Last year, my friend Anna chose BASIC as her word of the year. Here’s what she said about it (read the whole post here):
Frankly, as of late the basics have eluded me, and I miss them. I miss who I am when my basics are met and up-to-date and happening at all. My heart and head are craving basics – basic principals, basic foods, even basic activities. When I say ‘basics’, I mean:
- brushing my teeth every day
- drinking enough water
- eating more vegetables
- going to bed at a normal (for most non-night-owl people) hour
- getting my paid work done during business hours
- reading the Gospel
- talking (actually speaking) with my friends
- being present with my kids
- planning meals and shopping responsibly for them
- creating and maintaining a budget
- reading books
- loving people and inviting them in (physically and metaphorically)
- writing (not adding a graphic or tweetables or anything fancy. Just. Writing. Anything.)
Basics. Which sound suspiciously like actual self-care.
Probably because most of these things are.
I talk to Anna almost every day, and as soon as I heard her talk about this, I knew it was for me too. It resonated so deeply in me. The basics have been missing in all the busyness of daily life as a working mom.
Honestly, this was Anna’s focus a year ago, so I’ve been a little slow to adapt it for myself. But in the last few months, I’ve been focusing on these things too. Trying to figure out how to truly care for myself in a way that keeps me healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and able to serve God and my family with joy.
Let’s be clear and say right now front that I’m still working on this. I’m not an expert by any means! But here are 5 things I’ve been doing to get back to the basics in my own life, and how they are actually really helping.
1. Getting enough sleep.
I am the kind of person who needs a good 8 hours of sleep a night. I can function on less than that, but I’m definitely not functioning at my best. The fact is, sleep (or lack of it) seriously affects your brain activity and productivity throughout the day, AND sleep loss is not something you can really “make up” for. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Obviously, when you’re a new mom with a baby, you don’t have a choice about getting enough sleep. The baby is in charge of that! But now, as a mom of kids who (mostly) sleep through the night, I have a choice in the matter.
In the past, I’ve stayed up late because quiet is precious, and late at night has been one time where I can either enjoy that quiet or choose the show that I want to watch on Netflix. But lately, I’ve set a bedtime for myself. I try to be in bed by 9pm, asleep by 10ish. This gives me around 8 hours a night, and let me tell you, life is so much more manageable on 8 hours of sleep! I feel refreshed instead of sluggish when I wake up, I’m up earlier and we’re not as rushed in the mornings, and I even get a little of that quiet time first thing in the morning – before anyone else is up.
Getting sleep is a basic need. But it’s one that I’d pushed off to the side and declared “less important” than my quiet time at night. Not anymore. Now I look forward to crashing almost as soon as I put the kids in bed!
*If you’re still a mom of babies, or kids who wake at night, hang in there! Nap when you can, and don’t forget that you’re in survival mode right now. One day, things will look a little different, and you’ll be able to make some changes, one step at a time. You’re doing GREAT just being available for those babies!!
2. Getting back to a morning routine.
My morning routine seriously suffered as a result of my night-owl tendencies. But when I am honest about the way God made me, I’m totally a morning person! I love getting up early and having some quiet time to myself, and with the Lord, before the day gets going.
When the kids went back to school, I got back to my morning routine. I write it out in my planner each morning to remember why these things are important. My morning routine is not about checking off the boxes – it’s about starting the day in a way that makes me a healthy woman, wife, and mom.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Wake up at 5:30am, and shower. This wakes me up and gives me that fresh start feeling to the day! (If I am able to get up earlier, I do 15 minutes on our elliptical machine before the shower. This does not always happen.)
- Head out to my chair in our loft and read something from God’s Word while I wait for the kids to get up.
- Get the kids ready and send them downstairs to pack their own lunches while I finish getting ready for the day.
- Eat breakfast with my kids before we leave for school.
Please note that I did not say “Read exactly one chapter from the Bible, and then pray, and journal, and write out Scripture” every single morning. Morning routines change up with the seasons, so the way I make this work is always changing. Sometimes I do an in-depth Bible study, sometimes I just write out Scripture in my Write The Word Journals, sometimes I just read God’s Word and sit in silence.
The HOW doesn’t matter so much as the WHAT. When we know WHAT we need, we can try out different HOWs to make that happen.
I know that reading God’s Word changes my heart, from the beginning of the day onward, and I need to make time for that, however it looks in any given season.
I know I need a little quiet while I’m in the shower or getting ready, so I try to do those things while the kids are sleeping or occupied downstairs.
I know that the kids do not do a great job getting ready on their own, and need some help with redirection and reminders. If I stay with them and help them, everything goes faster and no one yells or cries. So I make time for this. Most mornings, at least.
Figuring out what type of morning gives me (and therefore the kids) the best start to the day has been really, really life-giving. It doesn’t look like anyone else’s morning, and that’s okay. It’s what works for US.
3. Finding exercise that I actually enjoy.
Listen, exercise has never been my thing. Book reading? I’m there. Writing? All in. Enjoying a cup of tea and visiting with a friend? Yes, please.
Exercise? Get me outta there.
I do not think I have enjoyed exercise since high school, when I was a semi-good member of the varsity swim team. I loved to swim, and still do – however, as a mom this is way more complicated. Our community pool is only heated during the summer months, we don’t have a membership to a gym, and to be honest, I really DON’T enjoy having to shower and get ready twice a day!
