It’s that time of year again - those glorious first few weeks of January when the self-help industry amps up the shame spiral that fuels their businesses the rest of the year by flooding our social media feeds with carefully curated articles outlining the eleventy-billion things we should be doing every day.
* Just the first few results when I Google "Things I should do every day..."
I don’t know about you, but the only thing I can claim to do consistently every day is battle with the guilt I consistently feel for not doing all the things I thought I was going to do.
And even if I can manage to reconcile my guilt for not doing ALL the things, this year I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend of women shaming each other for choosing the WRONG things. The message is usually delivered under the guise of being educational or activism, but the result is the same… you’re gluttonous if you practice too much or a wrong set of the eleventy-billion shoulds.
So, if you’re playing along at home that means we can be both lazy pigs and self-indulgent twats for any singular self-care choice.
Damned if we do, damned if we don’t, right? Wrong!
Lovely, whatever it is you practice to feel cared for - as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others OR TO YOU - is a step in the right direction.
So let’s talk options…
About a year ago I made a conscious decision to explore self-care practices and determine what really mattered to me. I started by Googling, “Things I should do every day,” and meticulously curated a list from the first page of results that was 62 items long and, if followed literally, would take 19 hours and 45 minutes to complete daily.
So, you know, totally doable.
I tried a different item on the list every week - pulling oil through my teeth one week (so not my thing), fluffing the couch cushions daily another week (easy, the dogs ate them all), practicing daily self-affirmations in the mirror (surprisingly uncomfortable for me) another week, etc., etc. In the end I discovered that going to yoga, drinking water and tidying my house daily for ten minutes actually made a big difference to me...
As did poking fun at the other 60-some shoulds on the list.
I was curious to see if, or how, the list had changed for 2019. So once again I Googled “Things I Should Do Every Day” and created a new list from the first page of results.
It’s grown… a bit.
The 234 things Google thinks I should do every day in 2019…
Get a quality 7-plus hours of sleep; put my alarm across the room; wake up early; wake up between 5 and 6 a.m.; wake up with awe at each new day; drink two glasses of water upon waking; make my bed; take a power nap; nap between noon and 4 pm; fall asleep excited for what tomorrow has in store; turn on a white noise machine when I sleep; put on orange glasses to block blue light for optimal sleep; leave technology outside of the bedroom so I’m not disturbed while sleeping; diffuse essential oils for relaxing sleep; and create a morning routine.
Don't check my email or social media in the morning; answer my text messages right away; find at least one thing on the internet to get excited or happy about; unplug all my devices for an hour; take short breaks every 20 minutes to give my eyes a break from the computer screen; and silence my phone.
Pray or meditate 5-15 minutes; meditate for 20 minutes; pray to God; and be present.
Write in a journal; journal for two purposes; draw caricatures; and write in my diary daily.
Binge watch Netflix; watch a TedTalk while preparing dinner; and watch a great episode of TV.
Listen to inspirational or instructive content while I exercise; listen to music for the mood I want to be in; listen to classical music; load my phone up with intellectually stimulating audio; listen to National Public Radio; and listen to the latest podcast on my commute to work.
Read a book; read best selling book summaries; read a newspaper; read at least 10 pages a day; read a book for pleasure; and read an engrossing book.
Have a pre-workout snack; do something physical every hour; exercise 20-45 minutes daily; elevate my heart rate for at least 30 minutes daily; stretch; sweat; lift weights; do cardio; do high intensity interval training; jump rope; walk 10,000 steps a day; practice combat techniques or a martial art; practice yoga; watch my posture; dance; dance to my favorite song; sing; and use a foam roller.
Actively engage my brain where I can, instead of letting it slumber passively; challenge myself; try something new; attempt something scary; get uncomfortable; do one thing to increase my knowledge daily; think about things I can improve; dedicate at least 30 minutes to learning a skill that will make a difference in my life; learn to code in my free time; expose myself to people who are smarter than me; get into friendly discussions with people who I disagree with; and carry a notepad.
Take a 3 - 5 minute cold shower; shower and make sure water temperature isn’t too hot; have a really long, really hot shower; pull oil through my teeth; pull coconut oil through teeth while showering; use only natural chemical-free body care products; use Paraben-free, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner; avoid antibacterial soap; pee; exfoliate; moisturize; remove excess body hair; floss; brush and floss before bed; apply makeup for a natural look; remove makeup; wash face; use face serum - preferably with retinoid; use a night cream; apply sunscreen; select the right undergarments; avoid heels; avoid touching railings or doors in public spaces; think about my fertility; and do my Kegel exercises.
