Essentially, these are the small ways I take care of myself on a somewhat daily basis to make sure I stay front and center.
These methods encompass physical health, mental health, the issue of time and money, and general well-being.
As I’ve said, I prefer to take a holistic view of self-care, so there are a lot of avenues to take when improving quality of life.
I’m sure there are a lot that I’m forgetting, as some are just automatic now, but here we go!
Walking, hiking, biking – whatever allows you to slow down and take in the scenery – can be therapeutic. Honestly, I enjoy walking for the simple fact that it gets me away from a screen. Fresh air (when it’s not allergy season) is good for you.
Something else I enjoy about walking is that you often notice things you never did before – mostly because you were probably going too fast. This can lead to some awesome things (like realizing a coffee shop or a bar is off the trail you’re walking on!).
I like hiking because it’s the perfect activity for reflecting. There’s just something about being in nature that makes me more pensive about things, and I welcome that after the busy-ness of being online constantly.
So if I’m feeling stressed or harried, I turn to walking. It’s an easy way to get some exercise and clear your mind.
Perspective: Money Isn’t the Focus
I’m including this here again because it’s been an incredibly difficult thing for me to internalize, and it helps to keep it at the forefront.
Money isn’t everything. Sure, it’s important, but at the end of the day money is just a tool that allows you to live an awesome life. That’s how I try and approach it, anyway.
I used to get caught up in the numbers – my numbers, other people’s numbers, my cat’s numbers ($0, jerks) – that they eventually lost meaning. It was either higher or lower. Better or worse. And it did nothing except make me feel blah about my situation.
So I decided to try and stop assigning meaning to these numbers and just take them for what they are. What does it matter that someone is making 10x more than I am when I still have a life that I’m happy with? Maybe they’ll reach FI faster, but I can still get there on my own terms.
I’m tired of sacrificing 100% of the present for the future. I want to live a little today, and that requires shifting my mindset to focus less on the money, less on working, and more on what I value.
If all I’m doing is working myself to death to make sure I can save X% for the future – if that’s all I’m focusing on – life becomes numbers. That’s not a healthy way to live.
Speaking of healthy, along with walking, I enjoy doing quick bodyweight exercises to strengthen my
I don’t have any fancy equipment, so I keep things relatively simple – 5 or 10 minutes on each area of the body, and then I’m done. It usually takes somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes to complete this routine.
I feel so much more accomplished when I exercise, even if my routine is extremely basic compared to the routine of others. I’m doing what works for me right now, and that’s all that matters.
I may look into a gym membership or classes or even a personal trainer at some point (just to get a baseline and then a better routine), but I’ve already noticed an increase in energy, stamina, and endurance, so woo!
Books have been my life for…ever, really. I can still remember my parents taking me to the library when I was a child. It was our weekend adventure because we all loved to read.
I’m so glad my parents instilled that in me. I know a lot of people my age who think books are lame, which is so unfortunate. Books hold so much knowledge, inspiration, and possibility within their pages, and I can’t imagine a life without them.
That being said, reading is (sadly) something I de-prioritized while I was in college, and I haven’t quite been able to get back to a-book-a-week schedule. It’s also why I plan on bringing like 5 books with me when I go away on vacation next week. (Yep, I’m that person.)
Regardless, I’ve made some headway with reading this year, and I have a huge list of books on my reading list, so I know I can dive in whenever I make the time. I’m currently trying to finish about 3 books, so we’ll see how that goes…
Similar to books, I can’t live without music.
Sometime last year I paid for a subscription to Spotify, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. (Especially since my iPod is super old and malfunctioning.) Say what you will about subscription services – the $10/mo I pay is worth it to have all my favorite music with me at all times.
Music greatly affects my emotions, so more often than not I’ll have electronic music playing in the background while working. I realize most people aren’t a fan of that genre, but I love anything that will get me dancing in my chair.
Upbeat, uplifting tunes get me through the day. If I have a bad day, I turn on my “feel good” playlist and it works to put me in a better mood 99.9% of the time.
With friends, that is.
As an introvert, I find there’s a delicate balance to maintain between “people-time” and “me-time.”
This has been an increasing concern of mine as more and more opportunities to hang out with people and have a social life have surfaced.
Here’s what I’ve (generally) found to be true: if I go out Friday night and Saturday (day/night), then Sunday is usually an unwind day for me. Likewise, if I stay in Friday and go out Saturday and Sunday, then I use Sunday night to wind down by myself.
It’s very rare that I enjoy myself when I go out all the time. I just don’t have the energy to do it.
