Just a journey… towards a daily routine

The upheaval of 2020 as we all tried to navigate and survive, may have upended any routines that you had.
Maybe you changed some of your routines, maybe let some go… or, added new ones. Or just tried to take each day as it comes.

When I’m well, and life isn’t throwing curveballs at me, I have some semblance of a routine that has room for flexibility.

I like to think of a routine as a familiar series of actions or activities that are completed on a regular or consistent schedule. However, sometimes that term and its definition feels restrictive, monotonous and like a chore.

When my depression sinks in, one of the first things to deteriorate is my self-care. That way I feel worse, and the depression can really get a hold.

Prior to Covid-19 being a challenge, the second half of 2019 was rough for me, which didn’t give me much energy or resources to deal with 2020.

The highlight of 2019 was that I had finally been able to book flights in October 2019 to fly to the USA in May of 2020 to visit numerous locations and enjoy a month’s holiday meeting friends. Before it became a definite cancellation, I booked an appointment at the beginning of March 2020 with my hairdresser for a permanent curl. I’ve had perms before and loved them! My hair has a natural wave to it, and the curl gives me a nice hair style that’s low maintenance, rather than having to tame my awkward thick wavy hair. The outcome was fantastic, and I’ve cared for the curls well, so much so that when I wash my hair and use a bit of curling cream and mouse with hold, they still look lovely as they have slowly dropped. March is also my birthday month, so it was lovely to start with a very nice pamper session of which I am still enjoying the results!

The heartbreak when the reality set in that the trip I had dreamed of wasn’t going to happen pushed me into a very weird mental space. I grieved that trip by imagining where I would have been on the actual dates, and by having a video call with a few of the friends I was no longer able to visit. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a refund for the flights, however the saving grace there was that when I purchased them they were deeply discounted, so it’s not as bad as it could have been. The “value” of the tickets is in a credit hold and there was a recent January 2021 announcement that they are extending the timeframe that the credit can be claimed… however I’m not going to hold my breath. If it works out – that’ll be awesome.

Also I count my blessings everyday that New Zealand has fared well all things considered. I do not take the freedom lightly, and ensure I take all precautions when I am out and about.

In terms of my physical health, I suffer from migraines and for unknown reasons they amplified in frequency and intensity at the beginning of 2020. My doctor prescribed a course of medication that did more harm than good, (Topiramate – numbness, at one point the side effects were similar to Bells Palsy, I experienced brain fog and short term memory loss, I also still suffered from violent migraines… it was a nightmare), and despite my migraines not being reduced it was a huge relief to stop taking the meds and thankfully regain sensation in my face and hands and clarity of mind. After our lockdown here lifted my migraines were still rampant, and a friend offered to come with me to get my daith pierced which some say helps alleviate or at least reduce migraines. It’s a “results may vary” option, and a risk. I had got to the point where I was happy with the aesthetic and was willing to risk the piercing and commit to the long term care of it in order to try something that just might help. I had a migraine on the morning I went and got my right daith pierced (that was the side of my head most of my migraines had been on). And as the day progressed it melted away. I have not had as many migraines since that day. It seemed to break the cycle, their frequency and duration decreased. I have had one or two migraines in the past 7 months since the piercing, but they have been a lot less violent than any I have previously endured!

With all of the above, and work, and my personal life, I decided I needed to really work on my self-care. Content creation went on the back burner, and social media has never been my forte and doesn’t nourish me. I also realised I had to keep my self care as minimal as possible so that it didn’t encroach on my day and make me rush the process or resent it. It had to be something that required very little commitment in terms of other resources. And it had to help with my main issue which is depression.

Back in 2017 I created a set of 7 activities to be completed over 7 days and called it the 7 Days of Sunshine Challenge. Those things are usually lead magnets – to acquire people’s email addresses to then send them future marketing spam. However, as I was developing my ideas for Sunshine & PowerCuts, I was on a mastermind call with one of my favourite influencers and entrepreneurs when another participant made a suggestion. She asked “What would you do to help yourself with your mental health? What would a day in the life of Heather look like?” The idea was so natural, but I had obviously missed it, and having it suggested gave me really great clarity. It was incredibly easy to create the set of activities. I literally looked at my day and what I do when I know I need to check in with myself and get back on track. An automated email series also made the most sense for delivery, because then I was available to respond to people who participated if they wanted to connect, but could otherwise leave them be. I have not used it as a lead magnet, and if you signed up for it today, you won’t get anything beyond the final email once the 7 days have finished.

