SELF-CARE – Love the Small Things

Love the Small Things - Self-Care
Written by: Andrew Ware
May 31, 2023

A couple of weeks ago now, we got new windows in my office at church., and man has it helped my self-care!!!

Now a couple of things you should know to make this story make sense. 

  • The offices at my church are located in their former parsonage (pastor’s house), which is quite an old building.
  • To the knowledge of our Trustees, the windows hadn’t been replaced in the building for over 20 years.
  • They were in rough shape, unable to open, and even leaking in some areas.

I remember sitting in my office these past 2.5+ years at this church and just wishing I could open the windows on a beautiful spring/fall day and let in some crisp and refreshing air. Many of us know that feeling of stagnant indoor air, even turning on our HVAC system and a fan didn’t really help all that much (maybe marginally better). However, I longed to be able to open a window. and let in some air as a refresher during the day. 

When the windows were replaced a few weeks ago I immediately took advantage of opening my windows, just about every day (I have kept them closed on higher humidity days). 

I loved it so much. Within the first few days, I noticed that I was feeling quite reinvigorated. It was as if my brain had more focusability. I felt more efficient in getting my work done. While my ADHD brain would still jump between tasks (quite common for me), I was still able to get my work done. I was mostly able to leave my brain fog that usually hits midday behind. 

Quick Breaks…They Often Help Me

I have always been a frequent advocate for the 5 min walk, or even the half-mile walk around my church’s property (sometimes 8-10 mins). I know that not only walking, but fresh air can help increase serotonin levels and thereby brain functionality.

I have to admit that I often take these walks for granted, especially lately. I usually would walk most days I was in the office during the week (2-3 days a week). However, lately, this has gone down to about once a week (sometimes not even that). This was before the windows were replaced.

As I reflect on why this is the case, it feels like I have no other reason than I have just been busy. Sometimes I do get caught up in my work and will forget to do it (however, that is not necessarily a good reason either). This has even taken over my ability to run during the day. Therefore, not only have I not broken up my day with a walk with some fresh air, but I also have not gotten my run in (which makes me even more stressed). 

There are days when I am able to get these activities in (though the running is getting harder on these hotter/humid days), and having the window open with fresh natural air definitely adds a nice little kick throughout the day. However, it has also reminded me of my need to break things up in my day and help me keep my focus. It has reminded me that the small things, the rituals we often take for granted, become vitally important. While this may seem small, an open window of all things, it has meant a good bit to me. 

How often do we take these smaller self-care practices for granted? 

We forget how we don’t always need big, grand things in order to experience renewal or restoration. Yes, those are important in their own right, but it is the small things, the things we do on a daily basis, the things we often take for granted that have the most immediate impact on our self-care. 

As I have mentioned before, as a young pastor it was always impressed upon me to focus on those bigger aspects of “rest” in my life. I was always encouraged to make sure I utilize all of my vacations each year, to have my “sabbath day” during the week, even on a daily basis we were encouraged to have some time to ourselves. 

While I appreciated these lessons, I began to wonder if there was more to this time and understanding of revitalization (especially when I was beginning to experience burnout as a pandemic pastor). I have spoken and written before about my onset interest in learning and advocating for a greater theology of self-care. In that, I have talked about the several ways we can care for ourselves, many of these important aspects of this theology and understanding reside in ritualistic practices that form the foundation of our life and faith.

However, I have begun to think about these smaller things we often don’t think about. Maybe it is the setup of our room, an open window, the music playing on our speakers, or the logistics of our daily schedule. What if we focused on these smaller, less grandiose rituals of our self-care practices? 

Maybe this is just the neurodivergent in me, but often even the smallest change in my environment can boost my brain focus and help me get work done. While I know this is very much an ADHD trait, and yes I do rearrange rooms (especially my office) regularly, I still think even if you would identify yourself in a neurotypical manner that there are small things like I have mentioned that do help you create an environment of productivity while you work, play, or any number of things.

Yes, I know I need a therapist. I know I need a vacation. I know I need days off during the week. I even know I need my regular running/walking routine to keep my mind fresh. 

However, what if I can make a small change in my day that helps my mind, and productivity, and keeps my working intention throughout the day? What if I could do something small to make that self-care time more impactful as I renew my soul, spirit, and mind?

So here are a few things I love to do to help me as I work.

Note: these may not work 100% for you, but these are things I have found helpful.

  1. I love a good playlist/album. I have a playlist for every mental situation I can think of. I have also set up Siri audio shortcuts to start them. I use Apple Music but find playlists on whatever music platform you use. Sometimes I use playlists to focus, and sometimes to give my brain a kick. Whether instrumental or not, music can be a small thing that can fill a space. Some focus better than others on music, so it may not be for you.
  1. As I mentioned sometimes the setup of your space could help. I am guilty of rearranging quite often, but I usually like to set up my space to have a view…of something. This was difficult in my last parsonage because my office was in the basement, but I did have one window that looked outside and a door. I often prefer the views outdoors so I can look at nature. Currently, while my back is towards the big window in my office I have a nice side glance view I can take out the side of my office. Again it may feel small to have your desk or chair facing a particular direction, but I definitely appreciate specific setups in my office.
  1. Productive breaks are another thing I often try and work into my day. Even if it takes a couple of minutes to take my mind off what requires my constant attention, I find it resets my mind. This is one I get really cautious about because my temptation would be to scroll social media. However, I try to make these shorter breaks a chance to stand, and maybe stretch my legs around my office. I might strike up a work conversation with my administrative assistant or run copies should that need to be done. 
  1. My last productivity tip centers around how you set up your schedule. This is one that I am terrible at. I notice the days I take 5-10 minutes when I get to work in the morning and set my priorities for the day, my day ends up being more productive. Now again this is not something I always do…regretably, and something I wish I could be better at. However, I notice a difference when I do this small thing to set my day up well from the top.

I have said over and over it’s the small things, and some of these seem small. However, I am sure many of us would consider these things “huge.” either way, I think that knowing and understanding what we need to remain productive and reduce the frustration and stress that comes from lack of focus. These are also things we often forget about when push comes to shove, they are the first things dropped off when we start to feel stressed or rushed, and sometimes taking some time to accommodate these small things provides us a greater space to get the other things done.

What are some “small things” that you do to help you in your productivity?

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