Over the last year and a half, I have been practicing an important habit. I have dedicated more time to ME. It was advice I heard often, “Make sure you take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” In truth, I thought I had been. I worked out often. I participated in activities I loved. I spent time with friends. I thought I was good. Then, life hit me pretty hard. My stress level was high enough that my body couldn’t take it anymore. Funny enough, I didn’t know I was stressed.

The habits I’ve been forming are life-savers. They help keep peace and calmness around me. They nourish me from the inside out. They haven’t been easy to build, but little by little they have become more established into my daily routine.

I sleep at least 8 1/2 hours a night, usually closer to 9 1/2. This means not working out late at night. This means going to bed even when I want to read that last chapter or see that last episode. This means going to bed alone some nights. It also means waking up and feeling awake. It means having energy for the whole day and being focused at work. It means a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

I drink when I want, and not when I don’t want to. This means ordering club soda and having friends ask if I’m pregnant (Is that really the only reason not to drink?). This means saying no to offers for shots because I’d rather not be hungover. This means losing friendships that were based mostly on drinking. It also means choosing to have a quality beer or red wine when I am in the mood. It means having richer friendships that don’t require alcohol. It means appreciating the times I do choose to drink.

I save time for myself. This means not having extra jobs that could earn me more money. This means not taking fitness or dance classes I love. This means keeping my schedule open when I’m used to packing it to the brim. It also means never having to say that I’m “so busy”. It means I can take a walk in the neighborhood in the evening because I didn’t have anything else planned. It means I can write, draw, paint, read, and explore my creative side.

I love myself. This means not participating in “self-shaming” conversations. This means not making jokes about my body size/shape. This means not talking negatively to myself. It also means accepting compliments with ease. It means saying “no” to anyone who doesn’t treat me well. It means loving my body at all sizes.

These are simply a few examples of my new beloved habits. I hope to continue this lifestyle as I know it will keep me both healthy and happy. If I don’t take care of myself, then I won’t be able to take care of others. As a teacher/sister/daughter/girlfriend, I need to be my healthiest self for me, and for others.