I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but the world is kind of exhausting right now. And we could really use a little extra space in our lives for some serious self care.
And that is exactly why I feel like we should make time to nurture and empower our PRACTICAL self- which is the part of you that focuses on the systems, habits and routines that manage your day-to-day life.
But because we're already feeling maxed out living in a world obsessed with productivity and perfectionism, it's easy to ignore this part of our lives. But, it's this very structure that's going to allow us to have the space we need to tend to our wellbeing.
So- today I want to give you some REALISTIC pointers for clearing the chaos and creating a lifestyle that brings peace, power, and practical structure into your life.
Welcome to the Creative Self Care podcast (formerly known as Unlocking Wellness)! I'm your host Crystal McLain, and together we explore creative ways to care for the mind, body and mother-lovin' soul so we can live healthy and empowered lives.
If you enjoy this content, would like to support my work, AND score some sweet self care goodies, consider a Membership for as little as $3 a month! Yup, three bucks…it’s like buying me a cup of coffee. To learn more about memberships and how funds are making a positive impact, you can visit: crystalmclaincreative.com.
And, if you like to read along WHILE you listen, you can access this feature through the blog version of this podcast. I’ll leave a direct link to this episode in the show notes below.
Alright. Let's get to it.
If you've been hanging out with me for a while, then you know that I like to observe the SELF in different ways so we can get super clear about what our REAL needs are.
So far this year we've looked at the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of self. And today we're taking a look at the PRACTICAL self which is the part of you that keeps your life in order. At least, that's the goal.
Practical Self Care addresses things like time management, how you organize your spaces, and handle your finances. It takes into account activities like keeping up on chores and scheduling appointments, but it also considers the other stuff you need like rest and play.
Yes, you need those things. You are complex creature that requires a wide range of specific things in order to be physically, mentally, and emotionally well.
So, in its core, Practical Self Care is the act of structuring your daily routines and creating habits so you have the time, space and resources for ALL of your needs to be met.
And while having a lifestyle that accommodates all of you needs is perfectly delicious on its own, there are some other really great perks from this practice.
When you prioritize the WELLBEING of your Practical SELF, what you're doing is figuring out a way to organize your life so it's less stressful, and more supportive and fulfilling.
Which is totally awesome, right?
But, another reason to practice Practical Self Care is because, quite frankly, it empowers you. It gives you a sense of control.
Let's talk a little more about that.
Your brain LOVES predictability, because familiarity feels safe. Which is actually why (ironically) we can get stuck in unhealthy routines. They're familiar and predictable, and even though they may not in our best interest, we still feel a weird sense of safety or comfort in those cycles BECAUSE we know what to predict.
Can you think of anything in your life that ironically feels both safe and unhealthy? I know I can.
The brain also loves to cross things off a to-do list because it makes us feel accomplished, capable, and more confident when we get things done.
And I've got a hunch that this is exactly how our fucked-up capitalistic society has been able to do such a good job at selling us the idea that productivity = personal worth. Which is total bullshit, btw.
So- l want to make something SUPER CLEAR: THAT is NOT what we're doing here today.
We are not here to pressure you into being more productive. Nor are we striving for perfection. The goal here is for you to feel supported and inspired as you start learning how to manage your time, space and money, so you can feel more in control of it and have the resources to care for yourself more fully.
But before we get into the how of practical self care, let's take a look at five reasons why we may avoid it and discuss a few ways we can work around these obstacles.
Let's just get this out of the way first, because trauma is big and heavy and does silly, stupid things to the brain. And you need to know about it.
If we experienced a traumatic event, especially when we were a kid, it can affect how we learn, form memories, and regulate emotions. It can literally disconnect parts of the emotional side of your brain from the part of the brain that performs reasoning and cognitive processing. Which means it can make it harder to do seemingly simple human tasks and regular life stuff like making decisions and keeping up on chores and paying bills on time.
And because we may have a harder time regulating emotions and using our reasoning skills, but STILL react to the desire to feel safe and secure, we can pick up some habits that might make us feel good, but also, oddly enough, cause stress and chaos in our lives.
