Add some scary-good books to your list this season.
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We all know the slippery slope. It begins with the best of intentions, researching tools to support our wellbeing. But soon, we’re careening down the craziest mental health rabbit hole on the internet, only to emerge hours later with a massive list of all the stuff you “should” (and “definitely shouldn’t”) do, a self-diagnosis of some sort, and a mounting sense of overwhelm.
Retreat to the couch. Reach for the remote. Back to square one. Or more like... square one minus five.
When the pursuit of mental wellbeing feels like it only piles more tasks onto an already full plate, said research becomes entirely counterproductive. But what’s the alternative? Shouldn’t we all be meditating and doing yoga and participating in that webinar and and and…
Hold the phone. I feel stressed just writing that. Let’s go ahead and ax that list right there.
When people ask me for advice on how to improve their mental and physical health, they’re often surprised when I say, “Just do the bare minimum.”
“Huh?” is the response I usually get. Of course, that sounds weird, especially coming from someone in the wellness industry who has a book all about taking ownership of your life. When most people hear “bare minimum,” they think slacker. Mediocrity. Apathetic. And when it comes to mental health, not enough.
I hear something different: attainable. Sustainable. Realistic. Inspiring. And as it pertains to supporting our mental wellbeing? Those words are downright magic. Because when other stuff in our lives feels completely unachievable or overwhelming, our mental health practices are the first thing that we need to be able to lean on.
So here’s how to realign your standards and create your own set of achievable Bare Minimum goals. It’s straightforward, I promise—no overwhelm.
Let’s get honest: how lofty are your usual goals?
This will require you to be honest with yourself. Like, really, cringe-inducing honest.
Ready? Ok… so how many of your self-care goals or intentions do you actually achieve on a daily basis?
If you’re like a lot of us, the answer is somewhere between not many and none. And let me be the first to say that doesn’t at ALL mean that you’re flaky, unmotivated, undisciplined, or any of those things…
It just means you’re setting your goals wrong.
If you are consistently setting goals that feel unattainable or overwhelming, you’re setting yourself up to fall short repeatedly. Talk about a confidence killer, right? Truth: this style of goal setting can actually be counterproductive to our mental health because we perceive ourselves to be constantly failing.
Set the bar too high = you’ll end up crashing into it, almost every time. Skinned knees and bruised hearts are the results.
Bare minimums are standards that you can meet almost automatically, without a huge amount of effort. And here’s my take on them: they should be treated as non-negotiable. So they have to be totally attainable, because once you set them, they are simply not up for debate: they are becoming your new baseline of care.
You brush your teeth regularly, right? And you don’t feel right if you skip that step in your morning, right? (I mean… I guess I’ll speak for myself!) Your Bare Minimums can easily become just as much a part of your routine.
These are a few of my personal examples, and I suggest you find your own for each of these categories:
Beauty - I put on tinted sunblock, concealer (if I have any zits, which I usually do), and eyeliner and mascara every day. Even if I don’t do anything else, I’m going to do these couple of things because that’s the bare minimum I need to do in order to feel put together.
Nutrition - I eat something with protein at every meal, and I eat veggies every day.
Nature - I go for a walk in nature for thirty minutes at least once a week (with the exception of the really cold winter months). Since quarantine hit, I’ve been doing this closer to every day, it seems to help even on the rainy days.
Fitness - I insist on making it to yoga, barre, or some other type of fun virtual fitness class, at the very least twice a week. Even though I usually do more, I make sure my bare minimum is 100% attainable.
Sleep - I need a minimum of seven hours per night. If I don’t get it, I make sure I catch up on lost sleep within a day or two.
Connection/Introspection - I insist upon connecting with a friend at least once a week, on the phone, or, these days, on a video call. Similarly, I need some time to be alone and reflect, each and every day.
You might note that the bar isn’t very high in these examples. Fitness class twice a week? Deal! A 30-minute walk in nature once a week? Not that hard! Making self-care goals feel easily within reach is key to avoiding the total overwhelm that can send us crashing into the paralysis of doing nothing.
Just like neglecting to brush your teeth… the regrets will come later, and we know it.
And this is that sweet spot where physical and mental health are one and the same: when we feel good about how we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re more likely to make even more positive choices for our wellbeing. No regrets.
Are there any aspects of your wellbeing where you allow other people to drive your decisions? Do you let your partner dictate bedtime, or your kids determine your meals? Have you set the standard that you’ll answer work emails or texts at just about any hour?
