My Four Non-Negotiable Self-Care Habits (and four practices I'd like to make habits)

I will argue that self-care is the single most important habit for our success and personal growth. The energy we put into ourselves is what sets us up for both personal and professional success. However, up until recently, I didn’t have all that many non-negotiable self-care habits - rather, I went through my days merely reacting to the events going on around me. Today, I’m proud to proclaim that I have almost a handful of non-negotiables and a pretty solid list of practices I’d like to put into place on my quest to becoming a stronger, happier, on-purpose version of myself. Here are my four non-negotiable self-care habits and why they made the list:

  Before my first (sunset) SUP yoga class (it was actually really hard!).

Before my first (sunset) SUP yoga class (it was actually really hard!).

Exercise. At the beginning of this year, exercise became a non-negotiable for me. Why? It is without a doubt the cornerstone of my day; the habit that sets me up for success with everything else I have going on. I get my workout out of the way first thing in the morning (aka, before I have anything or anyone else to distract me). It isn’t always easy, but on those days I’m tempted to skip, I ask myself how I want to feel. I know that my morning workout gives me more mental clarity, more physical energy and more focus to get through my day. On the days I skip the gym, I often find I feel foggy, or even forget normal things in my routine. So, I commit to being at the gym Monday through Friday and leave the weekends up for negotiation. (Of course, if my body tells me, “no way,” I take a cue from my intuition and get a little extra rest.)

Rest. I used to always feel like I needed more rest. I’d go days at a time swearing I was exhausted. I’d reach burn-out midday and fumble through my afternoon at work. I’d hit snooze time after time in the mornings, leaving myself a fraction of the time I really needed to get ready. Now, allowing the proper time for rest is a non-negotiable self-care ritual; this practice is 100% necessary as it is what drives my ability to get up and exercise. Though I do make some exceptions, this means I typically say no to activities that will keep me out too late, to late phone calls, to starting just one more episode of whatever show I’m binging at the time. I purpose to start winding down at a granny-level hour and at least be in my bed by a certain time. While my bedtime ritual itself could still use some work, I’m really winning when it comes to maintaining a bedtime that allows me to get enough rest.

Time alone. I’ll admit it, I used to have the worst FOMO (fear of missing out). I would rarely say no to an opportunity to participate in any social event that was presented to me. While this type of behavior can have a myriad of unintended effects, it’s also completely exhausting. As I’ve started to grow and become more self-aware, I find I actually enjoy (and crave) spending time with myself and now I do it on purpose. The key here is to find a balance between being a social butterfly and a recluse. To do this, I really try to hone in on my intuitive side, ask my body what it needs, and then do that.

This simple dry-erase calendar is my go-to method to track both my workouts & how many days I've been sober (the number in the bottom right). I know there's an app that does helps with these, but I'm partial to this method.

Cutting out toxins. Arguably my most controversial self-care ritual! Why? Because the toxin I cut out this year was alcohol; and what a difference it has made. You can read a lot more about my journey with sobriety in my blog, but here’s the short story: I cut out alcohol somewhat unintentionally. I started with a 30 day sobriety goal in January, and increased that to 90 days after wondering how good I might feel if I just kept going. After I reached 90, I simply decided to keep going because it felt really good. I’m not sure if my breakup with alcohol is forever, but I can say, without doubt, that the relationship I had with booze will never be the same and that I won’t pick up a cocktail until I know I’m able to handle the social and personal pressures that go along with drinking. What I can tell you is that, without alcohol, I am a happier, healthier, more productive, more centered, more motivated human being and I truly love seeing that person come to the surface.

While I’ve done a pretty stellar job remaining consistent with my non-negotiable habits, I have another short list of desired habits that I’ve been doing A LOT of negotiating with. These self-care practices are those that I deem to be incredibly important; but I simply haven’t made time for them even though I know they will make a difference in my life. So, I’m putting my intentions out in the Universe:

Putting down the phone. I heard a chilling quote from Simon Sinek recently as he discussed the fate of millennials. He suggested that, best case scenario, most millennials would go through life never truly experiencing joy. I instantly had tears well up in my eyes, because I knew what he said was true. Most millennials haven’t been given the resources to know that there is a meaningful life available to them. While there are a lot of factors that play into this, I was incredibly struck by the importance we give to our phone as a way to numb, escape and reward ourselves. The fact is, I am guilty. I mindlessly open my phone and thumb through social media, emails, texts or whatever while I’m watching TV, while I’m in meetings, when I’m on the phone. It has to stop. I’ve already kicked off this practice by leaving my phone on my desk during meetings or in my purse at dinner (bonus points for when my friends agree to relinquish their rights to their phone while at a meal...which is how it should be).

Meditation. I’m that girl who talks and talks about the benefits of meditation, yet doesn’t make enough time for it! I’ll set my alarm to give myself five extra minutes in the morning, or set the intention to grab a quick moment of silence before bed, but the truth is: I don’t always get it done and I want to be better.

Preparing properly for slumber. You already know that sleep is non-negotiable for me, what you don’t know is that several of my would-be self-care habits get nixed in favor of letting my head hit the pillow. I get it, we all have to have priorities; mine is definitely sleep. However, I’d like to get better at making time for the habits that will aid me in drifting off faster and into a deeper sleep; a bedtime ritual, if you will. While I’m open to this bedtime ritual evolving on its own, I envision to to include some combination of a warm bath/shower and journaling/prayer/meditation. Sounds simple enough, right?

Conscious money management. I think that financial literacy is incredibly important. I have my own practices, but had a bit of a shit in mentality when I listened to a podcast interview with Kate Northrup recently where she suggested making money management part of your self-care ritual (which is similar, yet profoundly different take on budgeting or conscious money management). To me, her statement was profound. Sure, I’ve heard tons of personal development gurus suggest that abundance occurs when you change your mindset around money, but I’d never really heard anyone suggest that you make your budget a self-care habit. With this mindset, working on your financial fitness becomes something you do to feel better, not as a dreaded punishment.  

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Now that I’ve set intentions to add four more self-care habits to my routine, I look forward to sharing my journey here, including the tools I’ll look to to turn these simple practices into new habits.