Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of winter, Anne Bogel is hosting my favorite linkup of the year: What’s Saving My Life Right Now. I’ve participated in this lovely roundup since 2018 and always look forward to writing this annual post. I find that just writing it helps me dig a little deeper, find what’s really helping, and settle in with those things through the end of winter. Here’s a quick list of links to my past contributions:
2018 Edition: Journaling, my window bird feeder, Tasha Tudor, essential oil diffuser, and purging social media.
2019 Edition: A new electric teakettle, sourdough starter, the public library, and my family.
2020 Edition: My notebooks, more birds, more Tasha Tudor, more following nature.
2021 Edition: Welcoming a period of wintering and stillness.
This winter has felt especially hard and I’ve been taking time to focus on the very basics. And you know me: unless I have stitched about a zillion cross stitches, read half a book, knit half a sock, finished a quilt block, and have a sparkly clean house, then I’m not a happy camper. Which is totally ridiculous, I know. So I’ve been working on surrendering all of those self imposed expectations and settling into winter. The only things I’ve been prioritizing for myself have been hydration, exercise, and afternoon treats. Anything else is a blissful bonus.
Today I’m sharing a few of the specific ways that I’ve brought those basics front and center, as well as why I’m focusing on them.
HYDRATION. 🎶 ALL SORTS. 🎶 *
Water is a miraculous resource for your body. When I was pregnant with my third baby, I was having excruciating back pain. I could barely stand up and walk some days. I told my OB/GYN and she said, “you’re going to be annoyed with me for suggesting it because I’m sure you’re already going to the bathroom a lot, but drinking more water will probably help.” She was right on two counts: I was super annoyed with her for suggesting more water and it helped my back pain. I have no idea how, but it did. And now when I have a strange ache or pain, I immediately think about drinking more water and it almost always helps.
And something that Anne Bogel wrote a few years ago stuck with me (and I can’t find the blog post or email to cite — sorry!). She shared that her doctor told her the two best things a person can do for their health is to drink lots of water and go for daily walks. How simple is that?
So with those two facts in mind, I’ve been aiming for 64 ounces of water everyday. I don’t always reach that goal but my body feels better for trying. There are some beautiful water bottles out there, but I use a simple Nalgene because it’s the easiest for me to clean. Peppermint tea is always stashed in my tea cabinet because I love adding it to my water bottle: the bright and fresh flavor keeps me coming back for more. I prefer Celestial Seasonings because the bags are stringless but I’ve been known to take the two extra seconds to snip the strings off of Bigelow teas when my grocery store has been out of CS.
I’m always working hard to keep my skin hydrated. Winters in New Hampshire can be rough on my entire body. I’d never really had issues with dry scalp until I moved here, but this Tea Tree Mint Shampoo and its matching conditioner have really helped. I love that it doesn’t smell medicinal like other shampoos made for dry scalp and it really makes my head tingle when I’m in the shower. (Plus, I just love anything minty.)
I’ve been using this Olay face moisturizer for over two years and it’s done wonders for the skin on my face. No more flakes in the winter and no extra oiliness in the summer. I accidentally bought a very large amount on Amazon in May of 2020, which has given me permission to use a more liberal dose after my showers and it’s been amazing.
This Aveeno with Lavender, Oatmeal, and Chamomile lotion has been better than I hoped for. It has a light and comforting smell, goes on smoothly, and I wake up every morning feeling refreshed and cared for. I always reapply it to my feet as I’m crawling into bed in the evening. I’m thankful for my feet: they carry me around all day long and deserve a little extra moisture and a massage before tucking them under the covers. It’s been a wonderful little ritual for closing out the day.
Carmex has been my go-to lip moisturizer since forever. I always have a tub or a tube handy, including on my nightstand so I can I reapply every morning as soon as I wake up and right before I drift off to sleep. I’m sure there are tons of lip balms that works just as well, but I find its smell and texture to be nostalgic and perfect.
I began the year with the goal of participating in Adriene’s 30 Day Journey “at my own pace.” I’ve started several of these with Adriene and finally finished one in 2021. It took me 60 days to complete all the sessions (which is actually pretty good — that’s a yoga session every other day. Nothing to be ashamed of!). I was expecting to follow a similar pace this year, but something very strange happened: I kept showing up every evening. After I got my youngest two into bed and swept the dining room, I’d immediately roll out my mat and turn on YouTube for the daily practice. It almost became a ritual for me. I felt like I earned 20-30 minutes on the mat at that point in the day! Exercise has never been something I enjoy and I’ve never used it as a reward before, but that changed in January. Monday was the last day of her 30 Day Journey and I have her February calendar printed out and have started the month off right. Can I keep it up?
I needed to find a way to get more exercise during my third pregnancy and bought a relatively inexpensive upright bike for the basement. I used it sporadically during my pregnancy but began using it with more intensity last winter. Sadly, I broke it over the summer! So we took the plunge and ordered a Pro-Form spin bike, which I love. We bought the basic model with no screen included, but we can still connect to our IPad via bluetooth and take studio spin classes on iFit. We’re lucky because my husband’s health benefits at work includes money for a gym membership and iFit is an approved use of those funds.
I’m amazed by how much I enjoy my time on the bike. I ride 3-4 times a week and am always so happy when I finish a workout. There have been days this winter when it’s been hard to get off the couch. I tell myself, just hop on the bike. You won’t regret it. Despite feeling exhausted beforehand, I find that little jolt of adrenaline is exactly what I need to help me get through the rest of the day. Every. Single. Time.
One of the hardest things about staying home all day is not being able to pop out of the office for a special coffee. At my previous jobs, it was so easy to step away from my desk and pick up either an iced mocha at the hospital cafe or go across the street for a special brewed coffee.
On the flipside, it’s one of the best things about staying at home because I spent a lot of money doing that! One could easily argue that I was still coming out ahead because I was actually bringing home a paycheck, but eh.
I’ve learned to improvise without a fancy espresso machine, despite all of the ogling I’ve been doing, and have found that it’s relatively simple to make a yummy afternoon treat with just a few tools at your disposal. I’m especially enjoying two drinks for my PM Pick Me Up: lattes with almond milk and this homemade chai tea latte powder.
Add a packet of Belvita biscuits, a tiny bit of knitting, and a stack of poetry books with the kids and you have a lovely teatime treat. Talk about an afternoon to savor!
I think this is the first year that I’ve focused on the basics so sincerely, with no real expectation to go above and beyond. Of course – the desire is still there to do.all.the.things. But with 2/3 of my children home all day and our homeschooling schedule, I simply don’t have the extra energy right now. And that’s okay. I know it will come back as soon as the days stretch just a little longer and it’s easier to step outside and soak up a little warmth. It always does. So for now – I’ll be focusing on the basics and finding small rituals to help me care for my body.
And tell me – what’s been saving YOUR life lately?
*We just watched Mary Poppins and the song that Jane and Michael sing at the beginning is always the one that sticks with me!