by Ellie Benson, Program Associate at Pohlad Family Foundation
I don’t know about you, but 2018 kicked my butt. “Exhausted” is the first emotion that comes to mind when reflecting on last year’s political events. And between the breakdown of a car and a relationship in my own life last month, I have definitely had better Decembers.
It’s easy to withdraw when life gets ugly, falling into bad habits that take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. And while a bit of wallowing over ice cream and Netflix is sometimes essential, I’m trying to spend more time doing the things that make me feel unequivocally good. So this year, my resolutions all involve taking better care of myself and prioritizing joy and pleasure. Here are eight ways to practice better self-care as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the new year:
- Find things to do that don’t involve staring at a screen. After several hours of computer-staring each day at my VISTA site, it’s great to decompress away from all the blue light. Hobbies to consider: cooking, reading for fun, knitting, journaling, husband calling, etc. And chances are that there’s someone within a 10 mile radius that’s into the same weird sh*t as you! Get out there and find your passion and your people.
- Go outside (even in January). Embrace all the Minnesota stereotypes, wrap a scarf around every square inch of your face, and un-barricade yourself. Venture across the river and check out the St Paul Winter Carnival. Go ice skating or snow-shoeing or sledding. Go for a walk and try not to break your tailbone on the sidewalk.
- Reconnect with the most important people in your life. Yes, you should call your mom. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the everyday minutiae of meetings and projects that we lose sight of what matters most: the people who hold us up. So reach out, even if it’s been longer than you’d care to admit. You need these people, and they need you too. Put in the work.
- That said, not all relationships deserve this much labor, so cut out the folks who bring you down. The new year is a great time to do some soul-searching/Facebook friend purging. Figure out which relationships you should lean into and which ones should be left back in 2018.
- Take control of your finances. It can be damn near impossible to get a handle on your money when you’re living at the poverty level as a VISTA, but avoiding the problem won’t make it go away. So pour yourself a glass of wine and check your credit score. Begin to track your spending, and figure out a budgeting system that works for you. It’s also tax season, so head on over to Prepare + Prosper for free tax preparation for low-income folks. Or join their Money Mentors program to create a financial plan and check in on your progress.
- Exercise. I’ve been slacking on this front. But in my experience, getting my heart rate up always helps to quiet my constantly buzzing brain. Find something you don’t hate and stick with it – it gets so much easier after the first week. And the Y has reduced-price membership plans for VISTAs and other folks with low incomes.
- Practice saying no. Tap out if you need to when someone triggers you. Turn down new projects at work that you don’t have the capacity to complete. Stay in if you need an evening to relax. Being game for everything might make you seem more agreeable, but it’s unsustainable and exhausting. Give your soul a chance to recharge.
- On the flip side, if you gravitate towards being a naysayer, step outside your comfort zone with a few more yeses. There are so many fun things to do in the Twin Cities, so grab some pals and get going. Here’s to your best year yet!