So I’ve tried other things, because we all know that exercise is good for us. Boot camp? Could barely breathe and hated sweating. See also – needing to shower twice a day. Personal trainer? No thanks, that’s too much one-on-one attention for this introvert. Walking? Awesome when it’s not summer – super hot when it is. The only thing I’ve really liked is Pilates, but I’ve only done that at home, and I’m not really great at sticking to it if I’m home. There’s always something else that’s more important that needs to be done, and I’m easily distracted.
But this summer, I found a Pilates studio near my house. Normally, I would shy away from group classes because my assumption is that everyone there is smaller and cooler than I am. But I tried it anyways, because I was determined to exhaust all of my options before deciding to give up on exercising altogether. My friend Jody says that EVERYBODY can find exercise they enjoy, and I was going to try to find mine.
So I tried an intro class. And I loved it. LOVED. IT.
Pilates doesn’t make me feel sweaty and gross, it makes me feel tall and strong and aligned. Everyone there is SO NICE, like maybe the nicest people in my whole city. There are women there of all shapes and sizes and ages. The instructors make an effort to get to know you. And the low impact workout is perfect for my bum knee and scar-tissue-filled lungs.
Jody was right – there IS an exercise I love! I found it!
And now that the kids are both in school, I’m going 3x a week. To do a workout that I actually enjoy and look forward to. Half the time I wonder to myself, “WHO AM I?!” But mostly, I’m just thankful. I can see myself doing this kind of exercise for a long time, and I finally feel like I’m actually taking care of myself in this way.
4. Getting honest about my projects + goals.
When it comes to writing, to working on our house, or basically anything goal or project related, I have a lot of ideas and plans. This is probably not new information for anyone who’s been here for a while.
But in getting back to the basics, I’ve tried to get really honest about what I actually have time for. And that means narrowing down all of my big ideas and plans to just one thing.
One thing at a time.
One goal, one project, one focus. ONE thing I can give my whole attention to, and pursue without distraction. This is SUPER hard for me, but I’m working on it. And my mental load is so much lighter when I’m not balancing a bunch of different projects – just one.
I will say, I’ve divided this up into two areas, because my time is pretty divided into two areas: work time and personal time. Personally, I’m working on creating an exercise routine (Pilates 3x a week!). Soon I will shift to maintaining that, and improving my eating habits (vegetables, I’m coming for you). In my work time, I’m 100% focused on our 2020 S.O.S. Planner launch that’s coming up in just a few weeks. That gets my full attention!
Narrowing my focus to just ONE thing at a time has really helped me make progress on the most important things in that season. (And as a practical tip, I’m using the monthly goals + action plan space in my planner to do this.)
5. Reading for fun.
I’ve always been a reader. I’ve always loved escaping into a good story. But once my babies came along, reading felt too hard – and also impossible because I couldn’t stay awake long enough to read a full page. So, I started watching more TV.
These days, I’m trying to cut back on TV as much as possible, especially because that’s just another screen, and I spend all of my work time on screens. Instead, I’m getting back to reading – the most basic form of enjoyment and relaxation for me. I’ve been reading real books (from my shelf or our library), not my kindle. And there’s just something about turning pages and tuning everything else out that fills me up in a way nothing else does.
I’ve been reading a lot of fiction, and it’s so fun! Also it’s making me feel better about all the unread books on my shelf, because I’m finally reading through them.
Basics I still want to work on:
Evening Routine // I don’t have a great evening routine in place, other than trying to be in bed by 9pm. And that doesn’t happen every night. Ideally, I’d like to have a pretty set evening routine as well. I find that this is a little harder because Jon’s evenings are not regular at all. Sometimes he has work, sometimes he’s home. When I do everything alone, I can keep the kids’ evening routine on par, but my own falls by the wayside because I’m exhausted after the kids are down!
Budgeting // Jon and I are actually working on this now (we started using YNAB last month after using Every Dollar for the last few years – and I already like YNAB better!), and I’m trying to develop a habit of logging transactions multiple times a week so that our accounts are always up to date. YNAB makes this way easier than the spreadsheet I had going, and I think it will really help us stay within our budget and be able to pay off our debt (I’m looking at you, student loan) a little faster!
Cooking Healthy Meals & Eating at Home // My plan is to start on this after I have a good handle on my exercise routine. I probably should have switched the order and done the eating stuff first, but this just worked out. I want to do a better job of eating at home instead of eating what’s convenient. And I need to cut back on sugar again.
And there you have it. 5 simple ways I’m getting back to basics. It might sound super simple, but I’ve needed it.
I know that there’s a lot of talk out there about achieving your big dreams and making progress on your impossible goals, and all that. But I think there’s a lot of value in working on doing the small things well. Taking care of ourselves so that we can do the things God has called us to. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been very good at that. I’m trying to change that this year by mastering the basics before I worry about anything else.
What about you? Have you been working on any basics of your own?
Questions for you to consider:
1. What basics are you missing in your life right now? How are you suffering as a result?
2. If you chose one basic to start working on right now, what would it be? How can you begin to take steps forward in this area? Make a plan.
3. What’s something you LOVE to do that you haven’t made time for in the last few months? Years? How can you begin to work that thing back into your life?
Tell me your answers in the comments! I can’t wait to hear from you!
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