Are you in need of self-care and don't know where to start? Feeling fatigue, burn-out, and stress may be a sign that you need to schedule a little TLC time for yourself. But how do you find time to squeeze it in?
The next time you have a day off or even just a large chunk of hours to yourself, I highly recommend this practice. Go through your day saying, "what is the BEST thing that I could do next?" This is not to be confused with the "next best thing" as in the second best thing you could do. No, what is the very best, absolute most exciting thing that you can do in this moment? It might be as simple as treating yourself to a fancy coffee drink and a home-made scone, or as indulgent as scheduling a massage or taking an unplanned road trip.
Un-scheduling yourself, even for just a few hours, can gift you with a sense of freedom, joy, and ease.
Step 1: Un-schedule yourself for at least 4 hours, preferably a full 8-hour work day, if you can manage it.
By unscheduled, I mean, truly no plans, not even a coffee date or your weekly yoga class. If you have kids, perhaps you can do this while they're in school or in daycare for a few hours. Completely clear your calendar in order to truly live this day by choice -- not what you should do or need to do -- but what do you truly want to do next. It may be that you really do want to shake your booty at your regular Zumba class or even to leisurely stroll down the cereal aisle of your grocery store. That is perfectly fine, as long as your investing in those activities completely from choice in the given moment.
Step 2: Throughout this day, ask yourself, "What is the absolute BEST thing that I could do next?"
Let yourself be still for a few breaths, and listen for your truest inner voice. This practice helps you to begin to discern the voice of reason and appropriateness from the voice of your inner desire. Your ego will likely want to chime in here with tasks that you should do or need to do or feel obligated to do. The ego voice is usually very whiny and sometimes down right mean. I really should wait in line at the post office for hours on this beautiful day. Or even worse, You are such a bad mom for being so self-indulgent.
Instead, listen for the quiet whisper of your true self, it's much less wordy. Your true voice often sounds like just a few words of encouragement, like you can do this, or the spa needs you! Your BEST thing next might sound too simple, like to sleep in for 45 more minutes, or too ridiculous, like eat a chocolate AND a bacon donut for breakfast. Listen for what your highest excitement would be in this moment, refraining from all judgment.
Step 3: Indulge.
Spend an hour coloring in a zen coloring book. Lounge luxuriously in the grass in a public park. Snuggle up on the couch with a good book in your pajamas. If your BEST thing next makes you giggle with excitement or naughtiness, then chances are, that you have made the right choice. Savor every moment of your choice. Put down your phone. Use your senses. What does this experience smell, sound, taste, and feel like? Where do you feel sensations in your body? When you feel complete with your activity. Get very quiet, and ask yourself, "okay, what is the absolute BEST thing that I could do next?"
Now some of you more mischievous readers may think that I'm advocating for naughty behavior. For example, you may want to flirt with your very attractive, very married next-door neighbor. Acting in a way that may cause harm to another person is not a way of tapping into your authentic self. Instead, that is just a way of creating more drama, distraction, and distress in your life. The true learning from this practice is to tap into what it is you truly need and want in a given moment. You are not going to turn into a selfish narcissist by doing this practice for a few hours or even for one whole day. Likely, you will feel so filled up by practicing self-care that you will have unusual amounts of energy to give and help others in your life.
A Day in the Life
The last time I practiced the BEST thing next, my day looked like this:
I woke up, had an espresso, went to yoga, treated myself to a breakfast burrito (full of gluten!), received a massage, bought myself a cute shirt (at a consignment store, but still...), talked to a family member on the phone for longer than usual, and read a book in a chaise lounge on my deck.
None of these activities were particularly lavish or extreme. However, each moment was my highest excitement, exactly what I wanted to do in the moment. By being deliberate about how I went about my day, each decision brought a certain amount of importance to the task. Bringing my full presence, using all of my senses, to each task created a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the life I get to live each day. When we are truly living a mindful life, with open curiosity, we open the door to possibility and joy.