Self-care: my word for 2019
A few years ago I stopped setting New Year’s Resolutions in favor of setting a word. I first came across this practice in a yoga class and for the last two years I’ve successfully integrated it into my end-of-year Mindfulness Reset workshops. To my surprise, at the end of my latest workshop I was the only one left without a word. I’ve struggled to settle on one until today. That’s never happened before.
In previous years the words were always loud and clear. 2016 was about getting clarity. 2017 was the year I was ready to go, step into action and create this business. 2018 was about growth.
And there was a lot of growth last year. I created the first two online courses for WriteYourJourney. I wrote two e-books and recorded a dozen guided meditations. I grew my newsletter and the income I get from my Airbnb. Most importantly, I set up a permanent home in Hoi An and I grew my off-line presence here in Vietnam.
All that energy I put into growth last year came at a price. I was too tired to go out on New Year’s Eve. So I made myself all cosy at home with a bottle of red, my journal, scented candles, music and I spent the evening reviewing the year that was closing and finding the word to guide me in the year that was about to begin.
At first I thought 2019 would be about becoming smarter. 2018 has shown me that growing an online business is hard work, especially if you want to do everything at once and on your own. I’ve reluctantly come to accept that it’s not a sustainable business model.
This year will have to be about making smarter choices and implementing smarter systems so that I don’t spread myself too thin. It’s about generally getting smarter about being an online entrepreneur. But the word smart doesn’t feel right (maybe because it makes me think of ‘smart-arse’).
I am happy to announce that at the end of January I’ve finally settled on my word. SELF-CARE is the word I kept coming back to because that’s what I did when I stayed in with my journal on New Year’s Eve. I slowed down to make time for self-care
Feeling duly rested, I considered it very smart to start 2019 with a day-long strategy meeting on January 1st, whilst everybody else was taking it slow. Guess what? It back-fired and by January 2nd I was sick in bed with a cold (my punishment for being a smart-arse).
It took me all of January to accept that self-care is the best way to be smarter about things this year. My wish for 2019 is to keep growing and working hard to share with you the tools that helped find my way back into the light after I fell into the abyss of grief. But I need to walk the talk and remember to slow down and care for (my)self.
So what does self-care mean in practical terms?
Self-care isn’t just about getting more spa treatments. Although that’s certainly on my list this year, given that I live in the land of cheap massages and pedicures. But I rarely treat myself. My last – and only massage in 2018 – was a gift from well-meaning and generous retreat participants. Clearly, I didn’t get the hint.
Self-care is about slowing down and making time to simply be. In my online courses and workshops I talk a lot about the importance of switching from busy ‘doing mode’ to ‘being mode’. Both are necessary for our survival, but we tend to spend most of our time being busy doing stuff. We forget that taking time out to simply be is what nourishes us at our core. And yet I don’t do enough of it. This year I’ve made a pact with my partner to spend one day of the weekend in offline mode and away from my desk.
Self-care means saying ‘no’ more often and stopping to think before I say ‘yes’ to taking on more. Sounds familiar? It’s about having clear boundaries and priorities and being focused on doing what nourishes me and my business. For me that means I won’t have time to teach regular weekly drop-in yoga classes. It’s sad, because I actually love teaching yoga, but it’s not my priority at the moment. I even turned down a private yoga retreat.
It means putting myself first more often. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop caring for others and just do what I want. It means listening to what I really need so that I can be there for others feeling rested and balanced within. For me that means this year when I go home to Germany to visit my family, I might take myself off to an Airbnb for two nights to give myself quality down time. As an introvert I need time alone to process and recharge. Being a guest at someone’s house can be draining and it takes me away from my own centre. I’ve allowed it to happen way too many times in the past.
Self-care means getting enough sleep and allowing myself to rest when I need to. During the hot summer months the Vietnamese tend to nap wherever they are. On a fold-out chair in a market stall or at the back of the shop. I’ve even seen people napping stretched out on their scooters. Since I like do as the locals do, this is an easy tradition to follow. It also means getting enough sleep. I am with Adrianna Huffington on this, sleep is the secret super power. I don’t have to be convinced to get to bed early, I do it anyway because since moving to the tropics I enjoy getting up early to beat the heat.
Sticking to a strict morning routine. This may sound counter-intuitive, given that self-care implies being gentle to yourself. For most of my life I’ve hated having strict rules and routines, but I’ve come to value their effectiveness late in life. Watching my partner rise at 5am every morning, without exception, I’ve realised the benefits of getting up early. It gives him two hours of alone time in complete stillness and he never seems rushed or stressed during the day as a result of it.
I still struggle with getting up at 5am, especially in winter, but I have a morning routine that I follow each day. Without it my day doesn’t feel right. It involves 30-40 minutes of exercise (I alternate between jogging, yoga and, in summer, swimming); 20 minutes mediation; 20 minutes journaling. It’s my sacred time, it’s when I am alone with myself, listening, checking in, setting myself up for the day. It makes me feel anchored inside myself.
Self-care means doing things that are fun and that are NOT work. This is a hard one for me because I really love what I do. It’s the reason why I left a tenured University position for a self-directed life. I discovered my passion and knack for creative visual design late in life. I often joke that for me a great weekend means staying home and designing a new page on my website. But it’s not healthy, because it means I don’t take a break from work.
This year I’ll make a conscious effort to do more things that are not work related. I’ve started going to a regular Vietnamese class and I’ve started walking into town at the end of the day either listening to my favorite podcast (which always somehow comes back to work) or taking photos of life in my local fishing village. For me photography is a mindfulness exercise that takes me out of my head and connects me to the here and now.
So that’s what my self-care will look like in 2019. It’s not going to cost me anything, because self-care isn’t an extravagant luxury that involves spa treatments. It’s about identifying what you, and I, need to feel nourished and energised so that we can keep on being productive and be fully present for those who need us.
I am curious, do you have a word for 2019? If you’re interested you can still download my end-of-year Mindfulness Reset self-care kit and find your word. It’s not too late to make this a year of connecting consciously to your purpose and setting fresh intentions.
As I write this, all around me the Vietnamese are gearing up to celebrate Tet, the lunar New Year. It starts on February 1st. I am using it as the starting date of my fresh start into a year of more self-care. Feel free to join me!