I am feeling fully recharged today. If those words trigger you with jealousy, I don’t take it personally, but maybe you should. It might motivate you to prioritize your self-care. I’m not just talking about taking a five- or ten-minute break. While that’s helpful, I’m talking about something more significant. And what could be more significant than carving out time to prioritize your personal ambitions and well-being?
Taking a step back, I’d first like to share why I feel so recharged. All things considered, it doesn’t logically make sense for me to feel this way. For months, I’d been dragging with the heaviness of the pandemic. It’s been nearly a year since beginning to limit contact with others to protect my husband’s health as he has an underlying condition. As a homebody by nature, I’m always in my element to live low-key, but this past year taught me that community is necessary and so is in-person interaction with friends and family. My normal turned into something of a pandemic house-arrest.
There have been days where I’ve teared up just watching a music video that had crowds of people together enjoying a concert and living normal pre-pandemic lives. What surprised me most was that I was somber not just for myself, but for everyone who’s been robbed of life experiences. I think of those who weren’t able to say goodbye to loved ones dying in their hospital beds. I think of health care workers exhausting their energy limits and risking their lives to care for others. I think of parents who worry about their children (school age or young adults) who are either at home limiting their social activity or at school with higher risk of exposure to COVID. I think of my 17-year-old niece who may not get a high school graduation ceremony or party this year. I think about my father and stepmother who have been living in pandemic house-arrest like me also because of an underlying condition.
I had to feel all the heartbreaking emotions of loss to get through and past the melancholy emotions. It was really hard to face, but I did it. What came next wasn’t an immediate sense of happiness, but it was rather a sense of making the best of the life in front of me. So, I started on my immediate goals this year. I figured if I was still going to be living in a state of pandemic house-arrest, I may as well make the most of it and not squander my days away. At the beginning of 2021, I had made a list of three goals for this year on a post-it that I put on my bathroom mirror. Seeing it every day had put this at the forefront of my mind and helped me begin to establish habits to chip away at making progress.
I hadn’t realized how much this worked until I began experiencing pride and happiness because of my progress. One of the goals was to run twice a week (on my treadmill; I am living in a Minnesota winter after all and I’m not as tough as some winter triathletes like my in-laws who live in Ely, MN and hike in -20 temps). I’ve been keeping up this practice and it has influenced the sense of wanting to be healthier in other areas of my life, like consuming less sugar. I hadn’t realized that I was consuming four times the amount the average person could metabolize in a day. I encourage you to do some research on this. Between exercising frequently and consuming less sugar, I feel AMAZING! Who knew a healthy diet and regular exercise could make you feel so good…okay, besides doctors and scientists and a whole genre of books. I have a track-record of being someone who learns things the hard way; or rather, I learn things in my own time when I’m paying more attention. I tend to find these lessons stick better.
I have other goals I’m working on as well and some days I gain progress and some days I allow myself to experience much needed rest. It’s a balance. But that balance has shifted to allow me to feel a sense of purpose, health, and rejuvenation because I’m building new habits that keep my ambitions top of mind. In spite of the pandemic, this has brought me a lot of happiness. It also gives me a sense of grounding where I can digest what is happening outside my door.
So now I’m going to circle back to my initial question to you. What could be more significant than carving out time to prioritize your personal ambitions and well-being?
Here’s how you can get started:
Make a list of your goals this year (limiting it to just a few; two or three is always more realistic); put this list somewhere you’ll see every day.
When you first see this list upon rising each morning think about what action you’ll take today or this week to add to your progress. Chipping away by taking small steps can make the goal feel less overwhelming.
Continuing to see this list keeps the gears turning. If you keep adding action steps to your days, you’ll soon begin seeing new habits forming.
Take breaks along the way. You’ll know the signs your body gives you. Paying attention to them and prioritizing your self-care can keep your engines running when you need them most.
Let go of expectations of yourself and of others (especially if others are involved/impacted by your goals and action steps). Letting go of this can let the pieces fall into place and can allow you to have more fun along the way.
If you have a dream in your heart, you deserve to give your goals some attention. Breaking it down into realistic action steps every day allows you to get closer to your ambitions. The greatest side-effect is that you’ll feel recharged too.