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EP5 // The 3 E’s to Sustainable Self-Care: Self-care made simple with this easy self-care system - seriously!

2021 happiness hack Jun 21, 2021
Shannon Klenk Self-Care Coach Episode 5


Hey beautiful!  As a woman who lives with chronic illness, I never know when I am going to have an off day (or week for that matter!).


It is CRITICAL that I am fueled up and taken care of so that I am at my best whenever I am needed (and as busy women, we are needed A LOT).


In this episode I share my signature Self-Care System that will fuel YOU and allow you to better serve others.  Even when life with chronic illness feels hard & depleting, it doesn’t have to be.


And it starts with taking care of YOU!  

Takeaways from today’s episode:

  1. Consistent baby-steps of self-care create a strong and solid foundation.  The foundation is key. 
  2. The 3 E’s to Sustainable self-care are: Essential, Extra’s But Regulars, Extravagants
  3. Pick 2 or 3 (no more) Essentials to focus on each week and the snowball effect will take care of the rest.
  4. Extra’s but Regulars only count if you put them on your calendar.
  5. Intention is the secret sauce of self-care.
  6. Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.  - Harry Truman 
  7. Keep track during the week because motivation comes when we can see the purpose and progress of our actions.
  8. Use your sisterhood.  Strength does not come from figuring it all out yourself.  Strength comes from asking for support from your sisterhood, even over the littlest of things.


Hey Beautiful, and Welcome to Finally Effing Happy, a podcasting community for kick-ass, can-do women living with chronic illness. I am happiness coach and self care strategist Shannon Klenk, and I will share with you some of my personal journey to joy with chronic illness while hosting some amazing guest speakers, sharing tons of happiness hacks and self care strategies so you too can live in joy and happiness despite whatever chronic illness you may be living with day to day.


I am absolutely thrilled that you are here for today's episode. Before we dove into today's segment, we are going to have our first ever Q&A segment of Finally Effing Happy, where I address some of your questions and comments. My heart is just so incredibly full because so many people have already reached out to engage with me on your own journey of self care, health care and I am so thrilled to take a minute and answer some of these questions.


Or if you hear something that I say in passing on an episode and you want me to go into greater depth or want some further explanation, just let me know and I'm happy to share it. So today's question was about what are the foods that you keep at your fingertips that nourish you when you are not feeling well? OK, so some of the foods that I keep at my fingertips that are really important to me, I think I mentioned in that episode, I always try and keep a russet potato in the house because that's one of the easiest things on my stomach.


And it's gluten free and it feels super indulgent to me and it's warm and delicious. So that's one of the things I always  try and have around. But the other things that I make that I keep in the freezer or the cupboard, a really big staple for me, I make a roasted butternut squash and carrot soup. It is gluten free and sugar free.


I mean, sugar free, except for, of course, the natural sugars in the butternut squash and the carrot that there's no added sugars, there's no gluten in it. It's super simple to make and I always try and keep lots of it in the freezer because it freezes really great. The second thing that I keep at my fingertips is a gluten free, sugar free homemade granola. It's super easy to make. It's just time consuming. I like mine super crunchy.


And so I actually cook mine for almost four hours on a really low temperature. So it's the perfect kind of thing to make on a weekend, day or evening while watching a movie. But it is time consuming, but it's super easy. There's no added sugar in it. There's nothing in it that's gluten. And when I need that crunch or I need something a little sweet, it's right there at my fingertips and I can have it at any time.


And it is nourishing and nurturing to my body even when I'm feeling really crappy.


So if you're interested in either of those recipes, let me know. Be happy to send them out to you and I'll post them eventually in the Facebook group. And so if you have any questions or any comments, here are a couple of ways to reach out to me. I would love for you to come join my Facebook group.


It is free. It is private. It's always going to be free. It's always going to be private. And you can find that at But if Facebook isn't your jam, you can just email me at [email protected] or DM me on Instagram at Finally Effing Happy. Last but not least, you can leave me a good old fashioned voice memo at 860-385-1088.


And all of this information will also be in the show notes. I look forward to being in touch soon. Now let's dive right into today's episode. I am so excited about what I'm going to share with you today. Today we're going to talk about the 3 E's to sustainable self care.