It's totally unfair and I'm sorry.
Anyway, these habits can look like extreme nesting in our homes, collecting too much stuff be it food, books, art supplies, papers, tools, anything really. We can over-book our schedules, or have a disconnect about how much time we need to complete tasks, or even over-spend our money.
Things You Can Try
Practice Self Compassion: If you've experienced trauma in your life, it's really important that you treat yourself with kindness. Think of yourself as a small child who has been wounded (because you have been). There's probably a part of your deep subconscious that's scared or confused, and it's doing its best to feel safe. Be gentle.
Chat With A Pro: Receiving services from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist is the shit. They'll help you sort out whatever is going on in your brain and teach you how to address dysfunctional emotions and behaviors. They're basically mechanics for your head, and everyone could use one.
Chances are you're either busy, tired, or simply don't feel like you have the bandwidth for one-more-thing. I know I have a hard time rallying when I'm fresh out of fucks to give.
But here's the thing: whatever we avoid only prolongs the inevitable. And the longer we avoid something, the bigger an albatross it becomes. And this albatross will eat your energy and happiness.
And neither of us want that for you.
But here's the crazy thing... The act of dialing in your Practical Self Care is actually going to HELP you to create more space in your life so you can recharge your battery. But until you get your systems in place...
Things You Can Try
Let's be honest, a lot of practical self care is kinda boring because it can look a lot like doing the dishes and laundry and balancing the checkbook. And I don't know about you, but I'm really good at ignoring stuff I don't enjoy.
I mean...who wants to clean the toilet? Honestly?
Things You Can Try
Make it Fun(ner): Who says all of these chores need to be a drag? You're totally allowed to stream your favorite shows, listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while you tidy up your life.
Gold Stars: Set up a reward system that entices you to follow through. Maybe it's putting a $1 in a "fun" jar every time you complete a major task. Maybe you match minute for minute- the amount of time you invest in chores and the amount of time you get to indulge in something really special. Award yourself for a job well done with high praise, or snacks, naps, games, or whatever excites you.
Another reason we might avoid practical self care is because we've got this idea of what it "should" look like, and it's VERY different from our personal reality.
Listen, social media bombards us with images of color-coded bullet journals written in perfect penmanship, a refrigerator neatly stocked with alternative milks and organic produce, closets so tidy they look like they were designed by Marie Kondo herself. Good for you if this is your lifestyle. It's absolutely lovely. But for some of us it's an unrealistic and unauthentic expectation that can make us feel defeated before we even start.
Things You Can Try
There's no judgement here.
And there's nothing to be ashamed of.
When you face your challenges (no matter what they are), what you're doing is proving to yourself that YOU are stronger than your feelings. You’re confirming that you are capable of doing hard things. And you've decided that you deserve whatever's on the other side of your effort. And that's pretty badass.
YOU are pretty badass- you just need to prove it to yourself before you believe it.
Things You Can Try
Be Your Own Hype Squad: Strategically place little reminders around your space or set alerts on your phone that remind you of your POWER and your PURPOSE (we'll talk a little more about this in a minute).
Own Your Awesomeness: This is not the first challenging thing you've ever done. Reflect back on other accomplishments from the past, no matter how big or small, and gain strength from that version of you. It's still in there. You just need to dig it out.
The moment we've been waiting for, the Practical Self Care Process!
Alright, when it comes to our Practical Self Care, we've got three things we're gonna focus on: Goal Setting, Healthy Motivators, and Sustainability.
And it is REALLY important that when we focus on these things, we refer back to what we've learned today. And we learned is that Practical Self Care:
- Is the act of managing your routines, systems and habits so they accommodate ALL of your needs and allow you to live a life that's more supportive and fulfilling.
- Builds a sense of confidence and control because your brains love consistency and predictability.
- May feel challenging due to emotional dysregulation, low energy levels, boredom, perfectionism, or general shitty feelings about it. But, you have the power and the skills to overcome these hurdles.
