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Knitters, here we are nearly at the end of summer. Everything has changed, and not enough has changed. Still, we made it to this moment. The change of the seasons is always a sort of opportunity—a good point to refresh a routine.

All kinds of routines, really, but let’s just take self-care. Here’s a chance to review what has gotten stale, outlived its purpose, or is just a burden that could be put down.

The common approach is to look at each thing we are doing, evaluate, prioritize, see what there’s still time and money for, reprioritize, and … well, I think that approach might be assuming too much. That’s how things that have outlived their usefulness dodge examination and get grandfathered in—like unused, guilt-mongering gym memberships.

It’s a personality thing, but I just have so much relish for the slate-wiping approach. It’s a way that has broad appeal right now. Don’t we all kinda just want to set 2020 on fire and start over? This is what I mean by everything must go!

So here’s how you could do that: Put your self-care routine on paper. What do you do to take care of your body and soul every day? Every week? It’s private, so there’s no one to judge you. Don’t let the Inner Judge get started, either. It’s just information.

Now, if you can’t come up with a list of what you do to take care of yourself, keep track for a few days. Almost everyone thinks they should do more, and almost everyone is doing more than they think. To remind yourself to keep track, you can set a timer to go off every couple hours if you like. (This can be a very illuminating experience. If you’re confused about “where the time goes,” you won’t be after this exercise.)

And then imagine yourself with a blank space. No obligations and no reason to pretend that everything is fine as is. (I know! It’s a real workout for the imagination, if you’re a woman and you have children and you have parents and you have a partner and you have a job and you run a household. Oh, I get it. But you know: IMAGINE.)

So without privileging anything on the list, mentally take it all off. You’re not prioritizing right now. You’re deprioritizing the very idea of prioritizing. It’s radical.

Last step: Get yourself a second sheet of paper as blank as the blank space you just strained (probably) to imagine. Make all those before things fight their way onto the new list. Let yourself know the truth of their value. Some of them don’t deserve a spot. That’s fine.

And see if your self-care routine doesn’t look nice and shiny now, with space for interesting new things. (Note: Sometimes what makes its way onto the list is a not-to-do. For instance, my phone is now in quarantine until after breakfast every day. It’s been a minor miracle.)

It bears repeating: You do you. I don’t judge, you don’t need to judge, nobody gets to judge. If Keanu is your self-care tentpole, come on in—the water’s fine. If it’s yoga every day, also cool. None of this stuff comes with brownie points or demerits. Self-care doesn’t get into the club for rocking the right look. It’s only admitted if it provides real help.

So we don’t have to evaluate anything based on how good or bad it makes us look.

As for the future: Nobody knows what is going to happen next. That has always been true, as the Buddha pointed out 2,600 years ago. But we can guess this: The coming months will be challenging, and whatever we can do to support ourselves with kindness and generosity will help us get through and better set us up to be of use to others.

Below, in the comments, I would be very keen to know what are the activities and routines that give you strength, and that you want to preserve. And I’m also curious about what used to work but no longer does.


I recommend Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. We will definitely talk more about this book/golden key soon. If you’re overwhelmed right now trying to figure out how to care for yourself, the Nagoskis can help.

Image:  Jean Metzinger, Coucher de soleil no. 1 (Landscape), 1906, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller. Public domain.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • Pre-pandemic I was a voracious reader, but most of that was done on the train during my commute and on my lunch-break from work. Since I have been teleworking since mid-March — no commute. And no lunch break. Hence, my reading has gone down 90%. I have lately been making a concerted effort to allow myself “commute time” in the morning and read while I have my morning coffee, actually take a lunch break and read then, and again at the end of the workday.

    • Wendy’s it’s that is a great idea!

    • Wendyknits, I’m in the same boat! I was updating my goodreads page the other day and realized I haven’t read one book since COVID! Going to try and carve out reading time…maybe before bedtime!

  • I started taking virtual yoga classes. I love it!!

    • I too have reprioritized yoga and have started practicing morning and evening; and the mindfulness practices are once again increasing my joy and decreasing my weight! Just like my first life reset in 2014, when I up and moved to Oregon, listening to my heart ALWAYS works! Let rule!!!

      • Let love rule! My phone auto corrected the heart away!!!

  • I finally have the time to think about what/how/when/why/where I eat. I walk at least a 2.5 mile loop every morning, and when the sun is shining and the sky is a gorgeous blue, for the briefest of moments, I pretend there is no virus. 20+ less pounds later, I feel oh so much better.

    • Congratulations! I am doing the same and am down 17 lbs. Also, less socializing helps with the eating.

  • Walking regularly helps me clear my mind, and I do some strength training a few times a week which makes me feel stronger. I love knitting, and I make sure that I have time every night and on weekends to work on my projects.