Does your self care feel a little bit more like a game of whack a mole where you were constantly in this reactive mode trying to just keep some physical or emotional meltdown at bay? Oh, my gosh, I have lived that way for a really long time. And I have this system that I built for myself that I am super excited to share with you because my self care is not about whack a mole anymore.


It is a proactive, nurturing approach to support me and sustain me.


That also then allows me to support and sustain all the other people that I love and work with in my life, because I know that you do so much for so many people and you want to show up for so many other people. But we have to start by taking care of ourselves first, you hear that cliché all the time, right? We have to put our own oxygen mask on first. And that's true. And that is a great analogy.


But I'm going to use a slightly different one and I'm going to use an analogy of the foundation. If my foundation is strong. Then I can withstand a lot of tumultuous, disruptive stuff. And whether that tumultuous, disruptive stuff is my dog that just walked into the room that I'm podcasting in with her stuffed ducky because everybody wants my attention, like all the time. So if my foundation is strong, if our self care foundation is strong, then I can withstand a lot of stuff.


I can be flexible without breaking. But you also know if you live with a chronic condition that you can get flattened. I can get flattened at any moment and that I might lose a day. I might lose a week. I just don't know. And so if my foundation is strong, I can heal quicker. I can get back to my life. I can have a more positive outlook through that episode.


But it takes some sustainability and some consistency and some diligence. And how do I do that? How do I do that, especially given that lack of motivation? Lack of time is the number one thing that women share with me is why they put themselves last, like almost all the time. So how can we break this down in a way that actually makes it doable?


And I used to say it was the three E's to Easy Self Care because I sort of like the alliteration. But let's be honest, I don't know that there's anything easy about self care ever.


And so I've changed it to the three E's of sustainable self care, because what's most important is the little baby steps that I do consistently that help create that really strong foundation. So what are they? The first one is Essentials. The second one is Extras, but Regulars. And then the last one is Extravagance. So essential, extra and extravagant.


So let's dive into those a little bit. And if you have a piece of paper and a pen, I'd encourage you to grab one and write some of this down so you can brainstorm some of your own things.  You've heard me say, you know, this is not about me giving you some description of exactly what you should be doing because, you know, you know what you respond to. You know what lights you up and fuels your soul.


But this is the structure, the scaffolding that you can drop it into.


All right. So here we go. Essentials. What are those essentials for you?


The best way to think about it is that if I could only do one thing for me today, if I only had enough time or if I only had enough motivation and energy to only get one thing done today for my self care, what would that be?


Would it be going for a walk or getting a workout in or maybe just doing 10 minutes of stretching? Would it be making sure that you got 60 ounces of water in today? Would it be just finding a few minutes of quiet time, even if that means curling up in your closet so you can have those few minutes of peace? Maybe it's calling a girlfriend, but if you could do one thing, what would it be?


And that goes at the top of your list, and so at the beginning of every week, usually on sometime Sunday evening, but sometimes I don't get to it till Monday, but I'm pretty good about doing it on Sunday evening. I pick two, three at the most essentials that are going to be my focus for the week. Now, I'm not someone to really talk in the language of challenges or goals, because to be quite honest, I need another challenge.


Like I need another hole in the head. Right. And I need goals that I may not may or may not be able to meet given my physical condition, like I need another hole in the head. But if challenge and goal motivates you, then use that. But I'm going to talk about focus instead. And so I will pick two or three essentials that are going to be my focus for the week. All right. So what are some examples for me?


Examples for me... I'm going to talk about movement and I use the word movement instead of exercise because I hate exercise.


I absolutely loathe a workout just for the sake of a workout.


I would rather walk a lot in my life or just have a healthy sort of movement lifestyle. But in our current culture, that's a little bit challenging. And so I have to get creative with ways of movement. And the more movement I do, the better I feel.


However, here's the caveat, right?


If you live with some kind of chronic condition, there's a point at which too much exercise or too much movement actually does damage. For me, it will make me sicker. It will flatten me for a few days.


