Checking In On Yourself

”If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

Confucius

I’ve been focusing in on the importance of self-care and self-awareness lately, and one of the essential components of it is to know what you need and when you need it.

And it can be as complex as an elaborate checklist detailing all your physical and emotional parts (think something like a vehicle inspection), or it could be as simple as asking yourself “how is your heart?

As usual, I am writing this post as much for myself as I am writing it for you. I feel like our home and possessions are out of balance these days, so I need to take a moment to evaluate the root cause of that (I’m guessing that it’s overwhelming busyness).

Let’s take a look at what a middle-of-the-road self check-in might look like.

Check In On Yourself

Give yourself space

Commutes and random time spent waiting at a coffee shop for a friend are good times to do a quick alignment check, but to really dive in you should give yourself the time and space you need.

Grab a notebook (even if you don’t use it – am I the only one who thinks better when I have a notebook nearby?) and a beverage and set up camp in a comfortable space. Allow yourself the pleasure of an uninterrupted span of time (I’m going to go with 30 minutes).

A 3-point check up

You might want to add more or only focus on one of these at a time, but here’s a good place to start.

Emotional

This is where you ask yourself about the state of your heart. Are you feeling full and whole? Do you feel balanced, or are there things nagging at your gut that you haven’t fully addressed? Get in the habit of digging deeper to find what is truly at the heart of the matter.

Here is also the place to ask yourself about your relationships – with yourself and with others. Are you connecting in the way that you want to? Do you need another friend to fill a space you currently are missing, or do you need to say goodbye to someone who is detracting from your happiness?

Physical

This is the one I’ve been focusing on lately. It’s a different way of approaching your gut!

Is the beautiful machine that is your body functioning as it should? Are you aching or stiff from sitting all day? Are you pushing yourself too hard?

Many of us are too tough on our bodies, so approach this check-in with a lot of love and kindness for yourself. Don’t make it an opportunity for harsh self-criticism, focus on positive ways you can serve that already miraculous body of yours so it can serve you back.

Mental

Allowing yourself to stagnate is easy once you’re out of the structure of a school. Here is where you ask yourself what you’ve learned lately. What are you excited about learning? Do you currently have projects that you are passionate about and motivated to work on?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford

Now is also the time to ask yourself about your current goals. What is guiding you right now? Is it a solid guiding principal or is it a vague direction? Whatever your answer to that question should be followed up with this: is that how I want it to be?

Ask yourself why

After each check-in, ask yourself why you feel that way. Filtering your grievances through a few layers of “whys” will help you discover the values behind them. Maybe the real reason your are frustrated with clutter in your home is that you don’t find your space inspiring.

From there, evaluate if there’s a way to address the issue. Search for other spaces that you feel are more inspiring, or seek out ways to create a truly inspiring home from what you already have.

This is the most important part – if you’ve had headaches lately, don’t just stop at that. Find out if it’s caffeine or sugar or stress and then actively seek answers.

A quick gratitude warm-down

Warm downs are important when you’re exercising, and I don’t see this as any different. Bring yourself back from the check-in by listing five things you are grateful for right now.

Just like with each check-in, ask yourself why you are grateful for these things. Reflecting on what you are grateful for (and, in my opinion, why you are) makes for a happy brain.

Simple living and intentional living are one and the same: you can’t have a simple life without knowing yourself and knowing the intentions that drive you.

So what do you need to check in on today?

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Practicing Gratitude Even When Times are Tough

The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them. -Unknown

To all of my friends, coworkers, acquaintances who are going through a rough time: it does, undoubtedly, get better. Although it seems counter-intuitive, now more than ever you should seek to be grateful for something.

Be grateful for your loved ones, your pets, your health, whatever it takes–and you’ll make it through. I think that focusing on moving forward is the best thing you can possibly do. Don’t dwell. I had a massive reality check a couple of months ago:

Rory and Niels

Rorschach and Niels (the black bunny), who is now almost 100% recovered

I was sitting in the waiting room at the vet, preparing to hear the news about Niels, my little mini lop bunny. He’d been having trouble walking for a few weeks, and a few hours after I dropped him off at the vet, they called and gave me a quick update: my sweet, precious, fluffy, beautiful boy had a broken back. I was devastated, and unprepared to say goodbye.