I used the 7 Days of Sunshine Challenge as the foundation for the first 7 Sunshine episodes of the Sunshine & PowerCuts podcast (the podcast which was never intended to be my main focus). Though nervous to be making and sharing something as personal as that, those first 7 Sunshine episodes are ones I am most proud of, and also the Ebb & Flow episode.

7 Days might sound like too many, or not enough. There’s so much out there online about the “right number” of days to change habits. But my idea was simple – 7 days is one week. I look at weather forecasts for the week ahead. The longer range forecasts are slightly less accurate (and really, even tomorrow might not turn out quite as it was forecasted today). And 7 days is just a start. But the essential elements of the 7 days of Sunshine challenge are made to be rinsed and repeated.

Sometime in 2019 I came across a “365 journal“. The pages are blank, save for a large number in the top corner. Obviously, 365 of the pages are numbered, but several more remain completely blank at the end of the book. The first page on my first 365 journal was daunting. I like structure, and the freedom of a blank page was overwhelming. So I literally used that as my first line to break the ice.

I didn’t manage to complete that first journal in 365 consecutive days. But what I did learn was that having the space to record whatever I wanted, however I wanted to, and when I was able to use it regularly it had such a deep and positive impact on my perspective and focus. I used the essence of the 7 days of Sunshine Challenge to help give me direction when the words weren’t spilling on to the page.

With the anxiety and stresses of 2019 and 2020, I decided that I needed to reclaim control over one thing that I actually have control over – what I do to look after myself.

Before this new year began I made a commitment. I bought a brand new 365 journal and on January 1st, 2021 began the journey to make an entry each day. As January draws to a close, I’m up to page 31 as planned. Sometimes it’s the first thing I do in the cool & quiet of the morning…. sometimes the days are busy and it’s the last thing I do before turning off the light to sleep. I might find a moment while having lunch…. it doesn’t matter when or what I fill the page with, I’m always left feeling lighter after my pen leaves the paper.

I also have a separate “Gratitude Journal” which has a predefined structure. There’s a place for the date up top. Next, one line for what you will let go of. Then many lines to record all the things you are grateful for. Lastly, 4 lines that are numbered to record what you’ll now focus on. It’s simple, it’s quick to complete and it works. I LOVE that it begins with what you will let go of. It addresses right up top that life isn’t always peachy, there might be something bothering you. Honesty is the best policy, even though it’s hard to admit and face. The much larger space for all the things you are grateful for is awesome – you don’t have room to dwell on the stuff that’s holding you back. And even though this section might be hard to fill til you get into the groove of opening up to notice all the things you are grateful for, the focus is on the good. Then, directing that goodness into focus of what to do next is a great motivator to move forward. And the moving forward is the key.

Not everyone is into journaling, or gratitude exercises. The 365 journal is the only activity I have committed to doing every day. So I’ve already missed a few days in between my Gratitude journal entries.. But the key is that I am not berating myself for the inconsistent use of it. I am really good at berating myself. So it’s easy to fall into the trap. But logically I know it doesn’t do any good. And I managed to get to a stage of acceptance; I accepted that the journals are tools to use when I need them, not a requirement that determines my success, value or worth. I also find that the best thing is to find something that you like or find helpful, and it might take trying lots of different things to discover what the good ones for you might be. That journey can suck. But depression in particular can be a cycle, so trying to do something positive will help you move forward.

Sometimes I re-read my entries. Some of them I don’t need to revisit, the page served it’s purpose on the day – I made time for myself.
That’s all any self care activity is meant to be.

I have other self care things that I enjoy, to share in another post. I just wanted to share the journey of how I got to the commitment to my self-care by making one journal entry per day for 365 days consecutively over the course of 2021.

And though it might be difficult, just a little bit of time for you, makes a difference.

Just Heather x