  • I’m finding time to run 3-4 times a week. I was only getting in one run a week, at best, pre-COVID. As I write this post, I’m supposed to be getting in a 2-mile run, but it just started pouring rain, so I’m staying in. Love my morning runs, but I’m a rain wimp, LOL!

  • I have increased my physical activity – 15-20K steps daily and that is achieved through walking, cycling, housework, etc. My want-to-do is daily yoga and meditation. I currently can’t seem to do those daily. Finally, knitting and reading seem to be the other activities that give me joy an peace.

    The fly in that ointment is winter – walking is possible. Cycling moves indoors. It is much more difficult to be as active as 15-20K steps daily demands.

  • I have almost exhausted all of my lawn and gardening projects which is a huge accomplishment. However, I miss my 3x week exercise class with my senior friends. So I decided I have to do something and signed up for a virtual Tai Ji Qwando starting next week and am waitlisted for the virtual version of my exercise class. My saving grace is knitting and crocheting which I do daily. It’s meditation for my mind, spirit, and soul and I am truly grateful for it.

  • I always love your posts here! The best thing I do for me is 20 minutes of meditation in the morning, right after I get up, before my head starts moving in a thousand different directions. I’d like to add a second “sit” but always find myself too antsy/distracted/tired before bed. 4pm would be the best time, but that’s also the busiest time. How to I stop the high velocity of life for 10 minites???

  • I have exercised nearly every day. And my husband and I go on morning walks, which is a big benefit of working from home!

  • In March, my husband and I started taking a 5:00 break in solidarity with New York (their time 7:00) to consider the front-line workers. Over the last 5 months it has morphed into a time to be quiet, to draw on the big chalkboard, to wrestle with the pups, to go out and pick tomatoes, to find new radio stations to dance to, to sit on the deck and be with one another. Hopefully we will continue to do this take-a-deep-breath-and-just-be-together-in-the midst-of-this-life thing for a long time.

  • I made time for myself to exercise every day and completed a 100 day workout program. It’s the “what do I do next?” that has me taking daily walks until I find another program I like.
    The biggest self care step I took is only recent. I went into my phone settings and set my social media screen time limits to 90 minutes. I also scheduled downtime on my phone from 10:30 PM – 7AM. At 10:30 most of the apps on my phone go dark as a visual reminder that it’s “downtime.” I can override if I want to, but the darker screen makes me think twice before opening an app.

  • I have started a daily practice of tidying up. Not the complete Marie Kondo, but each day I throw out one thing, or put it in the donate pile or list it on eBay. I have a long way to go but this letting go is very freeing.

  • I’m almost ashamed to add my comment here because everyone else seems to have done so well during this strange time. I have a disability and have taken this time to rest and hide from the world. I’ve given up all rehab, gained at least 20 lb., regressed or lost a lot of the progress I had made in rehab and am now only beginning to claw my way back, both with rehab and with trying to lose the weight. I am retired now and have few demands on my time. I have enjoyed lots of YouTube videos on knitting, crocheting and remodelling; Netfixed a lot of series with my husband, read countless books on my ipad; played cards daily with my mother-in-law; taken daily naps. So despite some regression in physical ability and some weight gain, this pandemic time has given me lots of time to rest, regroup and just ‘be’. I guess that’s the point of the post we’ve read – what does self care look like for you. For me, it was rest and regroup. I’m glad I did post because I’m giving myself some grace now that I’ve read what I’ve written.

    • I think what you wrote is beautiful, and more realistic than some other comments. Funny how so many of us resonated with what YOU wrote, and how you’re spending your quarantine. I lost my job, adopted a dog, gave up on knitting and crocheting after the first month, have read no books (but bought 10) and avoid most news outlets. But my parents are somewhat healthy, my husband and I have spent lots of quality time together, and I decided to pursue a new career. All things play out the way they are supposed to- enjoy your time, and know you have a lot more kindred spirits in this world than you may think. Much love

    • Much like yourself, I have Chronic debilitating illness and no longer able to work. Family and friends are hundreds of miles away. Self isolation is little different to my normal. But, I’ve taught myself to knit and just completed my 1st knee high socks, knitted two at a time toe up. Something I thought I’d never achieve. My home hasn’t been scoured. My garden is best described as a wild life haven. Exercise? Well, I do my daily physio.

      • Congrats on your project. You just learned to knit and did sox- 2 at a time toe up?
        Wow wow wow. You go girl!

    • Your quarantine time sounds a bit like mine, where I just kind of dropped out from any socializing apart from immediate family, and just feeling so exhausted even though I seemed to be doing so little compared to everyone else. I was really struggling with the shame I felt, but in the last month I’ve been taking some time each day to do some journalling and try to challenge the shame. Also getting myself to text or call a close friend when I feel overwhelmed with shame, and she helps to squash that. Those are my new routines that I hope I’ll keep.
      It’s tough to change ideas of what’s “productive” or “useful” when it doesn’t involve tangible immediate results, but often I think those are the more important things in the long run.

