I love lists…to-do lists, how to lists, self-care lists, ‘want to do’ lists… One of my best friends makes jokes about how I love a good list, and it’s true! I am a recovering control freak and lists help my mind feel calmer and more organized.
In the last year, I have noticed that lists do not mean anything if we cannot carry out what is on the list. A to-do list is great, but meaningless if I don’t have the energy to complete the things on it. A to-do list for my vacation will not ensure that I have a great holiday – I need to work on having the courage to do things and courage to be in the moment to truly enjoy it. I don’t want to live by lists, but sometimes having a self-care list as a guideline helps me to do the things that help me feel better.
I don’t buy into the self-care lists on Pinterest…
I’ve been spending time on Pinterest, which is filled with beautiful and inspiring self-care lists and must-dos for mental health. What these lists never mention, is how difficult it is to implement what is included. It sounds like a great idea to start a daily meditation practice! But this takes consistency, patience (in my case heaps of it) and learning to listen to your body. Following a daily work-out plan, also a great idea! However, if you’re struggling with mental health or a chronical illness, forcing a workout because it’s on your list is not necessarily going to help you feel better.
I think these beautiful lists sometimes can create an unrealistic view of how self-care is supposed to look like. However, I do think that sometimes having an inventory to fall back on helps me practice self-care when I need it most. And having these organized in a nice list does make me feel better (I am a list lover after all 😉). So how do I create a list which aids in my self-care, instead of creating self imposed pressure?
A podcast I regularly listen to is ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin‘, and she mentions that it’s good to have actionable lists with things you can check-off. This gives a feeling of fulfillment, accomplishment and shows you’ve made progress. This applies to all sort of lists, including new years resolutions. (Read more about my favorite wellness podcasts here, and other podcast recommendations here).
I have started to take this approach when making self-care lists: short, actionable and simple. This allows me to take into consideration how much energy I have. So in tough weeks, it might be as simple as ‘listen to your favorite podcast’, and in better weeks ‘re-organize your wardrobe for fall’. It may not sound as glamorous as most lists on Pinterest, but I believe such lists help me to focus on what is needed, not only what looks good.
Putting Gretchen Rubin’s advice into practice
As practice and an example, this was my self-care list for two weeks ago:
- Go to the gym on Wednesday evening (I found a new regular gym!)
- Listen to the new episode of My Favorite Murder podcast on Thursday #SSDGM!
- Fold away laundry on Saturday morning
- Facetime *specific* friend to catch-up!
- Make the hospital appointment I’ve been putting off
- Keep Sunday free for self-care Sunday
It may seem like a small difference, but I feel this approach works much better for me. Because it is actionable (specific vs. general list) I usually feel I have accomplished something. Best of all, it shows me that I actually do more to take care of my mental health than I realized. For someone that is quite hard on themselves, this was a great insight to have! Gretchen Rubin also recommends keeping a ta-da list, with all that you have been able to do – read more of her recommendations here!
So Flávia, are you sticking to your A-type self-care lists making ways?
Actually, the last two years have helped me become a lot more relaxed. More go with the flow, versus planning it all out. Sometimes it’s a little too extreme – like missing my flight back from Tokyo! I have stopped making lists for most things. And being very honest, it sometimes makes me nervous. It makes me feel I have less grip on my life. This feeling makes me want to smack myself in the face! This is the point, you silly person 🤦! The point for me (and I’m really only talking about myself here), is to stop tracking how many points I’m ‘scoring’ and to live from my feelings and intuition.
I have now curated what I call a ‘self-care basket’, a variety of actionable, specific to-do’s that help me maintain a good self-care routine and check in with myself regularly. I will admit I have stopped with all other trackers and lists. These helped me keep an eye on my mental health when it was very bad. Then, I would sometimes forget when the last time was that I had gone outside and needed a reminder to go for a walk. Now, I try to live in the moment as much as possible and have regular natural check-in moments. This is, for now at least, what works best for me and my health (physical, mental and spiritual).
The irony isn’t lost on me that this will be another self-care list on Pinterest…but hopefully a more realistic and most importantly: a personal one 😉.
If keeping a list of your self-care best practices might help you as well, why not try it for a while? Be kind to yourself though, don’t make it overly ambitious or focus only on what would be ‘Pinterest worthy’ self-care.
I’ve included an illustration of what is in my self-care basket below. I would love to hear what is in yours!
Ps. I hope it’s clear that the main image for this blog post is not me! Sometimes it’s just hard to find a beautiful photo that matches the subject exactly….and done > perfect 😉