Resolutions don’t work because they’re usually based on some external, nebulous, often unattainable goal. “I will lose 15 pounds.” “I will eat only salad.” “I will paint every day.” We usually start off well, but when one day goes by that we don’t do what we said we would, we say “screw it, I’ll never change” and go back to our old ways.
But what if your resolution is to simply do your best to take care of yourself, so you can handle what life throws your way? What if the idea is just to try and feel your best, more days than not? Because feeling better helps you make tough decisions, move through difficult feelings, and create more. Here are some tried and true ways to help you take good care of you this year, and beyond.
Get off of your phone
More and more studies are showing us how addicted we are to our phones. We now know for a fact that checking your email or social media first thing in the morning is one of the worst things you can do for your emotional health. First, it sets you up to keep checking and checking your phone all day long. Second, it contributes to ongoing depression, anxiety, and stress.
How do you break this habit? First, try charging your phone somewhere other than your bedroom. Get an alarm clock so you don’t use your phone as one. (You can get one for under $10 at pretty much any general store or second-hand shop). Then, instead of rushing to your phone in the morning, go do 10 – 20 minutes of exercise (see below), mindfully make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, or take a longer, more rejuvenating shower. Your brain will thank you for the slow wake up.
Other ways to break the phone habit include leaving your phone at home when you go out to dinner, removing social media apps from your phone (you can check Facebook on your desktop or even just on the browser), or turning off notifications to your social media apps so they don’t ding or vibrate at you constantly. Is the comment on that Instagram photo of your food really so important that you must see it RIGHT NOW? Probably not.
Last, because you’re charging your phone somewhere else, you won’t be looking at your phone right before bed. This can seriously disturb your sleep. Try reading a physical book instead or, if you must have your phone nearby, set up one of those guided meditations I mentioned earlier and put your phone on the other side of the room to listen and help you drift off to sleep.
Move your body every day
Seriously. Every. Day. It helps with a myriad of physical and emotional issues, including depression and anxiety. Preferably first thing in the morning. While this might not give you the biggest muscle building benefit, when you’re done, you’re done and it sets you on a path to all-day productivity. Now, does this mean getting up at 6 am to hit the gym every day? Absolutely not.
Twenty minutes, even as little as 10 minutes of exercise, will give you a big boost in mood and energy.
Any movement is good. Whatever your body will allow you to do. I love the rock’n’roll yogi, Sadie Nardini. She has a ton of yoga routines out there in cyberspace. Her 21-day Yoga Body course on DailyOm (where you pay what you want!) is a fabulous way to start doing 10 – 20 minutes of yoga each day. It also includes recipes and journaling prompts to help you transform from the inside, out. I’ve now moved on to her 21-day Yoga Shred, which involves more intense yoga workouts, including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I’ve now been working out every morning for the past 30 days using these programs. I have NEVER worked out every day before. And no, I’m not making any money off of Sadie’s programs. I just love her stuff!
Of course, if you miss a day, IT’S OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Get moving the next day. And you don’t have to do double the workout – just start right back up again.
Do I really need to show you how meditation is good for the brain? Alright, alright, I’ll give you this: Meditation can literally, physically change your brain. A recent study on 155 adults showed that after eight weeks of meditating, the amygdala – the fight or flight center of the brain that gets overworked and causes anxiety – actually shrunk. At the same time, the pre-frontal cortex got thicker, which helps in concentration, focus, and decision-making.
Yes, meditation can be hard. No, it does not require hours of meditating every day. Just like exercise, as little as 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. I highly recommend guided meditations. Sit comfortably, put your headphones in, and just listen. Check out some of my favorite meditations on YouTube. I also love the Relax Melodies app that contains guided meditations and lets you create your own soundscapes for relaxation and sleep (again, I’m not affiliated with these guys, I just use and love their app).
Plan your big and small creative moves
I know, it can be difficult and overwhelming to plan. But living with intention, which is what is required to truly move forward and get things done, requires planning. You need to know what you want and make a plan to get it. Start out with a list of your goals for the year. Write down at least three. This can be an ongoing list – you don’t have to finish it now. From there, break it down into smaller goals that will help you accomplish your bigger ones. Want to be part of a gallery show some time this year? Ok, then you’ll need smaller goals that include researching and contacting galleries, organizing your work, and planning for any new pieces you might create. If you feel stuck and are worried about how you can get your creative process moving again, try my DIY coaching e-course, Creative Lightning (it’s also pay what you want!)
