The trip up to my mom’s house in the PNW did my soul good. In fact, every time I get out of our OC bubble and head to my mom’s I always find some kind of golden nugget of wisdom and self reflection.
It’s pretty uncanny.
This vacation taught me that I need to set way more boundaries with myself to prioritize self care! Sitting at a dining table or sofa working on my laptop for hours on end isn’t healthy for me, but it’s so easy to get sucked back into my to-do list every time my email pings. It requires a lot of discipline to make sure I’m seeing the big picture and prioritize relaxation!
That’s the thing: self care is a fundamentally conscious effort to make sure you’re getting what you need. That can be anything from a short walk outside to a 2 week vacation, as long as it actively replenishes your creative energy and keeps yourself physically and mentally healthy. Just because it’s for yourself doesn’t make it easy—at times, it can feel a bit like parenting yourself!
I’ve been talking about this subject more often with you since COVID began, from finding peace in a WFH world to the healing power of plants! Taking care of ourselves is so much more important during times of stress, and I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a doozy! The need for self care has become a matter of self-preservation.
While this year’s challenges have taught us to become more adaptable, we need to make sure our flexibility hasn’t come at the expense of our personal time. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today! Let’s delve into how to set yourself up for better success as we navigate this pandemic.
Start with Heart
In the Anita Yokota MethodⓇ, finding your relationship with yourself in a space is imperative for any design project or renovation. Your space should make it easy to live the life of your dreams—and that means you need to know what you want. If feeling like you don’t have it “figured out” fills you with anxiety, think of this as a journey of self-discovery!
It can be hard to isolate our own wants, especially when we receive a million different, daily messages about what we “need” to have or “should” be doing. And other times, it’s just plain impossible to see past the problem at hand to imagine what we could accomplish.
For example, I had a IG follower ask me how she and her partner could work together on calls all day when they lived in a studio and only had the kitchen table.
This was early on in the pandemic, when Covid-19 thrust all of us into an indefinite work from home arrangement with our partners, and her question was one many of us were struggling with, even if we didn’t share a single room!
I encouraged them first to have a convo on what exactly they wanted out of their WFH-together situation. Their WHY was to share positive communication and a better working relationship at home. Then, I suggested they take shifts at the kitchen table and find alternative spaces to take calls.
Truth be told, in the early days of COVID, I often went into my closet for important calls and work. It may seem crazy, but you gotta do what you gotta do! This is the reason our WHY is so important to creating spaces—without the guidance of a purpose, you may find your space isn’t designed to match your life.
It’s also why we need to create space for “me time,” just as much as we need to make time for it! We can literally build good habits into our lives by starting intentionally from our WHY. I make an effort to realign with my WHY every day, and have made this part of my self care routine.
Ritual vs. Routine
Once you have a space in your home set aside to unwind, you can really start revamping your self care tools and rituals. The bathroom is the most obvious place to relax and renew yourself, and this is a great room to turn into a sanctuary. Adding spa-like touches, from big, fluffy towels to the right lighting can set the mood for deep relaxation.
Feeling good in your skin is a great way to replenish your confidence, and I’ve been really into skin care lately! By bringing mindfulness into my routines, I take my self care beyond routine to connect the mind, body and soul. Loving myself through cleansing my face and replenishing hydration to it feels almost spiritual.
Establishing a self care practice is important for everyone to find some “me time,” but I do think there’s a special power in female beauty rituals. There’s an extra layer of intention in a ritual. Rituals go deeper than just a series of steps to truly nourish ourselves. It transforms an act of ‘vanity’ into a radical act of feminine self-love!
If you’re looking to upgrade your routine into a ritual, you can start with a slow, soothing playlist, use a special face cloth, or add a yummy-smelling moisturizer to massage into your skin. Whatever will help you enjoy this practice is key! Relax into your unique process and find special, symbolic meaning in each step.
