Too Thrifty Chicks

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Food for Thought Friday: Reflections on Self-Care

Last week, Reese shared with all of you the process she went through for reclaiming her time, setting boundaries and she shared several things about the necessity of self-care. To see what she said was necessary in her self-care process read her post.

Self-care is something we value greatly at the Thrifty Palace and we don’t think people talk about it enough. Self-care is just what it sounds like. It means doing whatever it is that makes you feel loved, fulfilled and well cared for. For the Thrifty Chicks that means starting the day with some quiet time and taking more of that quiet time as needed throughout the day. When we skip that step, there is a 75 percent chance that the day is going to go off the rails.

Self-care for us also means not taking on too much — a very hard task. Reese is writing a dissertation; working a part-time job in Baltimore; one-half of this blogging operation; collaborating with partners in food justice around the country; the chief architect in the thrifty travels; and the first person on the life-line list of many of the people who love her dearly. I am an entrepreneur; freelance writer; the other half of this blogging duo and chief finance coordinator for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. We’re both also active in our church and always looking for opportunities to be active in our community. We’ve clearly got a lot on our plates. We have mile-long To-Do lists just like you.

But somewhere along the way we discovered that we can’t do it all and, in fact, we don’t want to do it all.  Sure we make lists, and then we break them into bite size portions so that they are more manageable and accomplishable. We ask ourselves, “What can be accomplished this week?” We even go so far to say, “What do I want to accomplish today?” The Huffington Post’s  12 Things Successful Women Do Differently has a really good point about the To-Do list and 11 other helpful ideas.

We live in a society that values busyness. If you don’t fill every waking second — at work or at play — with some THING, you aren’t doing this THING we call LIFE, right. You’re not productive. You’re not an asset. You’re not adding value to your life or the lives of others.

We beg to differ.

One of our favorite seasoned saints at our church, Ms. Carolyn A.,  gave some valuable words of wisdom to a young man who is headed off to conservatory this fall. Reese and I were fortunate enough to be around when she was sharing and were blessed mightily by what she had to say. I share this adaption of what she said with you in hopes that her points will bless you real good. Here is my adaptation of Ms. Carolyn’s prescription for success at conservatory (and in life):

1) Find allies for your success. It is an act of self-care to ask for help. Whether it is help with your children, your finances, your parents, your education — whatever situation, circumstance or relationship that is stressing you out and making you crazy — find some allies. Allies help you weather the storms of life. Allies give you breathing room. Allies make your life work. You need them. Stop pretending you don’t.

2) Be nice, but firm. If there is something you need don’t be dissuaded, or even talk yourself out of asking for it. Need time alone? Be nice, but firm. Need a minute to cool off? Be nice, but firm. Need to have a difficult heart-to-heart talk with someone? Be nice, but firm.  You see how this works?

3) Schedule your time. Some days 24 hours does not seem like enough time, but how many of us really think about how we spend our time? In “The Simple Living Handbook: Discover the Joy of a De-Cluttered Life,” author/blogger Lorilee Lippincott of lovingsimpleliving.com challenges readers to track how they spend their time. And if every second is jammed with stuff it is time to look for ways to simplify. Ms. Carolyn put it this way, “Schedule your time to sleep, to have fun, to study, etc.” Put you on your To-Do list and then don’t miss your appointments with yourself.

4) Know when to say “no.” This is another tough one, but it is the ultimate gateway to self-care. You are one person. The life that you are living right now is the only life you know that you have to give. If you believe in some form of reincarnation, would you want to come back to a life that is filled with demands? Do you want to come back to a life where every day you feel drained? Where you feel that everyone else’s needs come before yours? That is a recipe for resentment. Sometimes you need to say “no” to others and yourself. And if you’re a recovering “yes” addict, start by saying, “not now.” Not now to picking up the phone, when you don’t want to talk. Not now to answering email that can wait. Not now, when you are exhausted and can’t give your best.

There is one last self-care value at the Thrifty Palace and it’s pretty important: Make time to laugh and play. Silliness is a Too Thrifty Chick ministry. Seriously. We crack ourselves up constantly. Reese rollerblades even though she still can’t figure out how to stop because it makes her laugh. I dance across the kitchen floor in my socks like James Brown because I can’t help myself. We hang out with little kids because seeing life through a child’s eyes is the most fun you’ll ever have. We encourage you to make time for whatever you think is fun and makes you feel like a kid again. Laughter and fun is one of the best acts of self-care you can ever practice.