However, I don’t mind other people coming to me, so one of my favorite things to do is have a weekend sleepover with friends. They get here Friday night and don’t leave until sometime on Sunday, and it’s a fairly low-key weekend all around.
My best advice here is to know yourself…but also know when to push yourself. There have been many weekends where I didn’t feel like going out on any days, but forced myself out because I knew it would be good for me.
Thankfully, most friends live 10 minutes away at most, so if I’m not feeling it, I can turn around and leave. They’re nice enough to understand and not hold it against me (and having understanding friends helps a lot).
The point is, staying in all the time can be tempting, but it’s usually a bad idea. As introverted as I am, I do miss seeing people after a while, and I get restless.
Here’s a recent example –
This year has been up and down for me as we have an offer on a short sale just…sitting there. Short sales take forever to process, and this one is no exception.
Unfortunately, that’s been holding me back in a lot of ways. I’ve been scared to spend large amounts of money (that I have saved, mind you) for things like travel, in case underwriting is super strict about it.
After months of that I got completely worn down. I had said no to a convention that I’ve volunteered for the past two years, and I found myself torn over missing it because of a damn house.
So I made the snap decision to go (thank you work flexibility/awesome clients). I booked a flight and found people to crash with, and I didn’t regret it for a second. It was another awesome week back in Austin, TX.
Travel also usually means seeing my family, especially now that my grandma is living down south near my parents.
Overall, travel is something I want to do more of – aside from the gut-wrenching anxiety I experience right before the flight, it’s usually a good experience and pushes me out of my comfort zone.
If you’ve read this blog in the past, you know I’m a HUGE fan of practicing gratitude. I made it a weekly habit for over a year, and it’s something that’s completely automatic for me now.
I want to be clear on one thing, though – gratitude, to me, is not saying, “Well, it could be worse, so I guess I’m grateful for this.”
That misses the point.
Yes, gratitude often means focusing on the silver linings despite other crap going wrong, but the focus should be on the positive, not the negative. Saying it could be worse or other people have it worse than me does the practice a disservice.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean I’m happy-go-lucky at all times, or that I’m never down about stuff. It’s not a cure-all, but when shit hits the fan, it rolls off my shoulders a lot easier than it used to.
I don’t dwell on crappy things nearly as much, which results in a much more efficient use of my mental energy.
If you need examples, just look at my archive of “being grateful” posts.
I always feel like an oddball for identifying as a gamer in the personal finance world. Most people seem to see gaming as a waste of time…to which I wonder what they think of watching TV. Or reading.
Gaming is similar to me – the purpose it serves is to transport me to another world that I can experience. It’s an escape.
Sure, some games are competitive and way more intense than others, but I usually stay away from those. ;)
RPGs are my favorite genre because they usually have the best storylines, and I love a good story.
Unfortunately, like reading, gaming has fallen by the wayside lately. I have SO many games in my library that I need to play through that it’s almost overwhelming.
The problem with some games these days – and this is mostly true for open world games – is that they’re, uh, well, never-ending. It’s very difficult to say “I’m only going to spend an hour playing this” because it’s inevitable that you’ll fall down a rabbit hole of quests or collecting crap, only to realize six hours have passed. Oops?
I’ve been trying to find games that are a little easier to pick up and stop – mission-based games, or chapter-based games. This way there’s a definitive start and end point.
At the very least, I’ve finally gotten through more than half of Borderlands 2 (yes, super late to the party), and it’s hilarious. It also made me realize I’m not as horrible at FPS as I thought.
I’m currently looking forward to the release of Destiny 2 since I enjoyed playing the original last year.
Making Connections / Community
This is similar to hanging out, but I mean making connections with people online. I love ‘meeting’ new people – whether it’s in this community or others that I’m part of. The awesome thing about the internet is that it allows us to make connections we otherwise never would have, and my life is all the better for that.
I say it a lot, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for community. I love learning from others and having interesting conversations with people who have experienced so much more than me.
Now that I’m back, I definitely need to get caught up on blogs to keep an eye on. So if you have any suggestions (including yourself), feel free to comment with them!
I think I explained it in this post, but writing has been a passion of mine for as long as reading has. They’re both equally important to me.
Writing especially is therapeutic. I used to journal, and I’ve been thinking of picking that habit back up again because it helps me suss out various issues and gives me additional perspective down the road.
Writing here helps me explore different topics and ideas and challenges me to present them in a (hopefully) organized manner.
I view writing as a creative outlet that enables me to express myself in a number of different ways. It’s also a craft – one which I’m continuously trying to hone.
People say that laughing is the best medicine, and I think that’s true to some extent. Hasn’t it been scientifically proven that smiling releases dopamine or something like that?