I like lighting a candle and taking a deep breath before starting to cleanse my face. Then, I set an intention. It can be as small as being fully present in the next moment! Once I start massaging the cleanser on, I enjoy how refreshing it is to awaken senses along with my body.
As I wash off the cleanser, I repeat my intention internally or say it out loud. For example, “I trust myself” is a big intention for me. Confidence isn’t always a natural response for me, believe it or not! I am very prone to self doubt and struggle to give myself the credit I know I deserve! So I love this ritual where I get in touch with my inner soul while taking care of my external self.
Let’s Get Physical
Just as I developed a customized skin care ritual, I think curating an exercise regimen can be just as beneficial! Of course, the big WHY comes first here, too—and as always, it will help determine your success. Are you working to make yourself stronger out of love for your body and interest in your own longevity… or are you punishing yourself for the last thing you ate?
The best way to keep workouts from feeling torturous is to make them fun, group activities! Our whole family was really active up in Seattle. Every day we got out of the house and hiked, took long walks after dinner, swam in lakes, and enjoyed nature. It made me realize that we have been pretty sedentary in California.
I am the first to admit that I haven’t found the secret combination of exercise and healthy eating on a consistent basis. When I am doing great in my diet, I don’t seem as motivated about exercise. When I exercise, I feel famished and I tend to let myself eat more because I earned it. (We all know that doesn’t work!)
Sure, we might go out for a quick walk or take the kids to ride their bikes occasionally. But overall, lately I’ve still been sitting down ALOT. This is one area I completely lack self care in, and it needs to change, STAT! My “Quarantine 8” will grow into 10 if I don’t mix things up.
So now that I’m back at home, I have resolved to get outside the house and MOVE! Yes, working out at home (in my bathroom, of all places) is wonderful. But! I need to get out of the house more—taking all necessary precautions, of course.
Bike riding is the key change I want to incorporate into my day-to-day. There is something about gliding down a trail and just enjoying the ride! Huffing and puffing while running is great for my endorphins, but I think bikes allow my family to venture farther out than just our neighborhood.
If anything, Seattle reminded me how much we love nature! We are lucky to live in California where the ocean is right nearby. A bike ride along the coast sounds like exactly what we need. And just like that, I’m looking forward to getting active and connecting with my family while we do it. Self care can be a team sport!
Listen To Your Body Talk
Slowing down, paying attention to yourself, and getting active help you start to hear your body tell you what it needs. All bodies are different, but everyone can learn to understand their own unique experience. After all, your gut instinct is your best friend!
Many people, like myself, are highly intuitive. I’ve always felt in tune with my inner feelings. I was just born this way! Intuitive folks hear our subconscious thoughts loud and clear, and lean into them when making decisions. My mother is also intuitive, so I figure I got it from her, ha!
All humans are naturally intuitive, but more often than not, this sense has gone dormant inside us. Busy living has many consequences, and we may find ourselves on autopilot in order to multitask, or more reactive to stimuli as work emergencies keep us putting out fire after fire.
If you feel out of touch with your inner voice, don’t worry—there are so many ways to strengthen your sixth sense! You can start small, 5 minutes of meditation alone can have a powerful effect. A daily dose is enough to create a thriving mindfulness practice! It sounds too simple to be true: you just sit there, quietly. For five minutes.
At first, it’s a fidgety five. Your brain can feel loud, with a lot of unheard thoughts clamoring for your attention. The best way I’ve heard meditation described was a kind of “mental inbox.” It’s going to take a few visits to get down to Inbox Zero! But, if you stick to it, you’ll notice the moments feel less and less long, and a sense of peace arrives afterwards.
By simply listening to your own thoughts, you’ll start to pick up on which ones are more important—and even which ideas might be tied to all kinds of bodily phenomena, from stomach discomfort to headaches. If you’ve ever heard of someone whose knees ache before a thunderstorm, this is a kind of bodily intuition!