— Ricks


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Food for Thought Friday: Setting Boundaries

Last week, I had a semi-melt down at 7 o’clock in the morning. I’m lucky to have a roommate who just “gets it.” She saw it all over my face. I was tired. Probably nearly exhausted. I answered a phone call in the middle of the night from someone who was having an “emergency” and though the person felt much better after we talked, I felt awful. The nervous/angry/frustrated energy she had was transferred to me. I think I probably got an hour of sleep after that, and it showed. When I finally dragged myself out of bed to get ready for an hour-long drive to work and a day full of interviews, I was in tears. Ricks reached to give me a hug, and I was too done. It was that moment when I realized I really needed to evaluate the boundaries (or lack there of?) that I had in my life.  And that’s just what I did.

The next day, I sat down for a long, uninterrupted journaling session to think through the boundary setting process. A cramped hand and nearly two hours later, I had journaled my way through self-care and and reflected on my relationships. I identified five self-care things I need to do regularly:

  1. SLOW DOWN. This is probably the hardest but most necessary. I am not superwoman. I do not have super natural powers. I don’t always have to be busy. It’s ok to have nothing to do. It is not a privilege to slow down; it is a necessity.
  2. Turn off g-chat, turn my phone on silent when I can, and stop checking in with folks so much.
  3. Keep discovering things that I love and do them–with or without other people.
  4. Quiet time is a priority. This time for me might include journaling, meditating, reading, or just sitting but it is the time I take to commune with the universe. Doesn’t matter what I do or how it’s done, but it has to happen. Other stuff can wait.
  5. Let other folks do stuff. Period.

I also thought through the different relationships in my life and created categories to reflect their degrees of closeness to me. Starting with a circle with “ME” in the middle, I drew five circles around it, labeled them, and defined them:

Inner Circle: I know these people would do anything at the drop of a dime for me and would sacrifice for me. I’d do the same. They know my whole self as much as another person can, and they will always be honest with me. As far as I’m concerned, these are the only people who have near-unlimited access to me.  

Outer Inner Circle: There’s aren’t necessarily the first people I’d go to for help, but they absolutely have my back. They are close, but most of them know me in parts. Checking in with them regularly is a priority; regularly meaning 1-2 times a month at least. I might not always stop to pick up the phone when they call, but I will always call back.

Casual Friends/Family: These people show care and concern for me when I need it, but they don’t “know know” me, and I’m ok with that. Some of them bring “their stuff” to me regularly, and it can be a lot. I love these people and what they bring to my life, but this is probably the circle that takes most of my energy. I need to set more boundaries here and be conscious about my availability. Many of these people are closer to me than I am to them, and I don’t feel bad about that but I need to be mindful. At the very least, I need to check in with myself to and be honest if I can’t deal with communicating, because while the inner and outer inner circles understand how I communicate, sometimes these friends might not, and I don’t want any hurt feelings.

Acquaintances: I don’t mind knowing what’s going on in these people’s lives, but we aren’t close. No need to feel compelled to check in regularly, and if they contact me, I can handle that on a case by case basis. Let the spirit lead, but remember these people are not necessarily invested in my day to day life. They probably just need something and I get to decide if I can or want to meet that need.

Peripheral: These are the folks who contact me out of the blue for advice, info, connections, etc. They are not priorities. Period.

In some cases, I attached the names of people I talk to on a regular basis to those circles. What I found was really eye opening. I had been spending most of my energy/time on folks who weren’t even in the inner circles. I also realized that some of these relationships are draining because I wasn’t getting much in return. Not every relationship will be equally reciprocal, but it wasn’t until I did this exercise that I really sat down to think about my role in letting those relationships suck the life out of me.

Here is my truth: there are only 24 hours in the day. I had to make some changes to be a better steward of my time. I’m learning to say no unapologetically. I value my relationships, but I am no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself first.

I don’t typically believe in fixed categories, and this exercise for me wasn’t about banishing someone to the outer spaces of my life. It was about really thinking through how I want/need to spend my time and energy, and sadly, some of the people closest to me have been getting the short end of the stick because I was exhausting all my energy on things and people who could really do without prioritizing. There’s always room for intuition and judgement in the moment to decide how you want to handle a situation. But there should never be a time when you say “yes” so much to others’ needs that you have to say “no” to your own.

If you’re a person who is feeling drained, I encourage you to do this exercise or something like it. As you know from reading our blog, community is something very important to me and I know I sometimes take on a lot of responsibility for that. But the reality is if you are truly in community with others, they want the best for you. The people who love you will understand if you need to reshape your life to better serve yourself and the world around you. Give it a try. Take charge of your time and your life.

-Reese