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Ten Ideas for Self-Care in the Dark of Winter

The holidays are long over. The days are short. Our vitamin D levels are plummeting and along with it, our energy.

But maybe that's just me.

At any time of the year, it is important to take care of yourself. You know the basics--sleep, healthy food, exercise. In our busy lives, it is hard enough to get those basic elements in place. Who has time to do more?

I asked my friends on Facebook and elsewhere about their favorite self-care activities. I'll be quoting them throughout the month as I explore this topic from different angles. Here's a first run at a top 10 list of ideas.

1. Spend downtime in a favorite place.

Whether you are hanging in a hammock, sitting on your porch, or "laying in bed watching the clouds go by," give yourself permission to do nothing for a little while. Your busy life will still be there when you return to it, but you might have more emotional and physical resources to deal with everything after some downtime.

2. Get some sunshine.

I wasn't kidding about the Vitamin D. Although supplements can help the winter blues, there is nothing like pure sunshine to lift a mood. I have made a habit of taking a vacation to a sunny place every February. The combination of vacation and sunshine lifts my mood and helps me stay on track until spring arrives.

3. Appreciate your happy life and notice the soundtracks.

My dear friend Tanya describes her perfect day: "I love to put on my favorite music, open the sunroof (if it's cold I will turn heater on lol) and sing loudly while driving on a road trip headed to a friend's house for a visit."

Jamie included his playlist for a more laid-back family day: "Back porch with a mocha stout, ribeye with mushrooms cooked over wood in the kettle, and a jazz piano trio - preferably Bill Evans, Tord Gustavson, or Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Watching kids play in the tree house, wife is painting canvas. Heaven on earth."

What's the soundtrack of your happy life?

4. Journal.

Life is more manageable for me when I take time to review my thoughts. I use micro-journaling to mindfully look back on the past day, month, or year, and to envision what is coming in the future. For me, this happens in my regular planner or bullet journal because "Make it Easy" is one of the Messy Desk rules. Anytime I can combine two activities that reinforce each another, I do. In this case, my practical and forgetful self checks that planner daily to make sure I meet my commitments and my reflective self gets a chance to navel-gaze.

5. Body work/spa day.

Massage and mani/pedi come up often when we think of self-care. Can't afford to pay for these at a spa? DIY your spa day at home. Think of the most comforting sensations your body loves most. Snuggle under a soft blanket. Give yourself a mask facial. Take a long scented bath, exfoliate and moisturize. Use products that feel and smell good and pay attention to those sensations in order to turn your everyday hygiene routines into a small indulgence.

6. Daily habits

Sarah Culp Searles has her daily self-care down pat: "Best things I've ever done for my self-care are daily habits, not occasional indulgences, to reel in the chaos that was starting to feel like burnout. 1) Meal prep on weekends so I have healthy breakfasts and lunches all week. I feel better when I eat better, and I cannot be trusted to eat well if I have to figure it out on the fly. 2) Clean off my kitchen counters every night. That way I start every morning at breakfast with a nice clean slate. 3) Audiobooks in the car and while I do chores. It turns things I have to do (black holes of unproductive time) into things I get to do (big guilt-free chunks of reading time). 4) Exercise every day, even if it is just walking back and forth down my upstairs hallway for 20 minutes. That way I know I started the day by making a good choice. Bonus points if I listen to my audiobook while I do it." Sarah's a wise woman.

7. Creative Outlets

Whether you are an artist, musician, writer, or other kind of maker, allowing time to create the things you love is a gift to yourself. Decorating your home and surrounding yourself with things that make you happy and comfortable is another creative way to take care of yourself.

8. Unscheduled Time.

I love a day when my calendar is completely empty. Being free to choose to do anything---or nothing---is a freedom. Reading, thrift shopping, or hiking are favorite activities for these days.

9. Alone Time.

My friends are busy people, with children, partners, and stressful jobs. Most of their time is spent caring for and working with others. "Spending a whole day, just me and my thoughts" can be quite a treat.

10. Mindful Moments.

I end with a shout out to Ramona, who was my massage therapist until I moved to North Carolina. (Yes, massage is one of my regular self-care routines). Ramona suggests an app called "Insight Timer." She uses it to meditate at least 8 minutes a day and says it "fits neatly into a lunch break...and instantly changes your attitude." Look for a review of this app later this month (and know that we have no affiliation with them).

All of these ideas rely on mindset for their value. An activity feels like self-care when you focus on your positive experience of it. The difference between a rushed trip to a department store and a treat-yourself lunch hour shopping trip is all about how you think of it. A normal meal feels like a treat when you savor every bite.

This week, choose one thing to do for yourself. Savor it. It might make the rest of life a little bit easier.

Want to make more time to take care of yourself? Productivity isn't about working harder; it's about knowing what's important to you and focusing on that. Book a coaching session today to work with me to find that focus.

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