The Self-Care Tweak that Gives My Weeks Meaning

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Hello there!

It’s Wednesday and, once again, I bow to the forces have have swung us around to another week.  In DC, this Wednesday is extra-sunny with a slight crisp breeze.  There’s a full moon this evening, so I feel an extra edge of energy in the air that’s difficult to put into words.  

I used to dislike Wednesdays - that middle, boring, low-energy hump day - and actually decided to send out my self-care newsletter on this day because it’s when I needed a little energetic pick-me-up.  I thought others might, too.

What I must reveal is that as a result of focusing on my self-care over these past years, I now really love Wednesdays.  I’m in a solid routine of volunteering at Thrive DC in the morning, followed by either acupuncture or brunch with a friend.  After I scurry home to write this newsletter, I take a walk with Poncho while my fabulous editor Meredith makes my words a bit more coherent, and I hit send around 3pm.  Then I do other work or relax for the rest of the day.

It’s definitely not a glamorous routine, but it’s a routine that makes me feel good.   And, if you are curious, I also have a routines for Mondays (finances in the morning and lots of time to relax through the afternoon), Tuesdays (meet with one local mentor in the morning and then take an online class with another awesome teacher in the afternoon), Thursdays (water my plants, talk to my mom, record a podcast) and Fridays (meditation group followed by breakfast with a friend).  

My weekends have their own flow to them, which give me lots of time to connect with my loved ones and excuse myself from technology.  I try to do less, laugh more and lose all sense of time for a least one of the days.

Of course, I vary my routines when needed. I intersperse them with lots of new, exciting activities as they arise, and also busywork when it’s required.  Yet, when I need them, my routines are ready to welcome me back home.  They are the kind of steadfast friend who always picks up the phone on the first ring.  They are so there for me.

My routines (the daily kind and the weekly kind) make me feel safe in the world, and ensure that my life stays fairly organized and consistently infused with meaning.  I don’t think I am over exaggerating when I say that I would be lost without them.

In Ayurveda, routines are taught as the building blocks of good health.  Our nervous systems crave consistency and become unregulated with too much excitement.  In a culture that is addicted to excitement, becoming overstimulated is easy.  

How do we know when we are overstimulated?  Well, we have trouble sleeping through the night and digesting our food (hello heartburn and/or constipation!).  Also, we turn into emotional monsters - either yelling at the people we love most or thinking we are the worst people ever to walk the earth.  We work really hard and still feel like we don’t get anything done.  

Of course, none of these realities are true or permanent.  Rather they serve as warning signs that we need to get ourselves back on track.

Consistency, especially when we are consistency practicing solid self-care, brings us back into a relaxed state of being.  Ayurvedic doctors urge us to go to bed, wake up and eat our meals around the same times of day.  This alone sets us up for fairly great health for the rest of our lives.  

I think these daily routines are a good place to start.  Once you begin to feel the flow that comes from regularity, then weekly routines can add an extra layer of joy and beauty.  Or if daily routines have never worked for you, perhaps a weekly routine could be a good starting point to achieve more consistency in your life.

Weekly routines help me maintain solid friendships, ensure I pay all of my bills, and tend to my spiritual path, not only in theory but by actually showing up each week.  Since each day is different and I keep lots of space open for newness, I very rarely feel bored.  Instead I look forward to the flavor of each day and know that it will come again next week.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking that doing the same things every week would be so boring.  You’d feel trapped, right?

When I hear this objection, I always think of something I heard from the ever-inspiring yoga teacher Kia MIller during one of her Yogaglo classes.  She said that until she knew discipline, she never knew true freedom.

I couldn’t agree more.  My routines have set me free from so much hidden anxiety and FOMO.  Knowing that I am getting my basic needs mostly met through my routines helps me to relax and enjoy the spontaneous moments when they arrive.  The steadiness of my self-care has shown me a much deeper power within my own heart and gives me the courage to share it with others.

And I don’t think I am alone in this.  For years, I taught weekly group yoga classes and marveled at how the same students showed up at the same time to do essentially the same poses.  

In a culture that urges ongoing variety, this mundane routine was something that should have been boring.  But from the looks of concentration on my students faces, I knew they were hard at work liberating themselves from the harmful stressful patterns in their lives and in the world.  They were using the poses to feel better in their bodies, relax in their minds and tap into a deeper power within.  What’s boring about that?  

(Fun fact: I actually got to know my now-partner, Micah, because he laid his mat down in the same place during my Thursday night class at Yoga District for a few years in a row.  Although we didn’t begin dating until after I left the studio, I already knew he was consistent in his practices and dedicated to his own well-being -- both total turn-ons for me.)

To create your own weekly schedule, make a list of everything you want to do, need to do, and would love to do.  Think of the things that always fall through the cracks because there isn’t enough time. Make sure to list a few practical tasks, like looking at your finances and grocery shopping, alongside the really fun activities.  

Now choose three activities that you think would make your life more enjoyable.  Take out a calendar and consider when you could open up a bit of time.  Could you wake up a little earlier on Friday morning to listen to On Being and paint your nails?  Could you stay a half-hour later at your desk on Tuesdays so you can read up on investments?  Would your hilarious friend be open to meeting for a Thursday walk + smoothie during lunch?  

Schedule those three activities in and hold yourself to it for one week.  If you do all three, reward yourself (bubble baths and books of poetry are great rewards) and then try it again next week.  If it doesn’t work, try again next week with two activities, or even just one.  

Remember that change is stimulating and we must go slowly, even when changing our habits in positive ways.  A little change can go a long way, because not only will you reap the benefits of said change, but you will also create the identity of someone who is capable of shifting patterns and caring authentically for yourself.

With a little consistency, you will change the course of your life.  It won’t be immediate, but some day you will look around and see things differently.  You may discover that you now love the thing that you used to dread (believe it or not, I actually like looking through my finances now) or have become better at allowing joyful moments into your week.  

Before you know it, you might even discover that you actually love Wednesdays.