Busyness is “the state or condition of having a great deal to do”, and although it is the way I live my life too, it is energy depleting. Constant busyness fosters burnout across professions, cultures, and socioeconomic status. My mother, Joyce Robertson, was the busiest person I have ever known. She held down a full-time job, cared for my aging grandmother and maintained my childhood home like a boss. She had a huge garden and came to all of my activities in the days before helicopter parenting. If I took off a pair of socks on a Wednesday night, they would be washed, folded and back in my drawer on Thursday morning. If she was watching Wheel of Fortune on television, she would have a pan of peas from her own garden sitting in her lap which she was shelling. Being busy was expected in my home, which means essential, life-giving self-care does not come naturally to me. What about you?
I have had glimpses of healthy practices through the years, and I propose everyone periodically have a few days each season dedicated to self-care. Of course, living a life completely self-centered is empty and without the fullness service to others helps us transcend the smallness of our individual consciousness. Because we are, indeed, one in eight billion inhabitants on this cosmic roller coaster called earth. However, small practices to create a centered way of navigating life creates the energy necessary to love others well. As I often say to my divorce clients, one must put on their oxygen mask first if the plane is going down. It is also true one must have oxygen rich air every day to have a better experience in the often painful challenges of today. Everyone’s day of self-care will be very different for sure. We are snowflakes.
Just think about it. How much more energy and vitality could we experience if once a month, we took a day or even half a day devoted to caring for own body, spirit and mind? In hopes to make this a part of my life too, the following are my ideas, albeit very ambitious ones, about what a full day of self-care could look like if we are brave enough to take it.
A radical day of self-care requires preparation and planning. You need to make sure it is scheduled on your calendar weeks in advance. You will need the cooperation and approval of your romantic partner and coworkers. You may have to board the dogs and ask family, friends, or a paid helper to manage the schedules of your kids. Obviously, it is easier to do self-care on vacation or the weekend, but what I envision for a full day of self-care is one that could happen in your hometown on a random day of the week. As you will see from the ideas below, you may need to gather materials, make reservations and appointments as well as coordinate with the people who are going to share in your day. Do it early and make a commitment to yourself nothing will stand in the way of being intentional about filling your own cup –just for one day, now and again.
Coffee: Your full day of self-care starts at 5:00 a.m. Yes, 5:00 a.m. This day is about creating space for energy, vitality and renewal, so you are not going to want to be asleep when your energy level is completely full. To be up at 5:00 a.m., you need to get to bed early the night before. I take magnesium and melatonin every night to help me get ready for bed. When you arise and turn off the alarm, try to leave your phone on the nightstand for the first part of the morning, as it is simply too tempting to start looking at texts, emails and social media, which puts other people thoughts in your mind before you are even good and awake. Of course you are going to need your phone for certain activities and in case of an emergency, but to the extent possible, try to make your day as screen-free as you can.
Let’s start with coffee or tea.
Today, unlike the day before, you are not going to just drop a pod in the Keurig or Nespresso machine, you will instead savor the experience and ritual of the process. I am a coffee guy. On my full day of self-care, I will grind the beans of my favorite roast, boil filtered water in my wife’s teapot, scoop the black powder into my French press, and savor the aroma as I pour the hot water over the coffee grinds. As the liquid is being transformed, I will slowly heat one-part A2 milk and one part of a coconut almond blend before frothing the mixture using my electronic handheld foam maker. In the meantime, I will pause to be grateful for another day of breath and that first cup of life-giving caffeine. I love a great coffee, and I will take the blissful combination of coffee and foamed milk to the most comfortable chair in my house and savor the moments of silence and solitude before the sunrise. What about you…coffee or tea?
Meditation: Next on the list is ten minutes of meditation. I was introduced to the concept of meditation at a pandemic-shortened cohort I participated in with Suzanne Stabile, who many call the Godmother of the Enneagram. Her husband is Reverend Joseph Stabile, and he taught a comparatively short session on Centering or Contemplative Prayer. The basic idea is to find a quiet, comfortable place to spend time, close your eyes and clear your mind of thought for ten minutes, being intentional about noticing your own breath. The goal is to be fully present in the moment, and to listen rather than talk. This is not a time for deep pontification. The goal is to extend as little mental energy as possible, which, of course, I find next to impossible. If I need a little help focusing, I will use an application called InsightTimer, but there are dozens that are more popular. Reverend Stabile recommended InsightTimer mostly for its clock, but I have also enjoyed the “Check In” feature as well as the guided meditations. When you check in, you click a box about how you are feeling and then you are given twelve categories about why. After you decide why you feel the way you do, the user has about eight other options to give descriptive words for any other feelings one may be having. After you check in, there are suggested guided meditations. Some are a little weird, but some are very cool, with voices from around the globe, helping you concentrate on the art of being fully present.
