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31 ways to avoid running on empty


31 ways to avoid running on empty

By Rachel Burchfield

Writer’s Note: I wrote this blog long before I had one of my own as a guest blogger for my dear friend Vera Chapman’s “This Life on Fire.” I had just restarted my writing career less than a year prior after about a six year break to focus on another career, and this was one of my first major clips after my reemergence. All of it still rings true today and remains one of my favorite pieces (and advice it’s easy for me to dish out but I continually need to actually take for myself).

The endless list of chores that need to be done around the house? “I’ll take care of it,” I say. The project at work that no one wants to volunteer for? “I’ll take care of it,” I say. Another – albeit fantastic – volunteer opportunity in the community? “I’ll take care of it,” I say. I’m taking care of everyone and everything else – but I’m not taking care of me.

In one of my favorite self-help books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey calls it sharpening the saw. I call it filling up my gas tank.

You can only run on fumes for so long before you stall out. It’s okay to give your proverbial gasoline away to your family, your career, your volunteer work – just make sure you take a trip to the gas station and fill up on you once in a while. An empty gas tank sputters and eventually breaks down. A full gas tank provides a smooth ride. Simply put, when you take better care of yourself, you take care of others better.

In that vein, here are 31 self-care tips – one for each day of the month. Promise to give yourself at least 15 minutes of your day, every day, for no one but you. Take a bath. Read a book. Go running. Do nothing. But whatever it is, do it for you.

1. Just breathe. For five minutes, sit still and focus on nothing but your breathing. Inhale positivity, exhale negativity.

2. Comparison is the thief of joy. Take a day without social media and the need to compare yourself to others. No Facebook. No Pinterest. No Instagram. Instead, use the time you spend on social media to do something for yourself, like get a pedicure.

3. Create a rainy day folder. I have one in my E-mail inbox called, simply, “Keepers.” Anytime I get a nice E-mail from someone complimenting me on my work, I file it away. And on rough days, I go back and read them. It is an instant day-maker.

4. Splurge. Just do it. Go buy yourself something you’ve been coveting but talking yourself out of getting. Yeah, yeah, I know we need to be budget friendly. So even if it’s just a copy of Cosmo, spending some money on you for once is worth the few dollars.

5. Knock out a big ticket item. Take some time today to tackle a project you have been procrastinating for weeks – heck, even years. Imagine how good it will feel to make progress!

6. Enjoy nature. I am, simply put, not an outdoorsy girl. But this weekend I pushed out of my comfort zone and spent a weekend in the woods, surrounded by leaves and rocks and bugs. And I really enjoyed it. I came home with a clear head and a full heart. So go outside and stare at the clouds or the stars. Hike. Put your toes in a body of water. Nature is so incredibly peaceful.

7. Go out of your comfort zone. They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone. They just might be right. Today do something you would normally never do. See how good it feels to break away from the norm.

8. Mix up your daily routine. We fall victim to our routines – wake up, shower, get the kids to school, go to work, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. Shake your day up, even if it’s in a small way. Take a different route to work. Go out for lunch if you normally stay in. Take your kids to the park. Change is a good thing.

9. Create a new tradition. Sometimes it’s great to have something to look forward to every day. Maybe you and your husband can start every day with a hug or a kiss. Maybe you can treat yourself to a bite of your favorite candy every day at 3:07 p.m. If it will bring a moment of joy to your day, add it in.

10. Write yourself a letter. Tell yourself what a good job you are doing. Tell yourself how beautiful you are. Tell yourself that you are wonderful. Then seal it, and open it on a day when you need to hear words of affirmation from yourself.

11. Have a friends’ night. Get out of the house and celebrate the phenomenal friendships that you have cultivated. Even if it’s just for an hour, enjoy each other’s company. Laugh, laugh, laugh until your sides hurt.

12. Give up TV. Go one night with no TV on – not even as background distraction. You can use the time you spend mindlessly watching Bravo or E! to take good ol’ care of you.

13. Unplug. Technology is great, sure. But boy does it take up so much of our time. The need to answer text messages immediately. To call people back. To answer E-mails, even when you’re off the clock. Just for today, try to unplug. The world can wait for a minute. You’re taking care of you.

14. Give it your full attention. We mindlessly rumble through our days and our routines, not thinking about what a blessing it is that we have food to eat, teeth to brush, a home to clean. Pick one task you idle through each day – for example, brushing your teeth – and really be mindful and in the moment.

15. Be selfish. Just do something for yourself. And only for yourself. Yes, it’s okay. I give you permission. You’ve earned it!

16. Just dance. Put on some of your favorite tunes and have a dance party. Shake it like you’ve never shaken it before. Do this alone or with others – whichever is more fulfilling.

17. Stretch! How often do you take time to take care of your body? I know for me, it’s always the last item on my list. Take five minutes to stretch your limbs. Breathe in and out.

18. Here comes the sun. I struggle with low vitamin D, and it’s because I’m in an office with no windows every day. Take 15 minutes today to sit outside in the sun – let the sun hit your skin and give you warmth. But if you burn easily like me, pack some sunscreen!

19. Buy some smell good stuff. Whether it’s new lotion, a new candle, new body wash, or new perfume, buy something that just smells really good and take a few big whiffs.

20. Nap! A foreign concept, right? I took a nap this past weekend for about 25 minutes that changed my entire day. Power naps really are a thing, yall.

21. Positive affirmations. Write down 10 positive affirmations about yourself. Even if the affirmation is “you got out of bed this morning” or “you’re still breathing” – hey, it’s a start.

22. Serve. Now, I know this is about self-care, but sometimes I find I care for myself most by caring for others. Even just opening a door for someone or paying for someone’s food in line behind me makes my entire day brighter.

23. Journal. Write all about your day. Your week. Your month. Your life. Let it out from pen to paper. Say what you need to say. Then shred it. This is surprisingly extremely therapeutic.

24. Be around animals. Spend quality time with your animal at home, or if you don’t have one, go to a park or to a friend’s house and find one. Animals live their lives so simply. We can take a lot of hints from them.

25. Ask someone to help you. I am often so ashamed to do this, and I don’t know why. Today, reach out and ask someone – your husband, your child, your colleague, your friend – for help with something. See how easy it really is to do.

26. Spa day. If you can’t afford to go to an actual spa, create one for yourself at home. Do your own nails. Run a bubble bath. Read some gossip magazines in a bathrobe.

27. Go on a date with yourself. Go out to the movies, to dinner, to the park, go shopping – only caveat is, you’re the only one there.

28. Do something you’ve never done before in your city. We all have something we’ve been meaning to do in town that we just never have gotten around to doing. Today’s the day to go do it.

29. Whatever you do well, go do it. We all have shortcomings, sure, but we all also have strengths. Mine is writing. On this day, I would take time to go write. If yours is painting, go paint. Golfing? Go golf! Baking? Bake some cookies just for you. You get my drift.

30. Plan something exciting. For next week, next month, or next year – put something on the calendar that you can look forward to.

31. Say “I love you.” Look in the mirror at the beautiful person you are. Tell yourself you love yourself, and mean it. You are loveable, worthy, beautiful. You are enough. And I hope after this month you know that more than ever, friend.

© Rachel Burchfield, 2016

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