    • I’m grateful that you posted. I have been struggling, too. I felt bad that I have been so overwhelmed. But then I read something, somewhere (here last month?) that helped quiet the Inner Critic. Regarding stress, the writer suggested that there is a 3rd response…fight or flight are 1 and 2. And that is regrouping or, as I now think of it, the intermission. It’s the time of holding back, considering options, pausing before taking the next step. I am okay with not doing, and trust it will not last forever.

      • Thanks for this post. For me too the pandemic has allowed me to recognize the importance of not-doing. I’ve wanted to be less busy since University (that would be over 50 years ago) and it’s taken the pandemic to show me how to manage that.

    • hey! ME/CFS person here… franckly I’m upped the compassion… not able to move until midday fine… crafting or scrolling the morning away… fine… listenting to radio dramas fine. I’m alarmingly busy at the moment, ill friend, trying to do outdoor meet ups before Scottish Winter comes. Then I think I’ll be back to hiberation mode. With occasional forays out to talk to local cats. I think beyond anything I just want to be not do.

    • I’m very glad you left your comment. My comment was going to be that it seems most commenters didn’t actually read the article. We are not here to get props for losing weight, or doing yoga every day or running or walking or anything. The point of the article was to go someplace PRIVATE and figure out what works for you in terms of self-care. Not posting performative “Look at me!” achievements that go against everything the article was trying to convey. We need to stop being so competitive and scared that we’re not keeping up. Life. Is. Not. A. Race. Good for anyone who posted who truly feels that what they’re doing is genuine self-care, but for everyone else–take a look at your life and decide for YOURSELF if what looks like care on the outside isn’t really just trying to look like the pretty women in all the ads about shapewear, makeup, and the latest fitness craze we are bombarded with.

      • She did ask for posts about what gives you strength…..

    • I think piddle time is one of the best things to do. It gives you time to get new ideas and daydream.

  • Getting ready to move, after being in the same house for 22 years, and the same state for 30, has been a real slate wiper! I feel lighter, after shedding a lot of clutter. Its easy to hang on to things,if you don’t have to pay to move it with you!

    • I, too, am moving (from the tundra of MN to the sunny climes of FL) and decluttering. Organizing, pitching and lots of donating means a leaner household. Good luck with your relocation, Bonnie.

  • I love your idea of taking everything off and adding back. Wish I could erase cleaning the house but I do feel better with a clean house.

  • For those of us living near wildfire communities or following the news, reading “Don’t we all kinda just want to set 2020 on fire and start over?“ is scary and offensive. Many do not have the luxury of choosing when to remove unwanted, unnecessary possessions. Self care for some of us is deciding what precious and necessary items to pack or grab when being evacuated (in advance of fires and floods, wind, rain…) A knitting project will help if you can remember it along with your pets, people, passport, meds, electronics… Maybe fire is an easy metaphor for the writer and I am too sensitive, but just take a look at a few photos of current CA wildfires.

    • You’re right; that was a lazy metaphor. And I should know better, as I live part-time in Oakland and I come from Colorado, another state that’s burning right now. I apologize whole-heartedly! And I hope you are safe now, and continue safe <3

      • Thank you. While I’m safely knitting, my thoughts are with evacuees, now over 100,000 in CA. I hope all can soon return to their homes and their self-care routines–sorting, knitting, breathing smoke-free air.

        • Thanks, CA Knitter–I have to say my first thought when I saw “everything must go” was a big “waaah!” as we are one of the thousands of families displaced by the fires. I had to decide rather quickly what was essential an what I–quite literally–can live without. Self-care right now is trying to give myself permission to grieve, but not wallow.

  • Thank you for this article and its reminders.

    I used to go to my nearby Y two or three times a week for “Joints in Motion” exercises in their activity pool. That’s been closed since March and so I’ve tried to do some of the exercises on dry land everyday to keep limber. Plus, all the bending, lifting, pulling, digging, and stretching out in my garden. That has been a true blessing: I recognize how fortunate I am to have space outside to go and putter around and daydream. Daydreaming! So refreshing.
    Sitting with a cat on my lap. Taking photos with my phone of flowers, etc. gets me paying attention to the lovely world around me. Trying out new techniques and flavors in the kitchen. Did I mention that learning of almost any kind is fantastic “self-care”?

    Love this thread!

  • I’ve given myself permission to read. Whatever and whenever…. Then when the stress that triggered the reading spree disappears, I get back to it.

