Little, Big Things
Work. Family. Social. Fitness. Sanity.
These are all things that we’re trying to balance on a daily basis, and it can be overwhelming -- especially when we fall into unhealthy routines. I remember every morning started out with a trip for coffee and a protein bar at Wawa (the best gas station around, period). Solid, right?
Moreover, the stories that we tell ourselves don’t help:
I’m not going to say anyone’s day is more stressful than another’s, but I can say that the root of all this kind of stress lies in what kind of stories we tell ourselves. With stories like those listed above, we deny ourselves any comforts because of time, obligations, and most pointedly a lack of respect for our well-being. While our responsibilities are important to varying degrees, they shouldn’t override self-care. In the fast paced times that we live in, this means not compromising on the little pleasures in life that make a big difference to our well-being over time. So how does that work when there’s so much to accomplish in a day? It starts with gratitude.
There are a ton of videos, articles, and people that will provide the “best” strategy for your most productive day and that’s how you’ll feel better. Many of them say that you need block off specific times of your day to make sure that you can get in all that you want. I don’t disagree that giving structure to your day won’t help. However, I have rarely been able to maintain a productive routine like I want: wake up early, gym, read, make a healthy breakfast, and shower all before work. To be fair, some effort toward time management will help, but what I have found that can fit into any schedule is gratitude, which only requires two steps:
What does this look like in action? It depends on what you like. For me, it means rather than making just pasta and tomato sauce, I add three kinds of vegetables, a protein source, and garlic bread. Or it means rather than relying on ceiling lights, I open my curtains to let in natural light and see my backyard. These little pleasures are easy to overlook and say there’s not enough time for, but they remind us of our value and what to appreciate. Going through the extra work to add vegetables, grilled chicken, and garlic bread reminds me that I can treat myself to a nice meal just like treating a guest. Opening the curtains reminds me to be thankful that I reached my goal to move out of an apartment. And it all starts with acknowledging what was giving me small joys.
Photo thanks to Mali Maeder
That sounds easy, right? Well, it depends on how attentive you are to the present moment. With everything going on in life, it’s hard not to cycle through endless mental checklists and conversations. However, adding little check-ins with yourself into your day will help. Just like you would ask a partner, family member, or friend, ask yourself how are you feeling? Whatever the emotion, you can ask yourself this important question: what can I do about it?
If you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself what can I do to alleviate some stress? If that means going for a walk, calling a close friend, or having a cup of tea, then this should rise to the top three on your priority list for the day. When you take that time to invest a little joy into your day, it’s energizing and can give you the pick-me-up needed.
If you’re feeling happy in the moment, ask yourself what’s the root of this happiness? The answer will show you how to replicate it in the future. One of the smallest pleasure that I get when I feel groggy at work is going for a walk outside just to notice the breeze blowing through the trees. I only recognized this about myself when I consciously asked, “Really why am I feeling better in this moment?”
In the end, we all have tasks to do, goals to achieve, people to see. That’s a given. Another given is that we may not always have control over our schedule, especially if we’re on vacation or experiencing a shift in life events. What we can control is taking a few moments to be grateful. Go treat yo’self. You earn it every day.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.