So, you know you and you know what that sweet spot is for you when I'm not feeling really strong like I was last week or the week before, whenever it was I recorded that last episode.


Sometimes my movement goal will simply be ten minutes of stretching every other day. Something small, something simple, something reachable. And if I reach that goal, winner, winner. Chicken dinner, we are totally celebrating. If I stretch for ten minutes every other day for that week, a really simple basic movement going on weeks like this week where I'm feeling much better. I may attend a virtual mat class because we're in the age of coronavirus and I'm super tightly quarantined and can't go anywhere where I am stretching my back and doing floor mat exercises.


Or I'll make sure I'm taking my dog for the mile walk around our block. Or I might even do 30 minutes of cardio, but I choose on Sunday. I say, OK, my goal is going to be thirty minutes of cardio, four days a week. And one of those days of cardio can totally just be dancing around my living room. It doesn't have to be anything super or high tech or high end. It's just me dancing like a happy four year old around my living room.


And if I achieve that goal, then it is absolutely a complete celebration. It's not about am I up leveling? Am I doing it harder? I mean, doing it faster and efficiently, burning as many calories. Because the more I keep my goal for the week, my intention for the week, manageable and small and achievable, the more I actually do.


And so you're going to pick these focuses for the week, these essentials, whatever they are for you, and make really manageable goals. So mine often focus around movement, they focus around hydration, how much water I'm going to try and drink every day. As you know, hydration is really important for me.  I hate drinking water. I would love a Coke Zero and a cup of coffee.


That's all I would drink all the time if I had my options. But I set really reachable and achievable goals for myself.


Other goals are around things like spiritual and emotional. I know for me that when I take fifteen minutes, well, if I could do fifteen minutes every morning, that would be great.


But that's a really unrealistic expectation of myself. And so if I say three days a week or four days a week, I'm going to take fifteen minutes in the morning to do some prayer, meditation, reflection, journal writing.


And then I put a little chart on my wall and then I track if I actually achieve those essentials during the week.


But it's really important that you only pick two or three and you make the focus super small and super achievable because here's what happens.


It's something called the snowball effect.


And when I am nailing my movement goal or I am nailing the amount of water I should be drinking every day or that prayer, meditation, what happens is I also find myself effortlessly making better food choices or effortlessly finding time to connect with my girlfriend in a way that doesn't feel stressed and time crunched.


So other areas of myself care more effortlessly come to fruition with that ever so generous, snowballing effect.


So what are those essentials for you? Are they around food choices? Are they around sleep? Are they around movement or are they around social connection?


What are they for? You take a moment and just write them down. And let's say movement is one where you know that if you could move more, you would feel better. What's your favorite kind of movement?


Are you the kind of person who loves 15 minutes on the treadmill, or are you the kind of person who enjoys a walk around the block?


Are you the kind of person who enjoys dancing in your living room? What is the kind of movement, if you could wave a magic wand that you would do? I would love to go swimming all the time again because of my immune condition and coronavirus. There's not a pool that is safe for me to go swimming in at the moment so I don't get to swim.


But that would be my magic wand form of movement, followed quickly by dancing.


So take a second and write what those look like for you. Well, it sounds like Clementine in the background took a second and gave it some reflection herself, she prefers just sleeping on the dining room floor.


Oh, my goodness. Second of all. All right, let's talk about those extras. But regulars.


So the extras are things like and oftentimes we associate these with things that require finances and expense.


But I'll tell you that I spent many years as a single parent working full time paycheck to paycheck, penny to penny and I found lots of creative ways to do this that don't require a penny.


So those extras but regulars, first of all, some that do require expense, they could be things like your mani pedi. It could be things like that extra special hair treatment that you might want or a facial. It could be something like some of the things that could not have an expense could be like a bubble bath for me.


I one of my biggest indulgences is Hello magazine. It's a British gossip magazine that tells you everything about royalty.


And so oftentimes my extra but regular is 30 minutes uninterrupted with a Hello magazine and a delicious cup of coffee, of course.


But here's the thing about our extras but regulars.


We all talk about them, but do we actually do them? And so the extras.


But regulars in my self care foundation only count if I put them on my calendar.


