honestly and in line with your values and goals. It will do you well.

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Staying Centered

Aloe vera plant

If minimalism has taught me anything, it is that I do not know myself as well as I think I do.

This is a fact that never changes and it is true for everyone. Over the past few weeks, we have had a rollercoaster of emotions, some beautiful and most life-changing, but as with everything, they’ve reminded me why it is imperative to stay centered.

Life keeps going and it’ll drag you right along with it if you aren’t anchored to something.

My fiancé and her office mate had a grow table in their shared space that had to be taken down to make room for new items. Without the light, several of the plants died, but one hardy aloe vera plant continued to grow. She brought it home two weeks ago to give it a safe space to stretch and to give us a second chance at being green thumbs after we lost all of our plants in the unseasonal freeze.

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I’m a Minimalist, I Swear

I’m a minimalist, I swear.

I repeat this to myself every time I step into our spare bedroom–but that doesn’t convince the bright orange kayak in the middle of the room.

We moved again last September to be closer to my partner’s work and to take advantage of the benefits of her being a city employee. We’d been looking at this area of Houston for a while, so the decision was a simple one to make.

We left behind our one-bed/one-bath apartment with a study, the smallest apartment we had ever shared, and moved into a larger two-bedroom apartment. The layout works well for us and provides ample living space, not to mention an interior staircase to avoid rainy-day climbs to the second floor. Parking is literally right outside our door. There isn’t quite as much light as our previous apartment but plenty of windows nonetheless. Plus a balcony.

Perfect.

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A Year Away: A Return to Minimalism

I never left minimalim, but it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post.

It was an unintentional hiatus for many reasons, one of which was my realization that there were areas of my life in which I was unhappy. The past year has been an exploration in fitness, learning about and listening to my body, finances, my relationship with technology, self-care exercises, connecting with nature, and much more, and I can honestly say that I am in a much happier place than I was last February. Continue reading

Mindful Tuesday: Meditation with the Calm App

The modern workday is often rushed and leads to overwhelming sensations and frantic maneuvers to pack as much into each one as we can. They can be stressful, and expectations do not always leave room for mindfulness. I wrote a Mindful Tuesday post a while back to express how thankful I was for hot tea and a new podcast on a particularly mindful morning. The experience had a very positive effect on my day, knowing that I had put good intentions into sharing what had helped me remain centered and focused. So much so that I’ve taken to the idea of writing Mindful Tuesday posts more regularly to move me toward more mindful practices. Continue reading

Inbox Zero: Read, Restructure, and Remove

Today’s business world thrives on email communication where the modern workplace is constantly connected despite time zones and distance. It’s the innovation that propelled business into the technology era and ensures that most companies never truly close. It is the reason many cannot put down their phones even when they’re technically off the clock.

And I hate it.

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My Morning Routine

For the past three years, every morning as I picked up my bag to start my commute, I have told myself that one day I would make the bed before heading to work. This week I finally started doing it.

It’s not that I don’t like making the bed; I actually find it relaxing because it cleans up the entire room in one action and makes it look much easier to navigate. What has stopped me thus far has been our schedules, specifically my partner’s sleeping schedule that allowed her to sleep until well after I had left for work. And you simply can’t make the bed while someone is in it. Trust me.

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Rethinking Minimalist Purchasing

I say “purchasing” in the title because “shopping” can bring about interpretations of shopping binges, multiple purchases at one time, or even mindless consumerism, most of which minimalism rejects as unnecessary. “Purchasing,” however, brings to my mind the idea of how one spends her money, whether it be on a necessity or treat and what that goes to support in the way of her life as well as the areas of consumerism she supports. And as many minimalists like to tell us, there is a right and a wrong way to do it – however, we disagree with that mindset. I think it’s all about how you view purchasing in relation to your home.

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Major Savings: Post-Holiday Ham

The holidays are full of treats and sweets, and we had our fill this year. When we returned from visiting our families, one of the first things we had to do was refill our pantry and fridge. The shopping trip was a bit refreshing in that we were out of nearly everything, so we were able to start from scratch rather than make a list of items we were missing; however, we are always on the lookout for new meats to vary our meals. At our local HEB meat counter, we can find grass-fed options in ground beef, steaks, ground bison, bison cutlets, bison hotdogs, and ground turkey. There is also ground lamb, which made a delicious lamb shepherd’s pie, the perfect mid-winter meal, as well as bacon. But it still feels slightly limiting to us.

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Minimalist & Less-Waste Planning for Holiday Trips

This holiday had us traveling and giving and opening gifts are both of our families’ abodes, which I didn’t truly digest until a few days before we set out for our trips. As I started packing for our trip, I realized there were a lot of items we wanted to take with us that were either going to create waste by us using them or were going to create waste just by nature of what they were (such as gift wrap). For the first time we had to consider how we were going to create a footprint on our trips and how we could accommodate the issue.

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