  • Your article and the comments have made me realise that probably my most important self care choice is that I don’t watch TV, at all, and no news apart from two minute radio bulletins. I also limit my social media use to one evening session (which often ends up really long lol). I didn’t do any social media for over three years, and only got back on it when lockdown started. I now avoid Facebook altogether because I don’t find it helpful to my state of mind. I have a hand picked feed of diverse makers and authors, along with my real life friends, on Instagram, which I find supportive and inspiring, and I go on Twitter a couple of times a week to catch up with what’s happening in the world.
    I read every evening and when I get free time on my days off I knit.
    Thanks for your post Max, it’s got me thinking.

  • My knitting brings me such joy & peace! I’ve been making hats for homeless. As I look at each one I think that’s one less cold hat this winter. It really is a part of my self care.

  • I did not appreciate the comment regarding setting on fire 2020, when some beautiful parts of California are burning and many suffering from loss. Very insensitive and an apology is needed to those affected by these fires.

  • Have you ever thought, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” I was able to do that in a way when I was still working at home. I care for 2 people with health care issues and also work a part time job that too often turns into more of a full time job. I was glad the brakes came on and I could slow down and reflect. This pandemic has taught me that slow can be a good thing and I am finding how slow can still happen as my job and responsibilities are speeding up again. Less is more brain time and more silent self-care. I don’t want to live at the neck breaking speed our culture deems necessary. And as so many others have commented, I am rediscovering my love of reading and enjoying quiet time with books again. Less can definitely help you make a way to what is truly satisfying.

  • One “DO” on my list I’ll never remove is prayer time and Bible study In the morning. These activities “set” my outlook for the day and remind me constantly not to take others for granted. Also, I’ve been listening to digital books and reading books more. The digital books are wonderful when I walk or sit knitting my projects. I need more exercise & less food!! My husband still wants balanced meals!! I enjoy Zooming with my craft & Short Story groups and FaceTime with friends and family. I’ve enjoyed all the comments. God bless all those in the California fires.

  • I have greatly increased my Reiki self care routine as well as Distance Reiki sessions with friends and family. I’ve taken a few online classes, and found new social media groups (FB and You Tube) of like-minded people.

  • I so wish I had know this when I was working. Now that I’m retired it is so much easier to find time for me.

    • My life tends to be overcrowded with stuff. I am a hoarder working valiantly towards enlightenment & there are times when it seems I’ll never see the sun. However…
      Recently, I was the fortunate “victim” of a catastrophe. Due to old water damage, a portion of my plaster living room wall collapsed & there ensued about a weeks worth of frenzied cleaning, rearranging & repairing. I am now the proud possessor of beautiful new walls & , more importantly, a few yards of Empty Space. Clean, welcoming, Space – I don’t want to move the furniture back! But that does have to happen soon. And I get to chose. To make a conscious decision to dispose of junk! This could be the start of something good!

  • Jettisoning. That’s what I have been doing this summer. Obligations, commitments, committees, all pared way down. Just as with decluttering, if it no longer gave me joy, I have worked to extract myself from it. Writing a polite letter of resignation, or asking someone else to take over, that’s what I have been working at this summer. I feel such relief.

  • I have fully quarantined- since March 13, I have not seen anyone but my immediate household members. While I have missed my usual socializing with friends and family, what I have enjoyed is the lack of obligatory-only, not-fun socializing. We seem to put a lot of that in our schedules, don’t we? ‘We have to visit Uncle Jim because mom will be upset if we don’t”… but in reality, Uncle Jim makes racist sexist comments we hate and is a bully. I’ve made a pact with myself to more honestly socialize the way I want when it’s safe to do so, and not be pulled into other people’s unwarranted demands for me to spend time with people I do not like or want to be around.

  • Self-care while the children are at school no longer works. The activities that give me strength are: knitting, crochet, mending, sewing, reading, walking, running, yoga, music. As for routine, I find that with so many changes, thinking of time as a series of phases and opportunities to try different routines helps.

  • The stress from COVID had been enormous and overwhelming. I work at a school and since the outbreak and shutdown here, the work had been non-stop. Now, we’re remotely learning and soon to be on-ground again, which means more work.

    Hubs and I do walk nightly which is wonderful us time. I was working out with friends until COVID, which I am determine to do again.

    Writing nightly in my gratitude journal is a must as is some writing in general.

  • This thread reminds me how privileged e see to be able to make choices like this about our days.

  • What doesn’t work anymore? Lists and schedules. Having spent a lifetime checking off each item, I have abandoned lists. Schedules last maybe a week then something unknown comes up and there goes the schedule. I have spent this quarantine knitting, spinning, and reading more hours each day, housework whenever it fits, and letting my day unfold as I wish. My children are grown and I cherish having the time and luxury to live my day after years of work first, then play.

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