The Bare Minimums might just mean setting some healthy boundaries to plug up the leaks that are draining you. I used to stay up late watching TV with my partner and end up dragging myself out to teach in the morning—but that doesn’t happen anymore. If my partner wants to fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV, that’s fine, he can do that. But that’s not how I roll. I no longer tag along with him as though I don’t have a choice. Instead of letting my bedtime be determined by default, I’ve taken charge of my own sleeping schedule. He can do whatever he wants, don’t get me wrong. Meanwhile, I put myself to bed when I need to sleep, and I feel so much better because of that shift.
So once you’ve identified your Bare Minimums, start plugging one leak at a time. Some of these shifts will be easier than others (hellooooo changing kids’ habits), but every one of them is worth it. Slow and steady, with a whole lot of patience.
Toning up your mental health routine can be all about getting simple and clear. Be kind to yourself, and create the mental health goals that will set you up for success. Those bare minimums will take you far.
For the first time ever, the globe will be watching surfing take center stage at the 2020 (postponed to July 2021) Olympics. People from all over the world will be appreciating the sport, many for the first time.
This symbolizes the surfing community breaking through centuries of negative stereotypes. Though conditions play a big part in the sport, the biggest hurdle the athletes will have to overcome to see success is mental. The winner will be the one who chooses their waves wisely with their understanding of the conditions and ability to intimidate and therefore overcome components. Meanwhile, they will be challenging themselves to emerge from crashing barrels, fly into the air, and land on the shifting surface gracefully. No big deal.
You’ve probably heard the invention of a wave pool, which creates the perfect man-made wave. In 2007, Kelly Slater founded his wave company with a passion to build the perfectly rideable wave at his surf ranch. It was debated whether the Olympics should be held in the ocean or on a manufactured wave, with many differing opinions on what would be right. The decision was made, and the event will take place in the sea, at Tsurigasaki Beach in Japan, about 40 miles east of Tokyo, where the rest of the 2021 games will be hosted.
As you watch, take a moment to reflect on the century of effort for this to happen. This initiative can be traced all the way back to the 1912 summer games that took place in Stockholm. Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern surfing, won three gold medals in swimming, and while accepting his medal, he expressed that it was his dream to see surfing be added. To add fuel to the fire, International Surfing Association, recognized as the surfing world's governing authority by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), began lobbying for the inclusion of surfing in the Olympics in 1955.
Surfing is a multidimensional sport unlike any other. Nothing compares to paddling out to the serene silence that awaits beyond the breaking waves. Once you get out there, you immediately escape the many annoyances ingrained in everyday life—the constant notifications on your phone and laptop, your back-to-back schedule, answering to other people. You’re no longer on the time that your watch reads, you’re on mother nature’s time. You’re also no longer in control of your surroundings. Now, all you can do is surrender and wait for the next set to come, while trying to position yourself for when it does.
The high from catching the perfect wave is so addicting that surfers would fail on one hundred in a row just to catch that one. After you catch that perfect one, you replay it in your mind for the rest of the day.
A successful session is reliant on so many factors of mother nature—a force way bigger than us. For ideal conditions to exist, a good-sized swell must approach from the right direction, the wind must be flowing offshore, and you have to time your session right with the ebb and flow of the tide.
The sport is always teaching you life lessons. It is humbling, even if you’ve been practicing it for many years. One reason why it takes so long to master is that the conditions are going to be different every time you get out there. You might have caught a million yesterday, but today makes you feel like a kook because you can’t land one decent wave.
The community of people that you become a part of when you surf is special. A shared obsession with the ocean that brings you to dive into the water at dawn to get a session in bonds you quick. When you’re out there, you’ll find yourself interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds. People enjoy sharing the stoke of the sport. When you see someone out there teaching somebody new, you’ll encounter them cheering at the top of their lungs when they catch a good wave, and as you look around, you’ll see smiles all across the lineup. The other day, I caught a long wave in to be met with a cheering crowd of locals who frequent the spot that I do. When I got to shore, a local showed me their secret stash of hot packs to access in case I, or someone else, gets stung by a stingray when they aren’t around.
Being out in the ocean and abiding by her rules gives surfers a deep love and connection to nature. It’s common to see sea animals out there, like dolphins, stingrays, and fish. When you have an encounter, it’s a reminder that we are invading their territory. It sucks when you see trash floating in the water, or on the sand in its route to the water. It’s a sad reminder of the negative impact that humans can have on natural environments. It inspires you to pick up trash and advocate for sustainability so that we, as a collective, can take care of the beauty that we are lucky to have access to.
Tune in to see surfing break into the biggest international sporting event in the world beginning on Saturday, July 24th.
Do you live by the ocean? Paddle out with an instructor.
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