On the 12th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Twelve ways to have fun!
If you're looking for 12 activities to add to your holiday calendar, this isn't the post for you. I'm talking about fun, not making memories, not capturing the perfect moment, just fun. Do we even know what that is anymore?
Let me give you an example.
A few years ago a friend of mine told me a story about trying to create the perfect Christmas memory with her kids. Of course, she brought out the nativity set and planned to tell a captivating story about Jesus while the perfect Christmas cookies baked in the oven and the lights glistened on the Christmas tree.
The evening didn't go the way she planned. Instead, her kids weren't having it, a few pieces of the nativity set were missing, she forgot an ingredient for the cookies, and half the lights on the tree were out. It was a night where most of us would have thrown our hands in the air and given up, cried, and gone to bed angry. I think that was my friend's idea too, but her kids had other plans.
Somewhere in the box of Christmas stuff that my friend dragged out earlier in the day (and, like everything else that wasn't going right, the box had yet to be put up properly) was some Halloween stuff that somehow fell in the wrong holiday box. While my friend was trying to contain the cookie mess in her kitchen, she heard the kids laughing, playing, and making all sorts of strange noises. Her first thought was, "Oh great, now they are never going to go to bed," but when she came out she found them running around wearing Halloween masks and making ghoul sounds. My friend described feeling even more defeated, "I am the worst mother alive. Instead of my children hearing about Jesus, they are running around like heathens." At that point, she had a few options, but what she decided to do was remarkable. And fun. She chose to laugh, lean into the fun her kids were having, and leave the kitchen for another day. Her kids still talk about how much fun running around like ghouls and goblins was that Christmas. They may have missed the nativity story that night, but their mom showed them a lot about love (and was able to have great conversations about Jesus' love as a result).
I'm not advocating cutting out faith traditions or switching holidays, but what if holiday fun wasn't planned? What if it was more relaxed and less structured? What if it didn't include such high expectations?
Here are 12 ways to have more fun like that this month:
Now have fun! And continue self-care this season!
On the 11th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Eleven Journal Prompts!
As a little girl, one of my favorite aisles of the store was in the office supply section. Call me a nerd, but it's the truth. I especially loved looking at the journals and pens. My parents bought me countless journals as a child and I filled most of them up in short periods of time. I loved writing stories, reflecting about life, and so many other things that seem to only be accomplished in a journal. Today, Barnes & Noble can still be a dangerous place for me as I look at all the beautiful leather journals. Writing is still an activity I love.
Not everyone experiences the same joy from writing that I do. I've heard people say that writing a card is stressful, so I'm sure the idea of writing in a journal is absolutely daunting.
I still think there's something cathartic and therapeutic about writing in a journal though. Here are 11 journal prompts to help let out some of that holiday stress (Remember: these journal prompts are just for you, so they aren't supposed to be perfect. Just you.):
The 12th Day of Self-Care is almost here!
On the 10th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Ten Easy Exercises!
Sounds too good to be true, right? After all, easy and exercise just don't go together.
In high school, I swam competitively. I loved it. Truly, loved it. Yet, there were times (a lot of times) when I also hated it. There was nothing easy about getting in the pool in the middle of the winter. The pool was obviously an indoor pool, but nothing sounded less fun in the middle of the winter than going for a swim. It was also NOT easy sprinting after already swimming lap after lap. Sometimes my arms and legs felt like they couldn't pull me through another foot of water.
However, it was still easy going every day. Why? A few reasons:
Knowing what made swimming easy for me to do daily, here are a few ideas that keep those reasons in mind. These are the 10 easy exercises:
On the 9th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Nine ways animals help!
It was one of those days that you just want to skip. Black hose were not enough to keep my legs warm on this frigid New York February, my throat was already dry from small talk, and my earrings already felt like they weighed a few hundred pounds. This was the third uncle I had lost, but the first one on my dad's side. Watching his mom grieve at the wake was enough for me to want to head back to Oklahoma. I longed for the short viewings that were popular there instead of the all-day affair New Yorkers made it. In the mist of my longing and the sea of dark clothing, came a different kind of wardrobe. A furry one. Not the faux fur like what's in my closet or the real fur like many of the wealthy Long Islander's were sporting, living fur.