You can also build intuition by getting creative! Drawing, singing, dancing, and writing are all great ways to find your inner voice in whatever way it is compelled to show up. If you feel the urge to make something, or to dance in your living room to your WFH playlist, don’t stop yourself! Let your imagination roam free.
Once you have a clear signal from your intuition, you can begin to respond to overwhelm in its early stages. This sets you up to take care of yourself in the present moment—whether that means taking the rest of the evening for yourself, or delegating a few projects that are adding stress. This will save you from suffering complete burnout in the long run! Burnout appears too late in the game mentally and physically to be easily solved, and can have real-life consequences.
Intuition tells us when there’s too much on our plate, or when to put the laptop away and spend some quality time with the kids. Knowing our boundaries is a practice in honoring our priorities. If saying ‘No’ is hard for you, remember that every No is just a Yes to something else! Whether that something is Family Movie Night, or a solo fitness session in the bathroom.
This all ties into your WHY. If your intuition is your compass, then your WHY is your True North! What is it you truly need to get where you most want to go? Is it sleep? Is it nourishment with healthy food? Or, a better skin care routine necessitating a complete overhaul of the medicine cabinet? Your intuition will tell what “me time” you need, and point the way to your ultimate WHY.
As we begin to listen more closely to what our bodies and minds are telling us, it becomes clear just how many of the signals our intuition sends are through feelings. We feel stressed or anxious because something is unresolved or uncertain. And in times when we can’t resolve that uncertainty, our stress and anxiety only intensify.
Flushing out all our feelings is essential for healthy self care, especially while we endure this pandemic. If we don’t, we can easily find ourselves eating our feelings or going on a big shopping spree. Our negative emotions need an outlet, and if we don’t provide one, they’ll find their own release.
For me, journaling is the best way to free my mind from those insidious, anxious thoughts. They tend to keep repeating themselves if left unchecked. But once I get them out of my head and onto paper, it’s as if my brain is finally able to stop thinking about them!
You don’t have to journal every day. Instead, write only when something is bothering you, or if you can’t stop thinking about how an upcoming event might play out. Spending time articulating your own concerns can help you re-approach them. And by thinking through scenarios, your brain gets some helpful practice for dealing with problems in advance.
If a journal feels more like an echo-chamber than an outlet, try talking it out with a friend or loved one. The trusted advice of someone with your best interest at heart can be just what the doctor ordered. Keep in mind that while venting is a great way to let off steam, it’s important to make sure you’re not taking your frustrations out on your conversation partner.
Releasing negative feelings is a practice in vulnerability and acceptance—you won’t feel stressed at all when you’re communicating your feelings in a productive way! Notice if you start to feel your blood pressure rise, and take a moment to de-escalate. Check in with your senses, (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) in order to realign internally and find some perspective.
Identifying your emotions can be a big first step if you haven’t ever thought about it. And it’s easier than it seems! Psychologist Robert Plutchik states that there are 8 basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. But in reality, here is a helpful list that truly gets you connected with yourself.
Look at how many ways we can describe those 8 basic emotions!
To Nurture is Necessary!
Self care is multidimensional, just like us! In order to thrive, we need to be engaged mentally, physically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally. Now that’s a lot of inner-work to do! But it’s critical to living not only a long life—but a fulfilled life, too.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of our daily existence, particularly when our daily existence feels threatened by malevolent forces outside of our control! And as the boundaries between work and life disappear, finding balance only gets harder. Before long, we’ve lost all sight of our WHY.
This is the reason setting aside intentional time and space for ourselves is more important than ever. In order to be flexible, we need to be rested, energized, and attentive! When we’re feeling depleted, we’re more likely to break instead of bend.
By taking what we need, we prioritize our own health in order to be able to perform reliably and sustainably. Our resources are not infinite, and it’s important to make time to replenish ourselves. After all, it’s awfully hard to pour from an empty cup!
More often than not, we come back refreshed, stronger than ever, and find everything is right where we left it.