SO, without further ado, let's dive into our first step...GOAL SETTING.
Setting a goal can feel like you've decided to climb Mount Everest, but you’re currently barefoot, out of shape, and standing in New Jersey. In this moment Everest feels impossible.
But as impossible as it may feel, it doesn't mean reaching the summit is an insurmountable goal. It DOES mean, however, that you need to take small, logical steps in order to achieve it. But before you do that, you need to have a clear vision of what your goals are.
SETTING YOUR GOALS
So, what's YOUR Everest? What are your big, juicy goals?
While the main objective with Practical Self Care is to create a lifestyle that streamlines your daily routines, and supports your health and wellbeing, that actually means something different for each of us.
So, what does it mean to YOU? What does that lifestyle look like?
Does it look like having the weekend free from chores?
Does it look like having enough space for your hobbies?
Does it look like having a few extra bucks for a massage?
Get really detailed and specific about what your life with more time, space and money would look like.
These are your goals.
But how do you achieve them?
ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS
Well, there's a couple of things that are helpful; getting SUPER honest about your current reality, and planning backwards.
Let's talk about your reality.
Like I mentioned earlier, your levels of energy, needs, resources, abilities, and responsibilities, are uniquely your own. And that might mean that you have some very real obstacles or limitations. And I want to acknowledge that. I get pretty upset when motivational speakers say that we ALL have the same 24 hours in a day. That's bullshit. We don't. We all have 24 hours, sure. But we don't all have the same privileges. So, again, I urge you to be kind and patient with yourself during this process.
You can only do what you can do.
But, that said, you can also call yourself out on your bullshit.
While we may have some very real limitations, we may also be wasting our time on shit that's not really serving us. So, in order to reach our goals, we have to figure out what that shit is and change it.
So, it's important to track the ways you're showing up in your life. Minute by minute, room by room, dollar by dollar, record your truth. Once you've tracked your habits, then you're going to evaluate them and determine whether they're supporting your goals or not.
I know, this sounds like a lot. And it kind of is. But you only have to do this part once. And to help you out with this ENTIRE process, I created a 23 page Practical Self Care Kit. It takes you step by step, figuring out your goals, tracking and evaluating your habits, finding authentic motivators, and creating sustainable plans for your future.
Anyway, getting clear about your habits will help you to see where you have the opportunity to make some changes.
Now let's talk about planning backwards.
When you plan backwards, you start with your final goal, and think about the very last logical step you had to take in order to get there. And then you think about the step you had to take in order to get to that final step, and so on...
Let's use baking a cake as an example.
Let's say your final, detailed goal is to make a triple layer strawberry cake with chocolate frosting for your friend's birthday.
- What is the absolute LAST thing you'll need to do before the cake is ready to give to your friend? It's probably frosting it, right?
- What needs to happen before you frost it? Well, the cake needs to cool down and be plated. And, you probably have to make the frosting.
- What happens before you the cake cools down? Well, it needs to bake, so you'll need a preheated oven.
- Before you put it in the oven, you have to put equal parts of the batter into three similar pans. But before you do that, you have to prepare the pans, and make the batter.
- Before you make the batter, you have to have the right tools, ingredients and instructions...see where I'm going with this?
Each step we take is going to prepare us for the next. And each step is kind of like its own little goal.
But the greatest thing about backwards planning for our Practical Self Care goals, is that you're actually designing the systems and habits that will streamline your life.
Setting attainable goals is a necessary first step. But in order to reach and maintain them, you need to stay motivated. Finding ways to stay inspired is what's going to keep your fire burning.
I won't lie. I LOVE looking to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. There's no end to discovering new solutions to old problems. That said, it's one thing to be inspired by someone, but it becomes another hellish goblin when we start comparing ourselves to others.
So don't worry about what other people are doing. Forget those popular trends and crazy expectations IF they’re making you feel shitty about yourself.
They are not your motivators.
And let me tell you what else is NOT a motivator; guilt, shame, and contingencies.