As I waited to see him, a woman came in to drop off her dogs to be boarded for the week. She explained to the receptionist (who knew her and her dogs well) that she was in a hurry to catch a plane. The woman said a tearful goodbye to her dogs, who clearly meant the world to her. She turned to the receptionist and said:

“I have to go to Florida to say goodbye to my dad. We’re taking him off life support this weekend. He’s dying.”

I was crushed. Here I was worried about a small rabbit. I begin to think about how irreplaceable my father is. I took a few deep breaths and told my boyfriend, it could be worse. My human family is alive and well.

When times are tough, it may be hard to focus on the positives. But find one thing, anything that will help you keep your head held high.

*As a note, Niels was prescribed rest since his spinal cord was not harmed. Now, a little over two months later, he is hopping and playing almost at his normal capacity. I couldn’t be more proud of my little miracle bunny.

Today is a Good Day

I found myself saying this to myself jokingly one day. I laughed as I said “I had 2 cups of coffee today. Today is a good day.” (2 cups is a regular occurrence. There was nothing special about it.)

Then, I said it to myself the next day. And the next. Finally, I found myself saying it after truly meaningful, small things that I was grateful for. If everything else goes wrong today, I’d say to myself, at least this one thing went really, really well. 

Today is a good day.

Start by saying it right now. Don’t add qualifiers or exceptions. Find at least one happy instance to center it around, and be grateful for it. Too often we focus on the negatives and get caught up in a snowball of increasingly pitiful statements.

A positive frame of mind does wonders for your health, productivity, and longevity. It’s contagious. It’s invigorating. Reduce your complaints. Minimize negative thoughts. Try it–I think you’ll like it.

Today is a Good Day

The Victim Mentality

“A new job happened to me, and it turns out to be great–through no fault of my own.” This sounds ridiculous, right? But let’s turn the tables a bit: “A bunch of student debt happened to me, and it’s crushing–through no fault of my own.”

It doesn’t sound as absurd when you put it in the negative context, because it’s easier to passive when it comes to negative things like underemployment, debt, obesity, you name it. Often, we are active participants in the negative things or events we consider ourselves victims too–just as we are active in making moves in our own life. Note how I say often instead of always. It’s up to you to be honest with yourself and differentiate the self-inflicted woes and the ones that are beyond our control.

But back to the point. Let’s take a look at how you can start viewing things a little more positively. I understand that college tuition can be ungodly expensive and the debt it incurs can be crushing–I have a nice chunk of student loans myself. But instead of viewing it as punishment, look back at what those student loans got you. Here’s my list:

  • Opportunities to meet fantastic people that helped shape me and form my perspectives
  • Extracurricular activities at every turn that–you guessed it–helped shape me and form my leadership skills
  • Internships that led me to inspiring people, discovering professions, and that helped reinforce my interest in entrepreneurship
  • A place to live and study–I was able to live on my own for a year during college, and I learned how to be self-sufficient, manage my social and academic worlds and save money where I could
  • Oh, yeah. An education! I certainly appreciate everything I’ve learned in college, but I do consider the other opportunities equally important parts of the investment

Did you just get an education? Did you just take classes and scrape by? What kind of personal benefits have you gained from your studies?

What I’m really getting at is that bad things don’t just happen. You didn’t sit idly by while the government sucked money out of your meager bank account–hopefully you gained priceless experience and education. Don’t get in the rut of thinking all that debt is for naught. That’s a vicious mindset to be in that can easily suck the energy and happiness out of your life.

This victim mentality hurts your productivity and places strain on your relationships. If you find yourself always complaining, or always unhappy,  you may be stuck in this mindset. Kick yourself into gear by writing a list of things you are grateful for, seeking to positively compliment a friend and ask about their lives rather than vent about your own frustrations, or take some time each night before bed to congratulate yourself on your successes and admit your mistakes for the day. I even find it helpful to analyze what opportunities I have to succeed tomorrow, and what could possibly go wrong (and how to prevent it!)

Start valuing yourself and your actions. Own up to your mistakes, and learn from them! If something goes wrong, don’t immediately start to whine and complain that bad things always happen to you. It’s a frame of mind, my friend, and nothing more.