So maybe on Wednesday evening I might put bubble bath on my calendar. Now, I don't know exactly what's going to be going on in my house or what craziness with the dog or my son or who knows what.


But if I have it on my calendar, I at least have a shot at actually doing it. And so Sunday evening, when I'm sitting down looking at my focus and deciding on my focus and intention for the week, I write down what based on my physical condition and different appointments and the family schedule, what are my central focuses going to be for myself, care for the week. And then I schedule one extra but regular.


It could be a bubble bath. It could be time with my Hello magazine. It could be a mani pedi. It could be getting your hair done. Now for you, getting your hair done might also be in your essentials. Right? So you know you.


But quickly take a minute and write down three things that would be really great extras for your self care.


Did you come up with some? A really good friend of mine in the age of coronavirus? She jumps in her car and goes for a 20 minute drive if she can roll the windows down, she does. And she cranks the music up to songs that she loves to sing. Again, another free, no expense, totally great extra, but regular self care activity that lifts her spirits, boosts her soul, puts a smile on her face and just makes life a lot lighter.


All right, third is the extravagance. Now extravagance, again, we think of extravagant expense and they can be. They absolutely can be a day at the spa or a trip away with a girlfriend or something like that.


But extravagance can also be, can I take half a day and tell my family I'm going to do a retreat by myself?


And we, for example, close by where we live, there is an outdoor retreat center that has an outside labyrinth. And I can take some of my books and my music and pack myself a nourishing lunch and go spend two or three hours by myself. What an extravagance that would be. Or maybe I do that with a girlfriend. Or maybe I take a deliciously long all day hike with someone where we pick a topic for the day or we've read a particular.


In my case, I would love to read some spiritual book together and then take that hike and talk about that spiritual book on that hike. So there are all kinds of ways to incorporate extravagant self care also in ways that don't cost money.


But again, much like the extras, but regulars our extravagance only count if we do them right. Oftentimes I hear women say, gosh, I haven't done these kinds of things in years.


And so I try to put them on my calendar once, like every six months. It's been a lot harder to do in the age of coronavirus for sure. But I know that that's going to shift soon. And so making sure I've got time on the calendar where I am going to purposefully and intentionally make space for some kind of extravagant self care. So go look at your calendar, find a time. Can you take two or three hours out of a weekend and tell your family that you're going to spend this time just on you and come up with a creative way to nourish your soul?


If you need ideas on how to do that, let me know. I can come up with some really great ideas.


OK, so before we move on, let's just recap real quickly.


The three E's to sustainable self care are your essentials, your extras and your extravagance. So let's say you've taken the time to sit down and decide on what your focus, what your self care focus is going to be for the week ahead on your essentials.


And you say, OK, so I'm going to drink this much water and I want to do this much movement and I want to make sure to call my girlfriend or whatever it is for you that feels like it's going to be most meaningful, make it little, make it actionable, make it real. And then maybe you put one other thing in your calendar. You say, my extra for the week is I'm going to take a bubble bath or I'm going to go on a 30 minute walk by myself.


And you've actually put it in your calendar.


Well, now what? Where do you find the motivation to actually do it?


So we're going to spend the second half of today's show talking about intention, motivation and action.


All right. I'm going to start with intention, because I truly think that intention is the secret sauce of self care.


It's a word we use a lot. It's a word that sort of gets used and misused. But what is my intention? Everything from. If one of my central focuses for the week is on my hydration, making sure I'm getting a minimum of 60 ounces of water five days a week, that's a frequent essential focus for me.


When I'm pouring that glass of water and before I drink that glass of water, taking 20 seconds, 30 seconds and holding an intention of gratitude and appreciation for this hydration and nourishment that's going to feed my body and feed my soul.


And whatever your particular spiritual and religious bent is, if you're comfortable with the word God, say a prayer of gratitude to God.


If you're not comfortable with the word God, use whatever spiritual source or connection that's meaningful to you and just quietly in your head doesn't need to be said out loud.


Thank you for this moment to hydrate and the ability to hydrate myself and nourish my self care. That simple act of intention, again, helps to feed this growing snowball effect, which then makes our other self care activities become easier and in some cases almost effortless.