An adorable black lab gently walked through the room, wagging his tail and greeting guests. Boy, was he was a sight for sore eyes. He was by far a better greeter than any member of my family. He welcomed hugs from anyone that was sad, gladly gave kisses to those that ran out of tissues, entertained weary kids, and wagged his tail at those needing their spirits lifted.
My grandmother is one of the classiest women I know, but even in her dress clothes this dog was a welcome addition. Petting that dog brought a wave of light through her darkened, grief-stricken face.
Animals help. The funeral director knew that (hence, his dog was his star employee), hospitals know that, and so many other places know that. So why do our furry friends get boarded and left home alone more during the holidays than any other time? Because we're too busy to take care of them and us. I am not the person that thinks pets are people (though I am the person that has my dog in my Christmas card). I believe God gave animals to people and we should take care of them well (check out the beginning of Genesis for that story), but I don't think they should come before people. So, no, I'm not suggesting that we don't do the things that bring us joy during the holidays because Spot doesn't like car rides. I am merely suggesting that they are often an untapped (or under-tapped) resource for those holiday blues.
So here's 9 ways they help and a few practical ways to let them do that during the hustle and bustle:
Now go hug an animal or watch a puppy video!
On the Eighth Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Eight hours of sleep!
I'm going to start this post off by saying, "you're welcome!" This is certainly the gift that every adult longs to find under the Christmas tree. But, honestly, is 8 hours even possible?
Yes! It is.
Reading this, you might be running on 5 hours of sleep or less . . . or maybe you're just running on coffee. I've been there more times than I can count. I can't tell you how many times I've used some variation of the phrase, "it's between _____ or sleep. ______ can't wait, so sleep will have to." But can sleep really wait?
Research shows that when we don't get enough sleep, our overall health starts to suffer. We get sick more often, our brains don't function the way they're supposed to, we gain weight, and a lot of other things we don't want, especially at the holidays. So will Christmas morning really be better if we stay up an extra hour to wrap a present perfectly, but we are sick for New Years? Will that pie really be that much more impressive if we make homemade crust, but forget to put it in the oven? Will our friends really be more impressed with our Christmas cards if we spend the extra hour finding the perfect design, but we have bags under our eyes? Whatever it is, chances are a little zzz will help, not hurt.
So here are 8 tips to 8 hours of sleep (pick 1 or 2 to try today):
I realize that life happens some nights: one kid wets the bed, another has a bad dream, the dog decides the middle of the night is the best time to bark, or you get an emergency phone call. I have a feeling though that there's at least one habit from this list that might help you get closer to your goal of eight hours. If you're current average is 5, what would it take to get to 6? Baby steps and small changes lead to big changes . . . and, in this case, more sleep! Hooray!
Happy 8th day of self-care! See you tomorrow for the 9th day!
On the 7th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Seven Gratitude Ideas!
Do you know someone that never seems to be satisfied with where they are in life? Me too. Unfortunately though, that person is most often the person I see in the mirror.
When I moved back from New Orleans I caught myself driving by Lake Hefner with a less-than-satisfied attitude, remembering the grandeur of Lake Pontchartrain. Instead of embracing the beauty of Lake Hefner that I loved before moving to New Orleans, I found myself grumpy with each mile I drove. In other words, I was ungrateful, always looking for more. Sure, the 40-mile-long lake in New Orleans had a few views the not-quite-4-mile Oklahoma lake didn't, but both offered a time to reflect and be thankful that I wasn't grasping as I moved back to the great state of Oklahoma.
Ever do that around the holidays? "Well last year we had _______ at dinner." Or "it's just not the same without so-and-so." It's okay to grieve our holiday losses, but what are some ways to be thankful around the holidays? Even the not-so-spectacular 4-mile-holidays . . .
Here are 7 simple ideas:
Now, thank YOU for reading. Your support means so much! See you tomorrow with day 8!