Cook; eat clean; avoid sugar and fat; avoid junk food; avoid dairy products; avoid sodium; avoid baked goods available in the office kitchen; consume more protein; consume 30 grams of protein at breakfast; have a balanced breakfast with complex carbohydrates, protein, and some fat preferably high in Omega-3s and with at least 5 grams of fiber; eat less meat; put more fruits and vegetables on my plate; prepare breakfasts, snacks, and lunches; freeze grapes; eat a whole food plant-based diet; eat a side green salad; snack on fruit and/or berries; cut out sugar; eat something I crave; and have a small piece of chocolate as a reward.
Drink at least 64 ounces of water; drink a quart of water; drink 2 - 3 liters of purified water; drink green vegetable juice; have a green smoothie for breakfast; skip coffee and have herbal or green tea; drink Matcha tea; drink a cup of herbal tea; drink a glass of lemon water; brew a cup of fair-trade, locally roasted coffee; drink honey and water; avoid alcohol; drink glass of red wine; order a vodka soda instead of beer or cocktail; and have a seltzer water with a lemon instead of a vodka soda.
Take 1-2 teaspoons of Spirulina, Chlorella or Moringa powder; take 1-2 grams of activated charcoal; take a multivitamin; take a fish oil supplement; and take a calcium supplement.
Have a nice breakfast; have a mid-morning snack; eat my lunch outside; eat lunch while taking a few minutes to focus on myself; have a mid-afternoon snack; eat a healthy meal on small-sized dinner plate to avoid overeating; practice intermittent fasting for at least 14 hours; practice mindful eating; grab pre-prepared snacks and lunch, preferably paleo or Whole30, from my fridge on my way out the door; and prepare a healthy meal with my life partner while discussing our respective days.
Get out in nature; spend time in nature; walk in nature; walk barefoot on grass, sand or dirt; and walk in the sunset.
Spend time with friends and family; spend time with friends; meet up with my friends at the local bar for drinks; touch someone; hug someone; have sex; cuddle; give someone at least one honest compliment; say, “Thank you,”; say “Hi” to my neighbors; tell a friend I love them; tell someone they are beautiful; tell someone, “I love you,”; say “thank you” when someone does something little-but-kind; call / text / email my parents; make a phone call to a loved one; smile at strangers; smile at children who are smiling at me; show kindness; make someone laugh; plan a barbecue; avoid toxic people; and practice a daily random act of kindness.
Start my day believing that I am going to have a great day; laugh; laugh out loud; express gratitude; think of 5 things to be grateful about in my life; think of 10 things I’m grateful for right now; give thanks I was born in this era; allow the feeling of gratitude to fill me up; be optimistic; think about things that I am happy about; don’t obsess over stupid/embarrassing things I have said; realize I am not perfect; accept my flaws; do an “internal audit” to check whether I still hold any resentment or grudges against anyone; don’t sweat the small stuff; and enjoy the journey.
Point out at least one thing in the mirror that I actually like about myself; remind myself that the body I have is more than just an object for people to observe; and get a massage.
Visualize what I want; reflect; write a list; think about what I want to do differently tomorrow; plan for tomorrow tonight; set intentions for tomorrow; plan something to look forward to; figure out my five most important tasks; make prioritization a priority; identify a set of goals for the day; identify an outfit from capsule wardrobe for the next day; take a moment to close my eyes and focus on goals for the day; and travel.
Wash my hands immediately upon arrival to work; clean up my work space; go to work one hour early; create a to-do list of things that I’ve been procrastinating; do my most important tasks before everyone else gets in to the office; deal with the urgent; work hard; hustle hard; don’t multitask; wear a smart, professional outfit carefully selected from my capsule wardrobe; do something meaningful; sit at an ergonomic standing desk; lean in; don’t say “I’m Sorry” in emails; speak up in meetings; and leave work at reasonable time to achieve a proper work-life balance.
Start saving money immediately.
Wash my hands immediately upon arrival at home to avoid getting sick; create a home spa; get waylaid by my pets; wash the dishes and put them away; tidy up at night; spend 20 minutes picking up the house; and get my kitchen ready for morning routine.
And this was just the first page of search results!
If you’re curious, the were a few things that showed up consistently on most of the lists - sleeping 7+ hours, drinking plenty of water, spending time in nature and establishing a mindfulness practice. If you don’t know where to start with your self-care routine, these practices might be good places to start.
Or maybe they are exactly the wrong places for you to start. Only you - and your trusted advisors who have earned the right to advise you - can determine that.
And that's exactly the point - you do you, lovely. Whatever that looks like, feels like, needs to be.
What are your go-to self-care practices?
Drop a comment below. I’d love to know what makes a difference to you and why!
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD