Monday, February 27, 2012

WSG 3: Taking Care of Our Needs

Writer's Survival Guide Part 3: Taking Care of Our Needs

The writer's life is a busy one. On top of all our regular responsibilities (work, family, bills, chores, etc...), we're squeezing in writing, revising, story planning, social media, and many other things unique to our career.

Add the dead of winter to the mix and an on-going recession and it's easy to let our personal needs slide until they eventually disappear. (I'm too tired. It's too gray outside. We can't afford it.)

When I started writing, I was excited, so excited about the future. But as time wore on, more ups and downs passed, and, eventually I moved from a perpetual mood of excitement to a gripping hope.

I'm not sure exactly how or when, but during the last years, I neglected some of my needs in the anticipation of getting published, as if somehow a contract would give me the right to need them again.

How dumb! We have to take care of ourselves. Every day. Period.

Now, I live in a more grounded reality, and it's one where I take care of my needs. No more waiting for someday to happen. I have to take care of me NOW.

Your needs will be different than mine. The important thing is to identify what yours are and find ways to fulfill them. Easy, right? Just:

1. Identify what your needs are.
2. Fulfill them.

It's a magic formula, folks. :)

Read through my blog archives and you'll see my needs haven't changed much. Here are some of the things I do to keep my spirits fresh. (In no particular order)

a. Read magazines that inspire me--cooking, home decorating, celebrity gossip, and writing craft magazines keep me dreaming.
b. Listen to soothing music on my iPod. (How hard is it to slap earbuds in and click a button? And yet, too many days go by with me hearing only background noise. Blah.)
c. Care for my skin. I take Fish Oil vitamins to keep my skin clear, nails strong, and hair healthy.  I also like to put on a skin mask once a week, use witch hazel as a toner each night, and slather on rich, thick nightcream. All of these tasks take little time and are inexpensive.
d. I make my bed each morning. We have a beautiful bedspread, soft throw, and several accent pillows. I like arranging them. It makes me happy to see my pretty bed.
e. Take a walk outside. Fresh air is vital to my soul. Vital. I don't care what temperature it is outside, I try very hard to take a quick walk. Plus, I like to talk to God outdoors.
f. Keep my tootsies smooth. Maybe this is TMI, but I want my feet to be sandal ready all year long, so I keep a foot file and a small tube of Bath & Body Works lotion by my bed. Less than 60 seconds a night keeps my feet soft.
g. Indulge in homemade treats. I love to bake. I love coffee. I love hot tea. If I want a brownie on a Thursday night, I grab a box mix and have one. I try not to compartmentalize my day with food, nor do I have off-limits treats. Since I know I can have a hot cup of coffee or a cupcake whenever I want, I don't want them as often. :)
h. Check in with friends. Most of us have a group of besties. My sister and my mom are my tight inner circle, but I also have wonderful, close relatives from my husband's side of the family in addition to good friends. I'm not always great about reaching out, but when I do, I feel better. It's good to have friends.
i. Head to the library. The library is my happy place.
j. Dare I say it? Exercise. Yes, I avoid it as much as the next person, but I always feel great after a workout. Go figure.

I could go on and on. If I'm at a point in my life where I can't take an hour to read a magazine, listen to my iPod, or pop a fish oil pill, well, I know things are spiralling out of control. This list is full of simple, cheap or free pleasures.

Sometimes I think we wait for someone to give us permission to take care of ourselves, but we're making a mistake. First of all, they don't know exactly what we need at any given moment, and secondly, we give away our power by expecting others to meet our needs.

We need to meet our own needs. Find a way to incorporate your essentials into each day!

What is one need you neglect? Is there any way you can find a way to meet it this week?

Happy Monday!


  1. Perhaps it's a gender issue about taking care of ourselves. Most women are busy caring for children, elders, or both. Sometimes women feel guilty for taking a day to do something just for them. And it's so necessary, isn't it? If we don't feel good, feel good about ourselves, how can we take care of others? I'm getting better at making time for me. I'll have one of those brownies and a cup of tea now.

  2. While reading this post, I got the sudden urge to take better care of my skin! Please tell me, what is witch hazel toner?

    Great reminders for me, Jill, as I dive into intense, intense rewrites (I got the thumbs-up!)

  3. Time is my biggest need - time each day to myself, just to gather my thoughts and my wits and settle myself. Even just half an hour is enough to keep me balanced for the rest of the day. And yes, that is one need that I am constantly ignoring, but I'm trying to do better about recognizing that my needs are just as valid as everyone else in my house!

  4. I'm working on this. Drinking water is one. And doing kind things to prettyfy myself. Working on that too. So much to work on. ;)

    Great reminder post. It's important and I'm so much nicer when I'm kind to myself.
    ~ Wendy

  5. CJ: Absolutely. And, let's face it, sometimes taking the time to do something WE need feels like just another chore to add to the list. Enjoy your brownie!

    Katie: You can find Witch Hazel at the drugstore by the rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Witch Hazel is a mild astringent that's great for soothing skin irritations as well as a toner for your skin. I never buy expensive toners--witch hazel rocks! (Double Yay on the thumbs up!!)