On the 6th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Six Breathing Techniques!
The first time I remember hyperventilating was in high school. I woke up late and didn't have time to finish editing a big essay my Senior year. The result, which I knew all-too-well, was getting my first B and knocking myself out for valedictorian. Yes, I was that kid: the perpetual worrier, perfectionist, and all the other stereotypes you can imagine that go with that type-A personality. When my teacher told me that I made a B she also gently handed me a literal permission slip saying "permission not to be valedictorian." For my 17-year-old, people-pleasing self, that permission slip was life-changing and a huge comfort. That permission slip landed a place on my bulletin board and is still in a scrapbook I made of my Senior year.
To some, that story may seem silly. For me, that story was my teacher telling me, "it's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to take a breather. Your value doesn't come from being valedictorian."
Do you ever find yourself like my 17-year-old self, enslaved to your own expectations and perfectionism, unwilling to take a break? If so, you're not alone. I imagine you're in the majority in the U.S., especially in December. When I'm stressed or overwhelmed, I find that my perfectionism only gets worse and my ability to take a breather lessens. Just a few weeks ago I caught myself back in the exact same patterns I was over a decade ago.
So why not actually take a breather this holiday? Deep breathing isn't just some goofy practice that your mom told you to do as a distraction. Deep breathing actually engages two different nervous systems, balancing them to reduce the biological impact of anxiety. (Want to know more? Check out this article for more info: The Science of Slow Deep Breathing.)
All deep breathing includes deep inhaling and deep exhaling. Most experts recommend counting for a few seconds as you breathe in and as you breathe out. Keeping this in mind, here are 6 techniques for your 6th day of self-care:
Disclaimer: Some deep breathing exercises can incorporate Eastern religions. Similarly, Apps and online tools may use Eastern rituals. To avoid opening your mind to these religions, be cautious about guided imagery that is secular or produced by someone that is not a Christian.
On the 5th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Five easy tips to tidy up!
It was an afternoon break in an office full of people I still call "family." M&M's, pretzels, and Cheez-It crackers were shared across the table as the topic of vacuuming came up. Listening to my co-workers, I quickly learned how vastly different everyone's vacuuming habits were. From one co-worker that vacuumed every morning before work to another that vacuumed only when company came to all those in between, my office was certainly divided on this issue. Being on the only-vacuum-when-company-comes end of this subject, I was baffled to learn that some people actually vacuum daily. I could not imagine ever being disciplined enough to accomplish a cleaning goal that lofty.
To you vacuum daily types, this post is NOT for you. To the hoarders out there, this post also isn't for you. This is for all those in-between cleaners, who enjoy tidiness, but aren't going for perfection.
Here are five easy tips to tidy up this holiday season:
Constantly aiming for perfection adds more stress, but tidying up helps us feel better. Even a messy person feels better when his or her environment is tidy. Take the time to tidy up this holiday.
On the 4th Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Four ways to get outside!
Cold is not my thing. The fastest you'll see me walk is through a parking lot in those brutal February months when the Oklahoma wind cuts right through you. During the summer, I'm willing to loiter a little. The winter is a different story.
Despite my disdain for cold weather, I know it's good for me to be outside. Research shows that getting outside helps us relax, increases productivity, and a lot of other awesome physical benefits. So how do we do that in the midst of the hustle and bustle when drinking hot cocoa by the fireplace feels a whole lot better? Here are 4 simple ways:
On the 3rd Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
Three friends and a few non-stressful ways to see them!
When I was a senior in high school, there was one prayer God laid heavy on my heart. Truthfully, part of it probably felt so heavy because I was scared, but I also believe it was genuinely the Lord preparing my heart to do something amazing. The prayer God laid on my heart was this: Pray for good friends in college.
Oh man did He answer those prayers. The university I went to catered to a very different population than me. It was essentially a performing arts school and I barely made the plays in grade school (and, I’m a millennial, which means everyone got a part in the play…that is how much of a performer I am not). So, going to this school was intimidating. I was going for entirely different reasons than most of the students, I didn’t know anyone, and I had been with the same group of friends my whole life. Basically, it seemed impossible for me to make friends. I was praying fiercely that God would work a miracle.
