I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.
I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.
There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.
There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.
But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.
I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:
Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.
Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.
Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.
Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.
Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.
I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.
It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.
O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.