    Louise: Yes, time! Do you ever get a chunck of time and stress out about how you'll use it? I do that! It's ridiculous!

    Wendy: I'm in prettifying mode. Spring is just around the corner and this winter skin/bod scares me!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Love this list. Definitely exercising is a "hard one" to fit in...but you're right. I always feel better afterward!

    Also, taking the time to read. I sometimes view this as a luxury, but to me, it's one of my great loves, and when I don't take at least a little time for it, I end up feeling grouchy.

  7. Great reminders, Jill! I like to have my nails and feet professionally done, but lately I've neglected that. I've also neglected exercise. Consistently that is. I do feel better when I get a good work out in.

  8. Sometimes, what I most need is a good, but supportive talking to (by me, to me!) About not sweating the small stuff....because most of my worries are, indeed, pretty small. Great post.

  9. Thanks for the reminders, Jill.

    I just started listening to music on the IPod again after about 6 months. I forgot how much joy I get from it. When editing and revising, I must have quiet. It's so great to have rhythm again.

  10. I'm a worrier - I know, you'd never guess that about me, right? lol - so I think the one thing I neglect is the positive self-talk. I'm getting better at it, though. Thanks for the reminder to take a little time, Jill!!

  11. Those are all such great things. Even making the bed can make such a difference in my day - I feel more put together when my living space is put together.

    I need my quiet time with God...or else I just flake out. Seriously.

    And I need affirmation. It's taken me awhile to realize how important that is to me...and how, sometimes, I really just need to ask for it. I have certain friends I'm comfortable going to and saying, "Can you remind me I'm not crazy, God has a plan and it's all good?"

    Also...I need Diet Coke with Lime. I know, aspartame is evil and blah-blah-blah...but I need my soda!

  12. I used to neglect exercise, but my recent osteoporosis diagnosis changed that. I'm now working out at Curves three days a week and walking the other four. I feel better than I have in years. I wish I hadn't neglected my health for so long, but it's so easy to get wrapped up in the gotta-do's that time for fun or restoration goes by the wayside. Thanks for the reminder that we need to care for ourselves, Jill.

  13. As I was going through your list of things you do to take care of yourself I kept thinking 'Oh, I like that one. Yep, I love that one... when I remember. Uh huh, me too on that one!' Thanks so much for this post, Jill!

  14. Fish oil. Yay! I also take a multi-vitamin, additional calcium/vit D supplement, and some daily herbs. For occasional stress-filled days, I'm a fan of aromatherapy. A dot of lavender oil on a hanky does wonders and I can always carry it with me.

    One thing I need to improve on? More rest. I still haven't managed to fit 26 hours into a 24-hour-day, Jill.

  15. Bought myself a mocha and some "midnight" nail polish b/c of this post.

    Thanks for encouraging me to do a little something something for me. :D
    ~ Wendy

  16. Jill, I love your formula and your list. My new indulgence has been magazines. They're fun and not too expensive, and a great way to get myself to sit down for a whole five minutes to relax and think of nothing else but the content of the magazine. Lately I love anything that helps focus my mind instead of letting it race in a million different directions :)

  17. Jill, what an amazing statement you made: "I neglected some of my needs in the anticipation of getting published, as if somehow a contract would give me the right to need them again." Wow. Talk about right between the eyes. Thanks so much for this wonderful post and the reminder to care for, and allow God to care for, our needs.

  18. I like the things you do to take care of yourself. I think looking at magazines truly relaxes me though I only subscribe to one.

    The one thing I might neglect is sleep. I get to reading a good book and it's like 2:00am or so. Yikes.

  19. Because I care for so many people, I can't allow myself to get run down. I drink lots of water, skim milk and green tea daily. I take my vitamins, and now I'm getting back into exercise. I have a girls' day once a month with my friends to vent and rejuvenate. I have to do a better job of having my quiet time with God because that trumps everything else.

  20. Lindsay: Reading is something I rarely neglect. I consider it my mandatory! I'm a mean, mean lady without a book!

    Jessica: Ooo, a mani-pedi is in your future. Make it happen! I think most of us struggle with exercising. You are not alone!

    Patrice: Such a great point--positive self-talk is a huge need. It's so easy to belittle ourselves. Shouldn't we be our own best friend? :)

    Loree: You have the neglected iPod too? Ours could have a little mutual pity party! Ha! Glad you're reunited.

    Kristi: I hear you! Why do we struggle to pat ourselves on the back? It's not all gloom and doom, sheesh!

    Melissa: My daily time with God cannot be ignored. I'm a mess without it. A mess! And Coke Zero is my new addiction. Sorry, aspartame, but I like you. :)

    Keli: Woo-hoo! You're such an inspiration! And don't you think it's easier to neglect exercise when you're thin? It doesn't feel as obvious. Maybe it's just me?

    Ayda: Petting a big, fluffy kitty is on my list too, which I know you get to do everyday! That's one that you can add. :)

    Cynthia: Yes! I have natural oils to mix too. I love Eucalyptus. It's so refreshing. I feel like I'm getting healthy everytime I take a whiff. Also, rest is a must. I'm trying to get more sleep at night, but you know how it is!