So I try to laugh – freely, and often. And usually at myself.
I appreciate those who make an effort to make others laugh, too, and do my best to surround myself with these people.
If all else fails, there are a few ‘YouTube entertainers’ out there who never fail to make me laugh.
Whenever I’m having a bad day, I try to find something to laugh about. I take life way too seriously most of the time, so it helps to practice humility and a bit of carefree-ness.
Choosing Happiness More Often
This is simple: I do my best to remember that happiness is a choice that I can make.
This sort of goes back to gratitude, but when something bad happens, we have the power to choose how we react to it. We can either let it get us down, or we can accept it and move on.
I don’t believe in ignoring feelings or shutting certain feelings off. There are times I can’t help but feel sad and down – even when there’s no reason for it. And sometimes the best thing you can do is let yourself feel that way until it passes.
But it always helps to remember that I’m choosing to feel that way, and that I can choose another option – if I wish.
This is important to me because I remember feeling absolutely helpless, hopeless, and trapped back in high school. I thought life sucked, and that’s all there was to it. Now I know that I’m (usually) in control, and that is empowering all on its own.
This relates back to the general theme that life is so incredibly busy that we never stop and reflect on what’s going on. We barely process it. When one thing happens, it’s onto the next thing almost immediately.
This is a recipe for disaster. At least, for me. I place a high value on having the space and time to think and reflect about what’s going on in my life. If I don’t reflect on things, that means I’ll end up going through the motions, accepting things as they are, and not questioning anything.
Just as I’m not a fan of mindless consumption, I’m also not a fan of…mindless living? Being a zombie? Stringing life events together until they become one big blur?
You get the point. Reflection is essential for progress and intentional living. Without it, I lose my way. Quickly.
Those of you who know that I’m a night owl might be laughing at the fact I put sleep on this list, but just because I don’t go to bed at what most consider a ‘normal’ time doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy sleeping.
Okay, well, that’s partially true – if I could be a robot that didn’t need sleep, I might take that deal. But I’m not, and the reality is that sleep is necessary to function. And functioning is kind of important. (Especially if you aspire to be a robot.)
I try and get 8 hours of sleep whenever I manage to fall asleep, although I still set alarms, and sometimes I wake up before they go off (and then promptly fall back asleep).
My sleep routine is a work in progress that I’m not sure I’ll ever get right, but I can try!
And in case you’re unaware, lack of sleep can cause a lot of issues, from weight gain to brain fog to depression to a severe lack of cognitive function. If you want to be productive, you need more sleep, not less of it.
Ah, what typically comes after waking up: coffee.
Believe it or not, I don’t really have coffee on here because I can’t function without it. Coffee doesn’t always make me jittery or feel more awake. It just tastes (and smells) good.
Ironically, I grew up hating coffee. To this day, the coffee that my dad drinks is basically mud, and that’s what I had always known it as. But then I was introduced to creamer, which made it bearable.
Later, I tried iced coffee, which tasted way better. Then the cold brew movement started, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Cold brew coffee is ridiculously awesome, and I can drink it black, which makes it slightly healthier (better than dumping sugar or cream into it).
Cold brewing removes the bitterness that I dislike about coffee, and since I have it black, I can appreciate the subtle notes and flavors in whatever I’m drinking. Guatemalan happens to be my #1 choice – fruity and chocolaty deliciousness. Yum.
So I view coffee as a daily luxury treat – I buy the roast from a local coffee shop, so I’m not going out and spending $4/day on it, but I am unapologetic about it. Good coffee is worth it, and it’s a nice way to start my day.
Odds and Ends
There are a lot of other little things that I do as pick-me-ups, but they usually boil down to the simple things in life.
For example, I take great joy in watching my cats act like nut-jobs running around the house. They can be extremely entertaining in crazy mode.
I also pause to say “aww” whenever they look extra adorable (which is a lot). Or I laugh at my huge dog trying to use a sock as a pillow. Or I stare outside as the sun is setting to take in the beauty of it.
Other times, I’ll dye my hair because I feel like experimenting. (It’s now reddish purple with blue on the tips.) Or I’ll pick up a new nail polish and give myself a manicure. Or I’ll take a nap because my body is telling me that I suck at sleeping and it needs rest.
The key thing is knowing what makes you happy, and doing more of it. It took me a while to figure out how to make more space for these things in my life, and I’m still not perfect with it.
As with most things in life, self-care is a never-ending journey. As we evolve, our priorities, goals, and values change, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re living in alignment with each of those. Course corrections are inevitable, but there’s no reason we can’t adapt. We just have to be mindful of it, and putting yourself first will reduce obstacles along the way.