The bare necessities



Okay, maybe that’s not exactly where I was going, but the levity is a perfect opener for tonight’s blog.

We’re in the process of starting a wellness program for our residents, and last Wednesday I met with several of our residents one-on-one to help them establish wellness goals for themselves.  I’m not sure that I’m entirely qualified to do this, other than I do know what has failed dismally for me in this realm, and I’ve previously confessed to having experienced full-fledged burnout at least twice during residency and once as faculty.  I suppose since I think I am getting it right more days than not, that makes me reasonably well qualified.  And since my biggest vices are designer shoes/ clothes and half marathons, an argument could be made that I have mostly functional coping mechanisms.  Confession:  This has not happened without a LOT of work and a LOT of introspection.

About 3 1/2 years ago, I was introduced to the work of Jennifer Louden and was particularly drawn to her concept of  “minimum requirements for self care.”  Her concept inspired me to make a list that I divided into multiple categories- daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.  The great part is that the list isn’t full of complicated things, at least not until you get to the monthly or yearly portions of it, and those lists are much shorter.  For example, the daily list:

  • Walk with Olivia Ann
  • Movement- workout, yoga, running, wiggling, whatever
  • Reflection- meditation, writing, prayer
  • 5+ fruits and veggies
  • 6+hours of sleep (this being the least-controllable when on call)
  • Time to just “be” with Olivia, Tucker, and Belle!

If you look at that list, it’s all pretty simple.  There’s nothing terribly time-consuming on it (the sleep doesn’t count on that basis), and they are simple, measurable things I was able to identify that help me stay at my best.  Even the weekly list isn’t onerous:

  • Dedicated time outdoors
  • 1:1 time with a friend
  • Reading fiction
  • Learning something, teaching something
  • Making music
  • Finishing something, starting something

Again, nothing that requires huge amounts of time, and all things that I know help keep my work choices and life choices at their best.

What I’ve been most proud of in the context of these lists is how little they have shifted over the last three years (meal planning has come off of the weekly list, bless you creators of Blue Apron), and how grounding it is to go find my list when things are completely hectic.  At core I’m not a list person-  much more of a visualizer- but in these lists there is some inherent comfort and that gentle reminder to have a salad or to just shut things down and go to bed because it’s what will help me the most.

And, of course, there are all of the things not on the list.  I’m the first person to admit a love for social media, but FB, Twitter, and Instagram aren’t on the list for the true basics of self-care.  Neither is Inbox Zero.  And by virtue of their absence I’m reminded what my priorities would be when it’s incredibly easy to forget them.

What are your bare necessities- your minimum requirements for self care?  And how can you put them to work for you? There’s your challenge as we move into Fall…I would love to know how it goes.