Maybe you’ve had a few sleepless nights, or job layoffs all around you are stressing you out, or your work-family-rest balance has evaporated into thin air, and you find yourself cranky, anxious or tired out. You are not feeling how you want to but this isn’t the time for a dig-deep life overhaul. Get back to basics.
Sometimes all we need is to return to a set of tried-and-true ‘rules’ that support us in feeling clearer, emotionally calmer, and more energized.
But we also need to track these behaviors for a time to pull us back into healthier habits.
Following is a list of ‘rules’ I recently jotted out for myself when I felt some anxiety creeping into my life. Consider using it as a jumping off point to create your personalized ‘Back to Basics Health Rules’:
- No work after 7pm. From 7-9 pm I want to be connecting with my family, hearing about their day, giving hugs and tucking little people into bed. I might help a teenager study or cuddle with my husband for a few minutes. I dim lights and aim to create a calming environment. But for the most part, the rest of the laundry, emails, or work projects just have to wait.
- Get ready for bed at 9 pm. I get into pj’s, brush my teeth, warm up my homemade rice bags, take a peek at my menu plan and agenda for the following day, etc. Sometimes this is when a teen perks up and wants to chat but when I am feeling really drained I know I must be strict about getting myself into bed.
- Read before bed to calm my brain. I aim to climb into bed at 9:30 pm to read easier fiction – nothing too heart wrenching and I avoid work-related reading as it gets my brain all fired up. I read by the calming light of my salt lamp and take a few deep breaths and express gratitude for three things in my life. This is a time to calm myself and shut off my work brain for the day.
- Take 15-20 minutes (or just 5!) morning or evening to stretch and breathe. To just be and remind myself that I have a right to take up space in the world without being productive. Sometimes I count my breath to stay focused, sometimes I use a life-affirming mantra (ex. “all is well” or “I breathe in peace/ I breathe out worry”); some people like to use a scripture that aligns with their faith practice but short and sweet is best.
- Move my body 5 times/wk. I just show up. If I am really tired I might walk slowly or just stretch. I might attend a fitness class or focus on strength training. It doesn’t really matter to me – the important thing is that joyful movement helps lower anxiety in my life and supports me immensely in living a strong, purposeful life. I also move around a lot in the day and use a standing desk but this set-aside time for movement is important to my mental and physical health and wellbeing.
- Drink 10 cups of water or non-caffeinated herbal tea each day. I love my morning coffee but when I am anxious or tired that old habit of wanting an afternoon shot of caffeine revisits me. This is usually the wrong choice to make. It simply taxes my adrenals, messes with my blood sugar, dehydrates me and affects my sleep quality. Water with lemon or a cup of adaptogenic herbs (Tulsi, licorice, Reishi, etc.) are better choices (plus, playing with herbs is fun). But the main rule here is to simply get adequate water.
- Do something nurturing for myself each and every day. I have written about this before but self-care is essential (and a huge focus in the work that I do with other women). On lucky days this might mean a massage or date night but more often it might mean taking 15 minutes for dry brushing and a sugar scrub before my shower, connecting with a sister or friend (my sister and I have clocked 4 hours before, mind you, so we do more texting than phone calls), or simply plucking my eyebrows-we’ve got to celebrate the little wins, don’t we? When I get off track in life, chances are if I check my agenda, I have fallen off the self-care wagon.
- Book days off. Working from home (or studying, or having an oilfield job where you work away for weeks at a time, or even being a teacher) can lead to work creeping into every day, including family time. Not healthy. We become less productive and our health and primary relationships suffer when we do not prioritize sufficient time for rest and play. I pull out my calendar and block out days (at least one each week and various holidays) for rest. Boy, do I struggle with this but I am learning to tighten the reigns.
- Eat by 10:30 am. I have never been an early breakfast eater but by mid-morning I am hungry and ready for some warm leftovers. But sometimes I fall into the habit of pushing my breakfast later and later in order to keep working. Not a good idea. Taking time to pause and nourish myself allows me to remain calmer, focused, and energized for the rest of the day. It is also an important act of self-care.
- Make time for Life Visioning. I wrote a little here and here about planning or Life Visioning. I can always tell when that time of year is getting close because I get a little antsy or anxious. Moving forward in our goals, or being productive, is important. But we can end up living crazy busy but lacking in JOY if we are not clear on WHY we are making certain decisions or spending our time in a certain way. The WHY is critical. A girlfriend recently shared on social media about how she takes one full day each month to do this work and support herself through a mid-life crisis. What a gift of self-care! But at a minimum I spend a bit of time each week looking over the upcoming week and month, and set aside time three times/ year for some more concentrated reflecting, life visioning and planning.
Start where you can. Maybe what you really need is to simply start getting to bed before midnight and drinking more water. I encourage you to do an honest check-in of how you feel right now and if you know you are off track, perhaps creating your own ‘Back to Basics Health Rules’ (and tracking your progress!) will be enough to set you back on course.