Days, weeks, months, years…
It all becomes a blur.
One day, we pause and wonder “Where did all the time go? What am I doing with my life? How did I end up here?”
We realize we’ve been operating in pure survival mode. Thriving? Ha! What does that even look like?
Don’t get me wrong. There are seasons of life where it takes everything we have simply to survive (like when Bethany was living with depression). I’ve been there. I know how exhausting it is to live that way.
But what if…. What if there was a way to move from “surviving” to “thriving”? What if there were a few simple shifts that could make a huge difference? What if we could fill our lives with more peace, more intention, more grace?
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few simple practices that have helped me leave “survival mode” behind and move toward a life of thriving. I want to share a few ideas, in hopes they might benefit you too because here at Kitchen Stewardship we’re all about baby steps towards a better life.
From Surviving to Thriving: Intentional Living and Self-care
For me, the key to “thriving” is two-fold: Making intentional choices and respecting my core needs (Self-care).
Intentional Living is a bit of a buzz word right now, but for me, it means making conscious, deliberate decisions ahead of time, instead of living life in “reactionary” mode. When we’re living in “reactionary” mode, we tend to make poor choices that will not benefit us in the long run. Intentional Living means taking some time to examine yourself and your reactions… and deciding if those reactions are helpful or harmful, then making changes to pursue better choices.
Self-care is another buzz word, and unfortunately, it can sound, well, selfish. But I assure you, learning more about yourself and how to meet your basic needs so that you can be a better mother/wife/employee/volunteer/partner is NOT selfish!
In fact, it might be the best thing you have ever done for your family. Taking time to analyze, assess and meet your basic core needs (for physical, mental and spiritual health) is a gift to your loved ones. Trust me. A person who meets their own needs first is filled with passion, energy and drive to bless others. Think of Self-care as “filling your cup” so you can pour yourself out to those in need. An empty cup is not capable of helping others.
For example, I know that I need more alone time than the average person. For years, I ignored that need and it turned me into an angry, resentful, irrational, impatient person (my poor family!). Life is SO MUCH better (for everyone!) now that I’ve acknowledged and met that need.
5 ways to Incorporate Intentional Living and Self-Care into your Life
1. Say “No”… So You Can Say “Yes” to What Really Matters.
This is such a simple concept… yet it requires intentional thought. Let me walk you through the process I used to determines my “No’s” and “Yes’s”.
A. Grab a sheet of paper and quickly write down at least 20 things that make you “come alive”
Things that make you feel like you’re in your “zone”, things that bring you deep joy and satisfaction (even though they may be hard things), things that make you feel like all is right in the world. Think back to your childhood, your teen/early adult years and the present. Don’t overthink or analyze your answers.
B. Once you are done, take some time to read the answers.
Do you see repeated words or phrases? Do you notice themes or values? Can you create 3-5 main “buckets” or “categories” that your answers fit into? Dig deep. Move past the surface level. Maybe enlist a friend or loved one to help you see better. For example, I discovered all the things that make me “come alive” fit into 3 categories:
- Intimacy (creating space for deep conversation and relationship – with God, my family, and my friends)
- Stewardship (caring for myself, my loved ones, creation, our resources, etc.)
- Observing Rhythms (celebrating seasons and milestones, creating family routines and traditions, etc.)
C. Make a list of 3-5 Life Values you see expressed (like I did above).
Under each category, jot down a few ways you can live out that value in your life, what it would look like for you to make that a priority. For example:
- Intimacy: Create time and space for daily devotions/prayer time, meet regularly with friends, set aside time each night to connect with kids, make time to for my husband and me to be alone
- Stewardship: Grow our own food and tend to our farm, make responsible choices with our money, care for our home and possessions, workout on a regular basis, go to bed on time, feed my family nourishing foods
- Observing Rhythms: Cook with seasonal foods, celebrate birthdays and holidays, Family Movie Night/Game Night, plan vacations/outdoor activities to celebrate the seasons
D. Post this list in a highly visible place and review it regularly.
Whenever you are faced with a choice or decision, you can ask yourself “Will this help me live my Life Values? Or is it going to keep me from pursuing my Life Values?”
Of course, there will be times in life when you HAVE to do certain things, but following this process will bring you AMAZING clarity and allow you to say “No”, so you can say “Yes” to what REALLY matters. You cannot do it all. You must choose.
2. Get Outside
Never underestimate the power of the outdoors to boost your mood and help you refocus. Be intentional about spending time outside each day, whether it’s going to a short walk or simply sitting on a bench for 5 minutes (and yes, I still do this every day, even in the winter. Bundle up!)
Take a deep breath. Listen and look. Observe. Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention.
Remove all distractions, like smartphones or iPods.
In a world of constant bells and whistles, distractions and hustle, taking 5 minutes to escape can feel radical. Be radical, friends! You won’t regret it.
3. Meditate or Pray
The practice of sitting in silent expectation and focusing your thoughts on one idea/concept is powerful…yet, it’s not always easy. Being still in our fast-paced culture can feel very uncomfortable at first, but the rewards are so precious. I cannot promise that your time each day will be epic and life-changing, but it WILL slowly and gradually change you.
I like to find a Bible verse or passage or song lyric to focus on. I started by setting a timer for 2 minutes and gradually working my way up to 15 minutes. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Sometimes, it helps to focus on breathing – I imagine breathing in God’s truth, goodness, and wisdom, allowing it to fill my body, then exhaling that truth, goodness, and wisdom back out into the world.
Your mind may wander… but that is ok. Every time you find yourself off track, redirect your thoughts back to the central verse/passage/idea.
Try to find a special place where you can be alone, even if it means leaving for work 10 minutes early so you can sit in your car in the parking lot at work! I often combine my Meditation time with my Outdoor time – it’s where I can focus best. Experiment to find your “special place”.
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4. Create Life-giving Rituals
On those hard days, it’s nice to know there is something to look forward to. Rituals are soothing and comforting and make us feel loved and appreciated.
Your rituals can be incredibly simple, such as:
- preparing a cup of tea in the afternoon
- morning coffee and devotions/reflection time
- lighting a candle at a certain time of day
- reading a book
- family game night/movie night
- meeting a friend for coffee
- a scheduled date night
- a daily stretching or workout routine
- reading with your kids before bed
- family dinner
- knitting/crocheting (glass of wine optional!)
It doesn’t really matter WHAT it is, as long as you are intentional about it. Note: obviously, you want to choose rituals that enhance your well-being, not make you feel worse (like binging on junk food!).
5. Make Space and Time for Beauty
Actively pursue things that make you feel alive… and then pause to truly appreciate them. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Purchase flowers or plants to bring nature’s beauty into your living space (this year, I committed to having fresh flowers in my house every day from May until October and it did WONDERS for my well-being).
- Set up a bird feeder where you can watch regularly.
- Cook/prepare food and pay attention to its beauty. It nourishes the body and
- Listen to beautiful music.
- Decorate your home with items that bring you joy on a daily basis.
- Light a scented candle.
- Clean or Organize a space. Step back and appreciate your work!
RELATED: More Tips on Self-Care.
A Year of Intentional Living
Hopefully, these 5 tips have made you feel inspired and empowered.
Life is hard. I know. But we do have the freedom to make choices about how we will move forward. We can choose to thrive, even during the hard times.