8 Simple Rules to Self-Care

A Post-Pandemic Year-Long Journey to Health and Wellness
from Not Fit to Fit, from Overwhelmed to Organized, from Stressed to Calm

Today is May 31, 2021.

Today also happens to be Memorial Day, as well as the first day of my one year project — 8 Simple Rules to Self-Care.

Over the last 5 or so years, I’ve been in a downward spiral with my health. I’ve gained weight. Struggled to exercise consistently. Alternated short bursts of eating well with long bursts of eating whatever/whenever. Battled clinical depression and daily chronic migraines.

The downward spiral started when when my father was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. I traveled frequently from Oregon to Massachusetts while overwhelmed with grief. The physical and emotional stress was all consuming.

Since that time, I have also:

-Lived on the road for five months while touring a sketch comedy show
-Remodeled my theater in a process so intense that I got shingles
-Went through an (unnecessarily) dramatic breakup
-Acquired and built out a whole new venue
-Performed and produced hundreds of shows
-Suffered four years of national political insanity
-And, of course, endured a pandemic that has killed millions and brought the globe to a sudden standstill.

This past year alone has been rife with:

- Stress, fear, constant uncertainty
- Social injustice, riots, wildfires
- A new puppy, buying a new home, selling my old home, and moving for the first time in a decade
- The loss of several beloved aunts, uncles, and friends

In a nutshell — a lot of transition and a lot of upheaval. Oh — and I turned 50 years old. Phew. No wonder I’m tired.

But the truth is, I have had no regular routine in my life since I became a freelancer in 2004. Without a job to provide structure of any kind, every day has been a choose your own adventure. I wake up and start tackling the most urgent items on my work to-do list. My to-do list is long as I work three jobs. I’m a marketing consultant, a theater manager, and a comedy creator — when I can find the time for creating.

Once I get through my work projects for the day, I plan on what I need to do for my friends, family, and my dogs. Lastly, I squeeze my self-care in the space between everything else — if there is any space between.

A few weeks ago, I experienced a revelation that I am sure seems completely obvious to many, if not most, people. To me, it was a revolutionary shift in thinking. What if I start scheduling my days in reverse of what I’ve been doing? What if I start with my self-care tasks, and THEN schedule my work and other obligations around that?

That thought immediately made me feel anxious. What if I never get to the other things? What if I lose my job, my relationships, my creative outlets while I’m so busy taking care of myself? I love what I do. I am responsible for a lot of people’s jobs and happiness. It would break my heart to let anyone down.

But then I asked myself the opposite question. If I don’t plan my self-care first, what happens if I never get around to that? What if I continue to lose my physical and emotional health? What if I become so unwell I can’t function at work? Can’t give enough in my relationships? Can’t find the space, time or inspiration to fulfill my artistic goals and dreams? And I had my realization that:

I will never lead a happier, healthier, and more satisfying creative life unless I make self-care my priority every single day.

I know that I am not the only person who has had a hard one to five years. It seems like almost everyone has. And I know I am not the only person seriously questioning the pace and priorities of our pre-pandemic lives. All of my friends have spent at least some of their quarantine time re-evaluating how they spend their time and what’s important.

And now, we are emerging from isolation — from a shared trauma. Even though it has felt like forever, this process of switching back, to me, feels abrupt. It feels all of a sudden and out of nowhere. I’m still not sure I even believe it is happening. I am terrified it won’t last. I’ve dabbled in going out maskless to the dog park. This week we had our first dinner with other fully vaxed friends naked-faced indoors! I’m making more plans to see all the people whose faces and hugs I have been missing so much. I am even cautiously planning the theater’s reopening in the early fall. And I’m excited about it all.

At the same time, even a good transition is stressful and disruptive. I want to be sure that I don’t get so rushed and caught up I forget what I’ve learned this year. I want to make this transition slowly and intentianally. I want to make the changes I need to make to lead a happier, healthier, and more creatively satisfying life. I can’t let everything pop right back into those comfortable old grooves. I need to do something different to set a new course.

So, I decided to commit to 8 Simple Self-Care tasks every day for a year.

In my next post, I will go into detail about what my current 8 rules are. In the future, I’ll explain why I chose 8 rules — and not 2 or 10. I’ll discuss why I chose these specific rules, what tools I’m using, and what obstacles I’m anticipating. And, of course, I’ll be posting my progress daily.

I decided to start a blog to share my process for a few reasons:

So, if you’re interested in joining me, start thinking the changes you might like to make in your own life. What small shifts in your habits could make a a big difference down the road? If enough people show interest, I’ll create a space where we can share, check in, and support each other along the way.

If this is interesting to you as an outside observer and/or supporter — that’s great, too!

And if I’m the only one interested in this project at all, well, I will continue to blog into the abyss for the next 365 days. Either way, I’m doing this.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow!

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Stacey Hallal

Stacey is a marketing consultant, theater manager, and comedy creator in Portland, Oregon.