Even when I put things in my google and iPhone calendars, I tend to sometimes forget things I should know are going on – until I write them down. The act of writing things down helps to solidify them into your memory. I love Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planners. I use the weekly version to just get a good grip on my appointments at the start of each week. This planner goes along with Danielle’s Desire Map process that asks you to define exactly how you want to feel and then set your goals based on finding that feeling. You can find that book and so much more of her cool, conscious stuff here. (Disclaimer: I AM an affiliate for Danielle Laporte. I love her stuff so much and recommend her so often that I decided to sign up for her affiliate program!)
Write down your thoughts
Journaling is an age old practice that many of you may have left behind in your high school years. But studies show that it is beneficial to your mental and emotional health, helping you to process thoughts and emotions, and better solve difficult problems. I find often that many of my more visually and performance-oriented clients can express themselves very well through their mediums, but have difficulty defining and communicating their emotions verbally, which can be a strain on relationships. Journaling can help you to sort through your feelings and help you to see helpful and not-so-helpful patterns that may be holding you back. Try to journal without judgment. Just write and read it afterwards, even days later. Write knowing that this is not about how you want to present yourself to others, it’s just how you are, right now. You can journal on your computer or phone, but the act of writing (and getting your eyes off of a screen) can hold even more benefits. Personally, I can’t resist a blank sketchbook with some good, heavy paper and a quality pen.
If the last year was filled with a bunch of things you wish you hadn’t agreed to do, and left you exhausted and filled with resentment, then you may want to add this one to your list. When should you say no? Ask yourself these questions:
- Does it feel like an obligation, rather than enthusiastic yes?
- Do I feel like you couldn’t possibly say no because of what the other person might think of me or how they might feel, but the idea of doing the thing makes me feel down, overwhelmed, overworked, or under-appreciated?
- Do I want to yes to just to get someone off my back rather than deal with conflict or set a healthy boundary?
- Do I realistically have enough time in my schedule to do this?
- If I do this, what are my expectations about what I’m going to receive in return? If I’m to receive nothing, perhaps not even a “thank you”, am I ok with that?
Now, if it’s difficult to answer these questions, I want to let you in on a little secret: WAIT. You have every right to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” Give yourself time to think it over. Journal about it. Then decide how you’ll answer.
Connect and share IRL
Technology is awesome for connecting and sharing stories with people and about things we may never encounter personally, but it won’t give our brains the same benefit as physically sitting and talking with someone. Emotional growth and development comes from authentically connecting with others. This means sharing the light and the dark with someone you trust. It means talking about your struggles, as well as your triumphs. I know, it can be hard to admit when you’re having a hard time – you don’t want to bum someone out; you don’t want to look like a mess – but doing so will help you heal from those hard times faster and better. You’ll probably find that you’re not alone in your experiences, your feelings and thoughts aren’t weird or wrong, and that another perspective can really help you move forward. This also means truly listening to others and not just trying to fix things for them by giving advice (unless they ask for it). BONUS: Your relationships will deepen and become more meaningful.
Banish negative self-talk
You know that voice in your head that says, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never get it done. You don’t deserve that.”? That’s not you. It’s messages that you’ve received, probably from a loved one, that have wormed their way in and wired your brain to think this way. Because it’s not really you, you can talk back to this voice. When it shows up, respond to it with evidence to the contrary. Or simply say “I AM good enough.” I don’t care if you don’t believe it at first, just try it. It will feel wrong and weird. But over time, you’ll start to believe the new messages more and more and be able to stop the negative ones a lot faster. If you find you’re struggling or stuck, maybe it’s time to find a therapist to talk to.
Start with these practices to take good care of yourself this year. Try one or all of them.
Most importantly – BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. Believe it or not, discipline can be achieved with compassion and without brute force.
If you want even more help, consider taking my workshop this February. I’ve teamed up with awesome Life + Wellness Coach, Julia Flaccavento, BCC, CCC and created a three-hour workshop to help creative empaths like you beat overwhelm and burnout with tried and true self-care strategies. Check it out!