Self-Care: Image of massage therapy

Self-Care 101 (AKA: What Have I Done for Me Lately?)

“What do you do in the way of self-care? As in, what makes you happy and keeps you sane?”

Earlier this week, on a whim, I texted that message to oh, let’s say, 40 gal-pals. So many women responded. So many.

I was surprised and yet, I wasn’t. A year or so ago, I surveyed my readers and asked what they struggled with. Many answered, “work-life balance” and “self-care.” Or both.

As I considered self-care recently, I came across this heartbreaking letter written by a darling 27-year old Australian woman during her struggle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a fight she ultimately lost.

As I read her counsel I thought,

She’s teaching us how to live. 

Holly’s ideas were fantastic. All of them seemed firmly rooted in self-care. One phrase in particular grabbed me. It summed up all of her thoughts:

“Be ruthless for your own well-being.”

What may sound selfish to some, to me, is wisdom. I think it’s another way of saying: “Be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”  Or, “If Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Or, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Holly’s right.

 This world needs people who are loving both themselves and others.

Later, when I tabulated the results of my informal self-care survey, I made an interesting discovery. My forty friends are doing most of the things young Holly recommended.

Here, take a look.

 Holly’s top priorities for a good life. 

Think how lucky you are.

Get outside.


Nourish your body with fresh food.

Find mental, emotional, and spiritual happiness.

Whine less. 

Help each other more.

Be good to your friends. 

Use your money on experiences.

Get amongst nature. 

Listen to music.

Cuddle your dog.

Talk to your friends.

Eat the cake. 

Say no.

Donate blood.

But why are some of her recommendations in red? Those are the items Holly mentioned that my friends did not.

“Think how lucky you are.” 

I’m totally with Holly on this one. If you read my recent email newsletter, you know that one of my “Joy Rules” is “Practice Gratitude.”

And if you read my blog post on journaling, you know I keep a blessing book. Almost every morning, I jot down the blessings God gifted me with during the last 24 hours.

The cool thing about counting your blessings is it makes you:

 “Whine less.”

I think Holly would love the blessing book idea. No doubt she knew, the more you look at the good all around you, the less you focus on the bad. It’s a really cool trick.

“Use your money on experiences.” 

Holly’s third recommendation, “use your money on experiences,” I agree with that one too. That’s why early on in our parenting adventure, Tony Bear and I gave our kids a choice.

On their birthdays, they could ask for stuff or experiences. Pretty much, they’ve always chosen experiences such as, an afternoon on a pontoon boat with their buddies or a crazy, cross-town scavenger hunt with their friends.

I, too, now prefer experiences to material gift items. After half a century of living life, I have pretty much everything I want and need. These days, when it comes to getting gifts, my vote goes to “a really cool trip.” Usually to a destination we’ve never visited. Like Scotland🙂

And now I must confess, Holly’s last suggestion, a request really, kind of freaks me out.

Donate blood.”

Because of my fear of needles, I’ve never donated blood. Ever.

When I was in the fourth grade, my mother announced we were going shopping. Then she drove me to the doctor’s office for a mumps vaccine. I twisted (and shouted) so much, the needle broke. As a result, the nurse had to fetch another needle. And another nurse. To hold me down.

Then for years, during community-blood drives, I did my best to lose enough weight to be under 110 pounds. If you’re that light, they won’t let you donate blood. I never succeeded. I was small, but never that small.

In time, my needle-fear lessened somewhat.

Mostly from going through three pregnancies, each requiring multiple blood tests.

A dozen years ago, I was further desensitized to needles when I developed a post-op blood clot. Once my doctor determined I was a “good candidate for at-home blood thinner therapy,” Tony Bear shot me 12 times in the belly with warfarin, an anti-coagulant medication. After that, a lab drew my blood on a weekly basis for months.

Even so, needles still make me nervous. Which is why I’ve never donated blood. But because Holly asked, I will now. At least once.

I hope you’ll join me. And if you do donate blood, please return here at some point and leave a comment. On the chance that someone who knows Holly might find out that, because of her, some people will be living better lives.

And other people will be, well…living.


In case you’re interested, here is the list of the self-care practices of 40 women from West Virginia, North and South Carolinas, and even LA. I’ve also included the number of votes each behavior garnered.

Exercise: 17 … Spend time with friends: 10… Read a book: 12 … Get adequate sleep/take naps: 11 … Prayer/Scripture-reading/Daily Devotional: 10 … Eat healthy food: 9… Take a walk outside/in nature: 9 … Get a massage: 8 … Get a mani or Pedi: 7 … Hair Care (@ a salon): 6 … Enjoy quiet/solitude: 5 … Go shopping (alone): 5 … Watch TV: 5 … Drink coffee: 4 … Cuddle Pets: 4… Practice meditation: 4 … Sit (“and do NOTHING, for once”): 3 … Hire Help: 3 … Take a bubble bath: 3 … Burn a candle: 3 … Say No: 3 … Drink lots of water: 3 … Listen to music: 3 … Create/craft: 3 … Listen to podcasts/Watch lectures: 3 … Enjoy food treats: 3 … Observe the Sabbath: 2 … Play with grandchildren/family: 2 … Garden: 2 … Attend cultural/sporting events: 2 … Writing: 2 … Take a loooonnng shower: 2 … Cook/bake: 2 … Indulge at Sephora: 2 … Sit in front of a fire: 2 … Laugh: 1 … “Date my husband”: 1 … Have medical checkups: 1 … Volunteer: 1 … Enjoy hobbies: 1 … Get around sun/water: 1 … Have a good cry: 1 … Enjoy a “regular, unhurried day:” 1

(These self-care items are really great, don’t you think? What are your favorite self-care practices? Also, if you want to learn more about my “Joy Rules,” click the little “subscribe” button down below.)

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