    Wendy: Oo-la-la! I know your girls are going to have matching nails by the end of the day. :)

    Cindy: Magazines are perfect when you have little ones at home. You can set a magazine down after a few minutes and pick it back up later without losing much. I'm so glad you're finding "you" time!

    Donna: I'm not proud of that statement--oh, how I wish I were that has-it-together woman who doesn't fall into idiotic mind traps. But I am that woman who sometimes feels the need to "earn" life. Silly. Silly. Silly.

    Nancy: I do the same thing! I can't put a good book down. I will stay up all night with bleary eyes. It's sad!

    Lisa: Getting together with girlfriends is such a huge blessing. I have coffee at least once a month, most of the time twice, with local writer friends. They keep me sane!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. This is a great post, Jill. As women, we sometimes feel like we need permission to take care of ourselves and have fun, as if doing so means we're selfish. Who started that lie???

    I like your tips. We don't have to spend a fortune to live healthy, happy lives. Chocolate, magazines, and music can fit into the equation, too!

  22. Great tips, Jill! I love to listen to music too, but I tend to forget to turn it on, lol. I know that sounds crazy, but with little kids running around my house all day, I don't usually get to listen to what I want to listen to. :)

  23. Great post. I love to be reminded to remember that writing isn't everything and everyone needs to treat themselves sometimes!
    I think my biggest problem is that I neglect my husband, not myself. I always find time to shower, exercise, and the like, but when push comes to shove, I'll pick a nap or some writing time over time spent with him. I'm working on it!

  24. What a great post. Inspiring. Thank you Jill. I loved the positive vibes from the comments too. Yours is such a timely post for me - I filed my nails yesterday and applied polish for the first time in ages (was too busy worrying about Self to actually get on and do something about it. :)) Cut flowers in my home make me very happy, so I'll see to that more often. When there are flowers in the garden I usually give them away as gifts.

  25. Brandi: Honestly, the things that make me happy on a daily basis are the simple, inexpensive things. The chocolate, the magazines, the music. :) We DON'T need a ton of money to enjoy life!

    Sarah: I know! It's like Tune Disney or Raffie or whatever the kids love, right? Ha!

    Stephanie: You bring up a good point. It's too easy to neglect our spouses/significant others. We can get in a roommate routine that feels okay but isn't as fulfilling and romantic as it could be. You're definitely not alone on this one!

    Wendy: Nail polish! Yay! I love doing my toes in bright colors. Simple! And I love fresh flowers too. We have a rose garden, so all summer I have blooms floating in dishes. Love it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  26. Jill, I'm so with you on much of what you said.

    Before I go any further, I need to make two points quite clear-

    1. I'm a man

    2. I don't have a spouse or kids.

    Why this matters is twofold.

    First, I have to color CJ Kennedy's response with the following-

    Maybe most men that many regulars on this blog know, be they spouse, sibling, whatever, are either not open about this stuff, or are in denial due to gender stereotype brainwashing. IMHO.

    But I have a hard time doing some things for my sole benefit, and raising kids aside, it's no different from how many women who've replied here feel.

    Second, there's a post on my blog that ties in with some of these feelings, though not in a gender specific way-
    Okay, now with that out of the way, I'll continue-

    Jill, like you I love baking, though I prefer to make it scratch,and while it does take longer and mean more cleanup (Wish for a dishwasher every year...!) the taste is worth it.

    That said, it is hard sometimes to resist the siren song of ready made food and treats, especially when your time starved/sleep deprived.

    Once I learned how good coffee can taste, I make it often in the morning, and I don't even need cream or milk, I still need sugar though or it's too bitter, but otherwise a pure, lovely experience.

    I just can't enjoy a walk in subzero weather, not for fitness reasons, anyway. As much as I love, and missed, much snow this winter, though not shoveling meant more time to write in the mornings.

    But you're right about feeling good after a workout is done.

    Sorry for the mild editorializing, Jill, I do try to keep it in check outside my own blog, but had to say something to this.


  27. Taurean: I have a huge smile on right now. I'm so glad you shared this.

    I think everyone struggles to prioritize their needs. We all have responsibilities. We all have dreams that haven't come true. We all have excuses that trump our desires. Thank you for pointing that out.

    Honestly, if I was single without children, I would still struggle to meet my needs. It's a mental state.

    By the way, I love baking from scratch too. But you haven't sold me on the coffee without cream! I like mine a certain color! Ha!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  28. Loved this as it is easy to let yourself go. I ordered a workout tape today and book from my fav author:))

  29. Oh, I hear you on this one. I'm TERRIBLE about neglecting my needs...until I start to notice that I'm cranky, depressed, and exhausted, and realize that I haven't been doing all those things that are good for me--you know, the vitamins, reading, sleeping, exercising, etc. Like you said, those things aren't even that expensive! It's just a matter of making time for them.

    This year, I've been working hard to keep time in my schedule for exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and meditation. I usually manage to do two of them in a given week--still working on the time thing!


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