The day before Valentine’s Day has been donned self-love day. It’s the perfect time to take stock of those intentions and dreams you set for the new year. How are you doing with them? Are you patting yourself on the back because you’ve already nailed it? Or do you need to gently - with a smile on your lips - help yourself recommit? Or just give yourself a little grace and empathy?
Here are four creative ways to really take care of some basic needs - rest, time management, and little self-care hacks. All of these gems I’ve learned from other people, mostly from listening to podcasts. But also, from friends and from recommendations. So before we dive in, let’s acknowledge that even in the name of self-love, we still all need each other.
1) WHAT’S ON MY BUTT (OR TAKE A BREAK ALREADY)
What’s on my butt is a game invented by a momma to help herself - and other parents - get some rest already. In the name of self-love, we could all use some rest, whether you’re a parent or not. To “play” simply lie on the couch, bed, floor (any place you can find), face down. The child (or children) then find various things from the house and put it on your butt. You guess what it is. Child puts away the object. Repeat as necessary.
Our family is well passed toddler-hood but we still have our sleepless nights. After a few nights in a row of our 7-year-old climbing into our bed and kicking us all night, I put this game to the test. I was home with the kids all day and as the hours ticked on by, I could feel the exhaustion kick in. Rather than amp myself up with more caffiene (which is not very loving to your adrenals), I tried the game. Everyone immediately dove in, amassing all sorts of objects while I fell into a light snooze. What’s best, there were plenty of belly laughs as I tried to decipher the latest object on my butt. In fact when my 9-year-old asked, “Why on your butt? Why not someplace else?”, my 7-year-old immediately chimed in “Because it’s silly.”
You can find this silly idea and many others in the book Weird Parenting Wins by Hilary Frank. My sister-in-law recommended the Fresh Air interview where I learned about the book. It’s a great interview if you want some background on Frank’s story.
One of the basic takeaways I’ve learned from this book (as well as from years of parenting) - make everything a game. That includes putting your shoes on, getting out the door, going to bed, picking up toys, you name it. When you’re running out of creative ideas or your old stand-by games are loosing their luster, this book will recharge you with new (often hilarious) inspirations. One of my favorites- included on a list of lies to tell your children about the ice cream truck - “That’s a fish truck. All those kids running towards it, they just really love halibut.”
My inspiration for buying the book was to read about the parenting wins around getting a child to eat (which my youngest is in occupational therapy for). She’s a tough nugget, and none of the suggestions are going to get her eating salad anytime soon. But it did inspire me to rename chia seeds (which I sprinkle in things to up the protein content) as fairy footsteps. Sometimes the best thing we can do as parents is just play along.
2) FIND YOUR MAGIC TIME
This life hack I discovered from self-help guru Craig Ballantyne on his Early to Rise Radio podcast. Ballantyne’s routine can seem intimidating to us mere mortals that don’t want to wake up in the 4am hour by choice, but I still enjoy listening to him. His enthusiasm for being our best selves and willingness to share about those times when he wasn’t his best, are an inspiration for loving yourself where you are at.
One of the nuggets I picked up after listening to one of his podcast episodes, is to find the time of the day when your juices are flowing. What is that time and what are you doing during that time? I don’t get up quite as early as Ballantyne, but I do get up before sunrise and find the quiet of the morning to be my most focused and alive time. It is my window of quiet, self-care and preparation. I also tend to exercise during this window, as it can set the tenor of the day. But I’ve found is that even though I get my exercise in I was still feeling antsy and anxious. And after listening to this podcast, I discovered that I might be wasting my magic hour on too much exercise (not that exercise is bad, but it’s just tending to one part of myself). Now I use this magic hour for the things that feel most pressing to myself at the moment. That might be writing or drawing or meditation or knitting or responding to emails, or it might be exercise. Whatever it is, I use this time more thoughtfully now, and I find myself feels better for it.
3) NOURISH YOURSELF WITH BEAUTY
In this age, having a gratitude practice is pretty common, but what about a simple beauty practice? I’m not talking about your cleanser and make-up regime, but rather starting the day finding something beautiful - first thing in the morning or at least after a bit of caffiene - to hold or behold. It gives your insides a little lift. Hold a beautiful mug, look at the sunrise, recall an act of kindness that touched you, read a poem.
Poet John O’Donohue was interviewed in this On Being episode and he has a lot to say about the importance of beauty and how our culture has taken over what constitutes beauty. He distinguishes beauty from glamour. He’s not talking about the image our culture wants us to project but actually the sense of interior that our culture seems to keep pushing us to evacuate. So don’t hold out for those red roses on Valentine’s Day. Give yourself a small gift of beauty each morning. O’Donahue says if you can hold something beautiful in your imagination, you can use this beauty to sustain you through the day or hard times - “If you can keep some kind of little contour that you can glimpse sideways at now and again, you can endure great bleakness.”
4) DO SOMETHING THAT CAN’T BE UNDONE
O’Donahue’s ideas about beauty reminds me of a recommendation by Sarah Fragoso and Dr. Brooke Kalanick who have co-authored the upcoming book Hangry B*tches and host the podcast Better Everyday. Their format is full of nutrition and exercise advice. But alongside their physical health advice, both these ladies have a host of mindset tools to keep our hearts as happy as our bodies.
One piece of advice is to do something that can’t be undone. Our life is full of things that will be on constant repeat. There will always be another email to answer or pile of laundry to fold. Dirty clothes are accumulating as you check “fold” off your list. But you can’t undo the effects of truly listening to a friend or partner or giving someone a hug. There are so many ways to engage in the undoable. I’m around my children a lot, so for me it may look like throwing a fir cone back at my son (since I’m a constant target), playing tag, or simply saying “yes” to whatever idea of play captures them at the moment.
But it could also be a simple heartfelt text sent to a friend. A phone call to a family member. Or this could be the little thing that you give to yourself - whether that’s a nice, long bath or a quick five-minute break to read a poem or sing a song. This effort can take way less time than a 10-minute meditation practice but still fuel your self-love tank.