All right, and here's the last thing that I want to talk about, self care. We all know that, we know you should be doing more self care.


The number of times I hear women say I know what I should be doing. Right. So knowledge isn't the thing that's going to get it done. The analogy I give all the time is I know how to do is sit up, but it doesn't mean that I have six pack abs, you know, what you quote unquote should be doing, but that doesn't mean that it gets it done.


Some of you are going to listen to this podcast and you are going to be like, yeah, that all sounds great. That all sounds wonderful. Yeah, small, manageable chunks, whatever. But you're not going to actually do anything different. And then some of you are going to listen to this podcast and say, I'm going to give it a try.


I'm going to actually pick just two or three essentials this week that I'm going to focus on and myself care. I'm going to actually put an extra on my calendar and I'll look at my calendar and see if there's a time in the next six months I might be able to put something on it for some more extravagant self care. You're going to actually get into action to do something about it.


One of my most favorite quotes, and it sits here on my wall in my office, it says In perfect action, beats perfect inaction every time I'm going to say it again. Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time. So even if I engage in these actions of my self care and I do it imperfectly, it's better than not even trying at all. And this is where sisterhood really, really, really comes into play. Because I hear women tell me all the time, "I'm going to get it together, I'm going to do this,  I'm going to get my food and my exercise and I'm going to...I'm just going to get all together."


Well, I've said a thousand times in my life, I don't know how many times you've said that in your life, but the truth is that I have made so much more progress taking these little tiny baby steps than trying to do this big, huge 180 degree up level in my life. So we're going to start with the baby steps, and that's where sisterhood, connection and community are super supportive.


So I've mentioned, I'm sure, a thousand times already. I hate water. I'd rather drink Coke Zero and coffee all the time.


And so sometimes I'll call my girlfriend and, be like I am, like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the living room going, “Nooo! you can’t make me drink more water.”


Right? Sometimes the self-pity just gets the best of me. I feel like don't you know how much I already have to do to take care of myself anyways. So what I might do is I might call a girlfriend and say, hey, can we talk? And while we're talking, I'm going to commit to drinking this 12 ounce mug of coffee. I mean, excuse me, I even said it subconsciously, this 12 ounce mug of water, because I love coffee so much more than water.


So I'll say to my girlfriend, I'm committing and I'm going to tell you when I'm done with these 12 ounces of water.


And then lo and behold, I'm sitting there chit chatting with my girlfriend. And before I know it, those 12 ounces of water are gone and I'm refilling my mug with another 12 ounces.


And so sisterhood, reaching out, you know, we come from this culture where our independence is so valued and independence is wonderful. I am a strong, independent woman, but part of my independence is knowing that I am stronger when I humble myself to say I'm having a really hard time picking good food choices. I'm having a really hard time getting enough movement so my lower back doesn't hurt. I'm having a hard time getting the water in that I need so I don't get the blackout, vomiting, migraine headaches that so impact me, but also impact my family instead of thinking, oh God, I should just figure this out in my head all by myself.


No, when we do it together, there's greater, greater strength.


And last but not least, I'm going to talk about motivation and moving forward in my podcast. I'm going to have thirty seconds of motivation moment because it is the number one thing. When I ask women what is the thing that keeps you from taking better care of yourself, lack of motivation is the number one thing that comes back, followed by lack of time. Everyone else comes first. And so the thing about motivation is that I can't force you to have motivation.


Right. You've heard that old saying I can lead a horse to water, but I can't make them drink. I can't, like, crack your head open and pour in more motivation.


It's something that at some level you need to make a choice for yourself.


And again, this comes back to, you know, you. But I can tell you that in terms of motivation science, one of the number one things that motivates people is breaking things down into little, tiny, manageable chunks. Now, I didn't know that before I created my three E's for myself, but scientifically it makes sense because I've broken it down into these little tiny chunks once a week, not for the rest of my life, not for the rest of this year, not for some big, gigantic goal like I'm going to run a marathon in the next 12 months, which if that is your goal, that's awesome.