Journaling: After clearing your mind with a morning meditation, next comes a page or two of journaling. A book I often recommend is The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. The book is now thirty years old and was written for artistic creative recovery and teaches techniques and exercises in gaining self-confidence in harnessing a person’s creative talents and skills. One of the essential exercises recommended by Cameron is morning journaling sessions she calls “Morning Pages.” Morning pages are essentially stream of consciousness journaling sessions, where your mind is emptied of its contents onto paper. The writing can be anything, but the goal is to purge the mind of burdening thoughts. This is not an opportunity to write your “to do” list. Worried about protecting your thoughts? Turn your morning pages into a letter to your attorney, creating a legally-protected private writing. Journaling is a great way to process trauma, and everyone has encountered circumstances, whether acute or over time, whether something really big or rather small, that overwhelms our coping mechanisms and leaves us different as we move forward in life. A universally accepted tool to help heal trauma is journaling, so get out your pen and paper and write until you fill at least one full page, single spaced.
Make Your Bed: It sounds trivial, but after coffee, meditation and journaling, spend five minutes and make your bed with fresh sheets. You will feel a small sense of accomplishment and regardless of the quality of your day, you will end it in the cover of fresh linens. Admiral William H. McRaven gave a famous college commencement address on this subject you can watch online if you are not one of the 16.8M and counting viewers who have already seen it.
Stretching: A few years ago, I went to a daddy-daughter retreat in Northern California with my oldest daughter. The camp, called J.H. Ranch, is a Christian relationship building camp, with lots of physical activities and outdoor challenges like ropes courses, hiking and often difficult two-person challenges. I have mixed feelings about the camp itself to be honest, but the participants were mostly amazing and truly seeking to enrich their parental relationships. There was a grandfather who brought his granddaughter. He was a tax lawyer with a desk job who rivaled the performance of men half his age in the various physical activities. As a divorce lawyer who also has a desk job, I wanted to know his secret. His answer was simple –He stretches an hour at night before he goes to bed. Every night. It was basic, practical and powerful advice from an elder who had walked the planet decades longer than me.
So now, after a slow start with coffee, meditation, journaling, and making your bed, accomplishing so much already, it’s time to move your body. In your advanced preparation, I suggest scheduling an early morning yoga class. Locally, check out M Theory. There are other options offered at local gyms. I am a 6’3”, 220-pound man who was a walk-on college baseball athlete almost 30 years ago. I had a gold chain and a pair of Oakley’s, but not a Camaro. I look stranger in a yoga class than most, but I feel confident however hesitant you may be, you have enough Lululemon in your closet to pull it off. Everyone feels better after a good stretch, and a good yoga instructor not only helps you move your body in strange but wonderful ways, she does a great job of helping to connect your mind, body and spirit through intentional breathing. I have been in classes where scripture or poetry was being read, and I have been in classes where I worked up more of a sweat than on a good run. If yoga pants and a public downward dog create anxiety for you, at least spend thirty minutes on the floor and go through a basic stretching routine. There are thousands of video tutorials online, but the basics from your elementary school physical education class will likely do the trick, especially if you are as inflexible as me.
Breakfast: After a great stretch, it’s time to eat. But let’s keep it lite. Today is about self-care, focus and freedom, not over-indulgence. My oldest daughter and I love to go to Primo’s and order the Early Bird –eggs over medium, well done bacon, hash browns and one chocolate chip pancake instead of bread. She gets the same thing, but she likes her eggs scrambled and she has white toast – which enables us both to have one slice of toast and a half pancake. Another pro tip if you are a coffee drinker, go half decaf in your morning coffee so you can drink more and talk longer.
While a Primo’s breakfast is certainly a great thing to add to a full day of self care, I am going to opt for something at home. Today, it is just a simple smoothie. I put a whole banana and a few frozen blueberries in a blender with two scoops of vegan chocolate protein powder. I throw in a dash of hemp seeds, a quarter handful of pistachios and a few tablespoons of chocolate chips. I then cover the concoction with a coconut water and blend until silky smooth. If I do not have a banana, I use avocado. You can use chia seeds in place of or in addition to hemp. Obviously, you can substitute any nut for the pistachios and any dairy or non-dairy liquids to create a drink. The combinations are endless. Right after my smoothie, I take a handful of vitamins, including Vitamin D, B12, a high quality omega as well as a multi-vitamin for men. Metagenics has great supplements you can buy locally at Uptown Pharmacy in Gluckstadt. I am also a big fan of CBD. I pick mine up in Ridgeland at Healthway Nutrition Center. Ask for John. He knows his stuff.
Cardio: Next on our list for this day of care is movement –which preferably takes place outside and in nature. I recently listened to a Rich Roll podcast episode where he interviewed a one-hundred-year-old man, Mike Fremont. Mr. Fremont credited his longevity to a healthy diet, daily movement and stress management. My friend, functional nurse practitioner and multi-time Ironman triathlete, Jackie Williams, explained to me a brisk 30-minute walk is the equivalent of taking a Xanax. Our podcast sponsor and fellow functional provider, Kelly Engelmann, agrees.