He did, friends, He did. I made some of the most amazing friends in my life during those years. (Spoiler alert: Many of them are still very close friends.)
I’m in a different season of life now. I have friends. I’m blessed with many wonderful friends, but my life looks a lot different than many of my friends. Sometimes if I don’t intentionally stop to look at how many friends I do have, I get caught in the belief that I don’t actually have any friends. It’s a lie, but it feels true more often than I'd like to admit.
Why is it such a big deal to me to have friends?
Because friends are important! Let me just say that one more time: friends are important. Whether you’re single, married, young, old, male, female, bored, busy, working, or at home, friends are important.
I think Scripture teaches three different types of friendship.
1.) Mutual friendship. This is like the 50/50 friend. You know, the one where most of the time you talk and listen the same amount. Of course, there are exceptions and life circumstances that throw this out of whack, but for the most part it’s pretty equal in the give-and-take department. You probably have similar values and interests, good conversation, and hopefully lots of laughs. In Scripture, David and Jonathan are probably the best example of this type of friendship (1 Sam. 18), but I think Jesus even modeled this kind of close friendship. First, God models it in the unity of the Trinity (Jn. 14:9-11), but even when Jesus was on earth He had a smaller group of disciples that was like His inner circle of confidants (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 14:33).
2.) Mentor friendship. Most people know what a mentor is, but isn’t that an archaic concept? I mean, who actually has a mentor? Honestly, I have about 10. Anyone that knows me well knows that mentoring is a big part of my life and something I really value. If you’re part of a church, chances are there’s a man or woman a little farther down the road that would be happy to invest some time in a relationship with you. Some people do formal mentoring, others do more relaxed mentoring. Both work. Do what works for you. (For more information and resources about finding a mentor, check out The Ideal Mentor) There are countless verses about mentors in Scripture, but the one I’ll mention is Elijah mentoring Elisha (2 Kings 2). Elisha relentlessly pursued Elijah’s mentorship. As a result, Elisha saw incredible miracles and his loyalty resulted in Elisha receiving “a double portion of [Elijah’s] spirit.” That's what I call a worthwhile investment!
3.) Mentee friendship. From the outside looking in, this type of friendship can feel the most burdensome. That is so not what the majority of being a mentor is like though. It is such a blessing, even in the most stressful seasons. It’s also something continuously modeled in Scripture. The Gospels are full of Jesus mentoring twelve men. Twelve may be a lot, but what about one? If you haven't ever been a mentor, pray about it. I have a feeling you probably have something to offer a mentee. (For more information about being a mentor, check out The ABC's of Mentoring.)
You may not have all three of these types of friendship. I’ve been in seasons where I didn’t either. All take work, initiative, and vulnerability, but they also take prayer. Pray for them. God wants us to be in community and He is faithful to provide.
So how can we make time for these essential relationships during the holidays? Here are a few quick, easy, and, most importantly, non-stressful ideas:
1.) Run an errand together. This may sound lame, but I’ve gone to the grocery store many times with all three types of friends. It’s an easy way to hang out when both of you are just too busy. It’s also a good way to get to know people better. I now know what kinds of cereal, mascara, and dog food many of my friends purchase. I've also had the greatest moments with mentors while running errands with them. I've seen them model Christ well to clerks and other shoppers. I hope my mentees would say the same of our errand running, but I know regardless they'd say that our errands have resulted in some good bonding time.
2.) Include friends in your family’s activities. Maybe it’s your family going to see Christmas lights with another family, maybe it’s asking an older couple at your church to join your family for a Christmas movie, or maybe it’s having a college mentee join you for a Christmas tea. Get creative! Chances are everyone in your family will benefit from these kinds of interactions.
3.) Exercise together. Exercise always goes out the window in December, so chances are you and your friends could use a little more exercise anyway. Even if it’s power walking around the mall for thirty minutes, this is a great way to see each other and release some of that holiday stress (and extra cookie weight).
Start today! Which friend are you going to contact?