But you know, you and if you know you can do that. Awesome. I know me running a marathon would make me super sick. And so I'm not going to make that one of my personal goals. But the other ones, I break down into small, manageable chunks and then giving ourselves credit for every small success. And so I track on a weekly basis. If I have set myself a focus that I want to drink sixty ounces of water five days a week, I just have a really simple little checklist.


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and  every day I do it, I just put a little checkmark and I can look back on that list and even if my focus is really small, like when I'm not feeling great, my movement goal is to stretch for ten minutes, four days a week. Like, that's so small. But I tell you, when I get to the end of the week and I have met that goal, I have stretched for ten minutes, four days a week.


Even when I'm feeling crappy, I feel like a rock star.


I feel even more like a rock star because I met that goal when I wasn't necessarily feeling great, but I made these small manageable.


Bite sized chunks for myself, and that feeds my motivation and then feeds that snowball effect.


One of the biggest motivation killers is when we feel like our work is futile, purposeless, pointless. And this was a big one for me around self care.


I remember thinking, like, you know, if I drink 12 ounces of water, that's stupid. It's not really going to make that big of a difference. Or if I just do 10 minutes of stretching, that's not going to make that big of a difference. It's not a big deal.


That self talk that we do, feeling like the work that we do is purposeless or futile is one of our number one motivation killers. So how do we turn that around, we turn that around by reminding ourselves that we are making progress, that when you do any one of these little small self care actions, especially with purposeful intention, you are making progress. And if you can't find that in you to remind yourself, because sometimes I can get so low I don't have the energy to remind myself.


Let me remind you, you've got this.


You are an amazing warrior woman who is out there living life, doing your job, taking care of kids, showing up for your family. You've probably got volunteer community commitments that you do as well. And you are managing the nuances of whatever chronic condition you might have, whether it be fibromyalgia or diabetes, or maybe you live with long term Lyme disease or Crohn's disease, or maybe you have HIV or a primary immune deficiency like I do whatever it is, you are managing the physical and emotional and logistical.


Right. Doctors and medical insurance and all of that stuff. You're managing all of that on top of all the incredible stuff that you get done in your life day in and day out, you are an absolute rock star and you are getting it done.


Every little baby step of self care that you take, you are building a strong networked  foundation for you that will allow you to be flexible without breaking. To face the winds and tumultuousness of life as it comes, because we know that life is life, that stuff happens. But we also know living with chronic conditions, that does happen.


And so what are one or two self care essentials that you can just focus on today?


Right now, after listening to this episode, write them down, share them in the Facebook group, shoot me an email with them, hold yourself accountable to whatever those little tiny baby step self care essentials you can do just for yourself today.


And trust me, every little piece is worth it. OK, so let's recap. Here are the takeaways from today's episode:


1) Sustainable, consistent baby steps of self care create a strong and solid foundation that allow you to withstand the winds of life. You can bend but not break


2) The 3 E's to sustainable self care are essentials, extras but regulars and extravagance.


3) Pick two or three, no more self care essentials to focus on each week, and the snowball effect will take care of the rest.


4) Extras but regulars only count if we actually put them on our calendar.


5)Intention is the secret sauce of self care.


6) Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.


7) Motivation comes when we can see the purpose and progress of our actions. So keep track of how often you actually get into action and engage in your self care activity for the week and make sure you celebrate when you do.


8) Use your sisterhood. Strength does not come from figuring it all out yourself. Strength comes from asking for support from your sisterhood, even over the littlest of things.


So I hope you get into some action around your own self care in the gentlest and most supportive way, breaking it down into manageable bite size, achievable chunks. But either way, until we get to hang out again next, be kind to you today and be well. Hey, one last thing before we go, girlfriend, if you heard something in today's episode that really connected with you that you can use in your own self care journey, will you please do me a favor and write a review on Apple podcast so that other kick ass can do women living with chronic illness can find us. Or post this episode to your social media on Instagram or Facebook and tag me at Finally Effing Happy. Come hang out with me some more in my Facebook group. It's free, private. And if social media isn't your jam, just join the email list so you don't miss an episode or amazing guest speakers and you can join the email list at


But until we connect next, be well and be kind to you today!


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