If you are not a pitcher, baseball does not require much cardiovascular training. When I was finished playing, I turned to running the hills in Oxford during law school for stress management. This habit carried on for a good two decades. Believe it or not, I was actually in the best shape of my life in my early forties, until a back injury and COVID set me way back, but that is a blog for another day. Anyway, a friend who was upgrading his road bike gave me a good deal, and to combat the amount of time I spend at a desk each day, I started to ride. If you think you might be interested in riding, check out The Bike Crossing in Ridgeland. Cycling evolved into triathlon training, and I loved it. My back does not allow me to run on hard surfaces very much anymore, so I ride my bike and swim. I love to be outside, and for me, swimming requires hyper-focus and hyper-presence. Cycling taps into the freedom I felt as a child when I would pedal my Redline racing bike all over South Jackson. Whatever your preferred choice of activity to increase your pulse and make you sweat, as long as it requires you to move your body and be outside, it will work. Get your heartrate up from anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes and you are guaranteed to feel better.
Cryotherapy: Emma, my younger daughter, is a serious athlete and an intense competitor. Unfortunately, she has suffered through some bigtime injuries. To help with her recovery, we were introduced to cryotherapy. There is a facility in Ridgeland called Core, which offers multiple wellness programs. Here is how it works. After you strip down to your underwear, you protect your hands and feet with gloves and boots. You then step into a tall cylinder called a cryosauna, which uses nitrogen gas to rapidly lower your skins surface temperature. The cryosauna temperature ranges between -238°F to -274°F for two to three minutes of treatment, but while it feels cold, you would never guess the temperature was that crazy low if you didn’t know ahead of time. You can read all about cryotherapy on Core’s website, but all I know is I feel remarkable when I get out and the entire process takes about ten minutes. For a next level experience, sign on for an oxygen treatment while using compression boots in one of their recliners. The boots provide dynamic compression therapy to speed your body’s recovery process, and they are super relaxing. The last time I used the compression boots, I fell asleep.
Snack: A person can burn significant calories after a cryotherapy session. After a full morning of activity, it is time for a snack. While I am not huge on snacks, I also know my body needs fuel to perform and for me to feel well. Nothing makes me feel better than a green drink. Place a whole avocado, a small bunch of spinach, a peeled apple, the inside of a kiwi, half of a thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger, the juice of a lime and a spoon full of good honey in a blender with ice and coconut water and blend into a smoothie. My friend Doctor Mike has amazing honey from his backyard hives in Fairhope. I wrote about his heirloom tomatoes some time back. He doesn’t sell his honey, but there are lots of local farmers who do. While eating local honey does not help with allergies, it tastes incredible. If a green smoothie is not for you, try some nuts and dried fruit, a fresh apple or any healthy and restorative whole food snack. Now, jump in the shower and get cleaned up before the next item on today’s agenda.
Therapy: I am personally resistant to therapy. I do not like to recognize feelings, much less talk about them. My direction of choice is forward, and I do not care to think much about about the past. Indeed, I am more of an internal processor as opposed to one who works things out with spoken words to another human. However, being a husband and father of teenage girls has slowly but essentially changed my perspective. Sometimes if you ignore feelings, you orbit around a problem instead of moving on through. If you are in life transition or dealing with a crisis, therapy is a must. It is so much better for you than medicating with a chemical (alcohol, drugs and food) or a process (shopping, gambling or sex) and it is cheaper and more beneficial than a legal professional to bail you out of the financial hole, relational mess or criminal act when stuck in an unhealthy pattern of behavior. Also, most licensed professional counselors who have a good practice take several forms of insurance, so your willingness is the only real barrier to mental health services. I personally think men should see men and women should see women, and your therapist should be at least your age or older. I am sure some therapist will read this and disagree, but they also may not see as much infidelity as I do, and many men simply cannot distinguish emotional connection from sex –full stop.
Lunch: My favorite people are funny, and laughing is amazing medicine. Healthy people laugh more than unhealthy people, and I unfortunately laugh way less in my 40’s than I did in my 20’s. For lunch, go to your favorite place where there are waiters and spend time with your funniest friend. Order something you already know you like, and let your funny friend entertain you with their exaggerated stories, impersonations, bathroom humor and/or whatever else cracks you up.
As you can see, a full day of self-care requires you to get out and get moving. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “There is no way your day of self-care starts at 5:00 a.m.” I understand. However, I do not want the idea of rest to be confused with my self-care proposal. We all need rest. Biblically it should happen every seventh day. This is an ambitious call for radical activity. There is a lot left to discuss, so be looking for Part 2 coming to a social media outlet near you.
Craig Robertson is the founder of Robertson + Easterling. For over 20 years, he has practiced exclusively high net worth divorce and complicated family law in Mississippi. You will want him in your corner because he is a competitor. He is practical, strategic, creative and while he is really bad at self-care, he is trying to practice it more frequently.