Self Care Practices for Summer

Summer evokes a different vision for everyone. My mind immediately travels to days on the water at Lake Tahoe, sweaty/dirty backpacking trips in Washington's national forests, sunset picnics with a bottle of Rose at Greenlake and days last until 10 pm. It's my absolute favorite time of the year and the season I am perpetually waiting for. But one of the challenges I face during summer is staying present. Summer weekends are booked out in spring so as soon as the weather get's nice, it's go, go, go.  

The former years of non-stop action have demonstrated the importance of prioritizing intentional downtime, and scheduling less to move through the season slower. Below I've outlined a few self-care ideas that focus on doing less, nourishing the body with rest and spending as much time outdoors as possible. 

Self-Care for the Mind

  1. Avoid over-scheduling: This one is tough because everything in summer - backpacking, camping, sailing, road trips - sounds really fun! I tend to say “yes” to too many events and then feel overwhelmed with back to back engagements an no time to recenter. One way to avoid over-scheduling is to print out a calendar for the summer months and pencil in all the events you've planned or RSVP'ed to. (*I prefer print over digital so I can see everything at once without having to click into each date). 
  2. Unleash your inner kid: Let go of the put together, responsible adult exterior and have some fun. PLAY, be spontaneous, let loose, make-believe, built a fort, dance, encourage creativity, and let yourself dream. 

3. Get lost in summer adventure reads:  Hopefully you have a vacation, or at least a few more hours in the day to relax with a good book in your hands. If you live in Seattle, I suggest starting at your public library and seeking out "peak picks".These are best-selling and in-demand books that are immediately available for checkout at all locations. A thrift store is also a great place to source cheap books and you're being environmentally responsible! Win-win. 

 Absorbing Vitamin D, Somewhere in Arizona | photo  @howsheviewsit

Absorbing Vitamin D, Somewhere in Arizona | photo @howsheviewsit

Self-Care for the Body

1. Soak Up the Sun:  Vitamin D is an essential nutrient we obtain from sun exposure that helps our bodies absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Sunlight also helps promote the production of serotonin, that feel-good mood chemical in your brain. Which is why days at the beach feel oh so goooood. Unless you burn your skin. So don't forget to protect yourself with sunscreen. 

Non-toxic Sunscreen Suggestions: Raw Elements, Babo Botanicals, All Good

2. Take a Siesta: Head to the park, hang up a hammock and get some shut-eye. A quick 20-25 minute power nap can be a game changer! An afternoon nap can help reenergize you, and make you more alert and efficient. Next afternoon you feel a lull in energy, reach for a pillow instead of the caffeine and see how you feel.  

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
— Henry James

Self-Care for the Soul

1.) Take Your Vacation:  An article published on Forbes last year reported that only 23% of American employees take their time off. And even when people utilize their vacation, over half report still working while away from the office. There is a lot of fear and guilt around taking time off, but taking a break (a real break) benefits you and your employer. Vacations relieve stress, prevent burnout and typically make you more productive upon return. 

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.
— Carl Sagan

2.) Go Stargazing: Nothing quiet reminds you how big the universe is like lying in the dark and gazing at the stars. Research the moon phases before hand, and head out on a new moon night for the best visibility. 

 Camping underneath the stars- Sedona, AZ | photo  @howsheviewsit

Camping underneath the stars- Sedona, AZ | photo @howsheviewsit

3.) Dine alfresco:  Go outside, shed your shoes and enjoy a meal with friends in your backyard or at the park. Here are a few snack ideas to bring to a gathering. 

Your turn! What self-care practices are you engaging in? Or, what's holding you back from self-care. Leave your questions or comments below. 

How To Turn Around An Unproductive Day

We've all had those days where we gaze despairingly at the clock, waiting for work to be over so we can start fresh tomorrow.

I've definitely been there. As someone who relies heavily on routine to stay productive and engaged, if I get off course, I have a hard time course-correcting. I can usually pinpoint my ineffectiveness to distraction, trying to juggle too many things at once, or just good ol' creative burnout.

What unfolds from there is a self-destructive cycle— I feel bad about myself for being unfocused, which just further distracts me from what I need to be working on. Until recently, I've been of the mindset that I might as well call it a day and use tomorrow to REALLY kick ass.  

— Alexandra Franzen

A few weeks ago I listened to a "Being Boss" podcast titled  "Keeping Perspective with Alexandra Franzen (a writer based out of Portland, OR). Alexandra talked about about how to stay motivated as a creative, experimenting with online platforms, and learning from criticism and disappointment. My main takeaway from the episode was her simple motto: 

"Today is not over yet". 

Whatever the situation is - boredom, burnout, distraction or exhaustion - there are a few strategies to reclaim the day and end it on a worthwhile note. 

1. Prioritize the Important Tasks:

I LOVE lists. They keep me organized and on track. If you don't use a list (either written or digital) I highly suggest starting! Once you've made a list of what you need to accomplish, give each task a number 1-3. 1 represents high priority and 3 represents low priority. Separate your tasks and give your focus to the most important items at hand for the rest of the day. 

AVOID: Multi-tasking. Why? Research shows that switching from one task to the next takes a serious toll on productivity AND that by trying to complete many things at once, each individual task can take up to 40% longer. 

2. Remove Distractions:

My distractions come in the form of cleaning (which is really just my way to procrastinate), email, and social media. They are all huge time sucks and make me feel like I'm doing something, but it's not something productive. Maybe your distractions come in the form of slack, co-workers, or cute animal tube videos. Whatever it is that seeks to detour your focus, get rid of it. Here are a few ideas!

  • Turn your phone on airplane mode
  • Change your screen to grayscale (former design ethicist at Google Tristan Harris suggest enabling grayscale to combat phone addiction. It might not cure addiction completely but social apps are way less appealing in black and white). 
  • Wear headphones (even if you're not listening to music) while at work as a signal that you're not available 
  • Turn off notifications or set your status to "busy" on work chats like slack or G-chat
  • Don't have more than one or two tabs open at a time 
  • Use Toggl to track your time on tasks

3. Take a Break: 

At my previous job at a digital marketing agency, my energy levels always slumped around 2pm. To combat lethargy, a friend and I would schedule a walk to grab coffee around that time. We would take 30 minutes to catch up and talk about things outside of work, and the walk and caffeine helped wake my body up for a few more hours of work. A mid-day break from my computer is now a necessary component to break up the workday and give my brain a rest. 

4. Batch Tasks: 

If you're not working under a deadline and need to prioritize certain items for the day, try batch tasking. Batch tasking is the process of combining similar tasks into batches and then performing all the tasks in a batch in one sitting. Sounds easy right? You can batch task emails, phone calls, writing articles, or promotion. Let's take writing for example. The hardest part about writing is often just getting started, typing out those first few sentences, getting the s$it@y first draft out of the way, etc. For me, once I get going (sans distraction), I can find a flow state where momentum builds and words come easier. My quality of work improves as I keep going and I can usually bust out multiple articles in a day.

5. Be Kind To Yourself:

Sometimes our energy is off and we really can't seem to regain focus or clarity. That's ok.  If these strategies don't work and you just keep banging your head against the wall than stop and give yourself a break. If nothing is pressing (as in, absolutely HAVE TO get it done today) shut your computer down and listen to what your body and mind need. Take a mental health day to care for yourself and recharge.

Do you have different strategies to help you hit the reset button on an unproductive day? Let me know if the comments below.