While running a tidier ship is kind of important and in the end feels pretty darn good, it should NOT come at the expense of your general wellbeing.
If you need to rest, spend time with a loved one, or tend to some other important form of self care, do NOT put those needs on hold because there are dishes in the sink.
Practical self care is about establishing a LIFESTYLE that accommodates ALL of your needs. So the questions is, what do YOU need in YOUR life?
Your motivators are your REASONS for wanting to reach and maintain your goals. So ask yourself:
- How will reaching these goals improve my total wellbeing?
- What will I gain?
- What will I accomplish?
- How will I feel?
- Why is this important?
Those are your motivators.
You've set your goals, you've laid out the steps for achieving and maintaining them, and you've got a slew of healthy motivators to keep you inspired. Now let's talk about how you're going to make this a sustainable lifestyle.
This is when I like to remind you that you are a fallible human with limited energy, and you're probably going to make mistakes, fall behind and experience shitty emotions from time to time.
I'm not telling you this to discourage you. I'm telling you this because we ALL have periods of time when we're off our game. And what matters is that you do not latch onto the idea that you're a failure, or believe that this is how things will be for ever. This is the natural ebb and flow of life and the human experience. So learn to deal with it and move on.
That said, I've got 6 things you can do to make this process, and your life, a little easier to manage.
STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE
Design schedules that block out time for everything you need and want to accomplish in a day (even if those things look like screaming into a pillow or staring blankly in to the void). Be sure to be realistic with your timelines. We have a tendency to overestimate our capacity to get shit done. So get grip on your time reality, don't overbook yourself, and add plenty of breaks and buffers in between tasks.
If you're like me, you've got a LOT of things you'd like to accomplish in a day. But the reality is, there just isn't enough time or energy to get it ALL done. That's why it's important to prioritize your tasks. List everything you'd like to achieve, then rank each one by importance or urgency.
GET HIGH ON THE HARD STUFF
If you've got a bunch of stuff you'd like to accomplish, your best option is to do the hardest things first. When you tackle the most challenging or undesirable things first, you're gonna ride high on endorphins, and actually get more stuff done. When you avoid the the more challenging stuff, you risk keeping those challenges and their feelings looming in your head. And that steal your energy and drive.
Piggybacking is kind of like multitasking, but with a purpose. Essentially, it's grouping similar tasks for the sake of time efficiency. Like, if you're going to pay your bills, you might as well balance your checkbook at the same time. If you're going to vacuum, throw a load of laundry in first. While you're making dinner, you can totally start your grocery list. You can also piggyback chores with personal growth or entertainment. Like catching up on a podcast while you clean out your basement.
USE ORGANIZATION AND TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Having visual tools that create structure in your life will help you make more efficient use of your time, space and money. Not only that, but it will seriously free up some brain space so you can focus on more interesting things.
STAY IN ALIGNMENT
The most important tip I can probably give you is to keep your Practical Self Care in alignment with your needs, wants and values. When we attach meaningful purpose to our actions, we're more likely to keep them for the long haul. So, from time to time, check back in with yourself and see whether or not your goals and motivators still resonate. And if not, adjust accordingly and lovingly.
Alright, my friend. We have covered a LOT of ground today. So congratulate yourself for hanging in there.
Remember, you deserve to live a healthy and fulfilling life with more ease. And you are fully capable of creating that life for yourself. I hope you found the inspiration and support you needed to get you started with your Practical Self Care process.
And if you're serious about stepping up your your game and could use a little extra support, be sure to check out the Kit I mentioned earlier.
AND, if you enjoyed this content, would like to support my work and wanna snag this kit as well as other self care goodies at no extra charge, consider a Membership! Every bit helps to make CMC a sustainable resource for creative self care. Plus, you totally get to join a group of lovable badasses.
I'll leave links to all the things in the show notes below.
I love you.
I appreciate you.
Thank you so much for being here.
I'll see you soon!
Want to make your Practical Self Care Kit reusable? Try using these additional tools: