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  • Writer's pictureJessica McQuistin

Writing From the Rut: Snippets of Self-Care

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Why is it so hard sometimes to just do the things that I know make me feel good? The more I need them, the further they seem from my grasp. And the easier it is to grab my phone instead. Or reach for a handful of dark chocolate almonds. Or another cup of coffee. Ya know?

Recently, I fell into a bit of a rut. Not a deep dark hole. Or a sea of sadness. Or a dungeon of dread... Just a rut. A funk. A slump.

Before I get into it further, I want to give a bit of context, for the sake of transparency. (I'm all about keeping it real here!)

The process described in this post took place over many scattered, interrupted moments in time, over a week or two. I've woven them together here for simplicity. I want to acknowledge that life doesn't just stop when you need self-care, and sometimes self-care happens in bite-sized chunks that nourish you gradually over time, with plenty of chaos, everyday shenanigans, and amazing moments in between. It can be a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of journey, with plenty of loop-de-loops thrown in just for fun.

Getting back to the rut...

I was sitting in the grass with my journal, taking a moment for myself while the kids played at the park; I stared ahead blankly, not sure what to write or even what I was feeling. When I get this way, a tool I've found useful is PIES, which stands for:


It also makes me think of freshly baked pies, which is always a pleasant thought. (Mmm, pies! Yes, I'm a little food-obsessed!)

I first heard of this acronym through Rob Dial, a motivational speaker, and I think Dean Bokhari originally coined it. (If I'm wrong on this, please correct me!) Dial presented PIES as a journalling prompt and that's how I've used it over the past few years, checking in with the various aspects of myself.

Here's what I jotted down that day at the park:

Physical: slow, heavy, tense jaw

Intellectual: foggy, questioning, distracted, doubtful

Emotional: dull, tired, antsy, unsettled

Spiritual: disconnected, lost

Just writing this out felt like a positive step. At least my feelings were out on paper, and no longer stuck in my head, swirling around mysteriously.

Reflecting on this, some of my self-care needs became clear to me:

  • deep relaxation/rest to recharge

  • physical activity to energize my body and clear my blurry mind

  • meditation and/or time in nature to reconnect with my sense of spirituality and regain overall clarity of purpose

I also wrote myself a little pep-talk note, that went something like this:

I know this is important and worth the time. I will be more "myself" if I do what I need to do to feel good. I'll have more energy. More vibrancy. More love available - for myself and everyone around me. I can do this.

Feel free to borrow this pep-talk if it speaks to you, or write your own! If you do, I recommend using strong language like "I know...I will...I can..." Words are powerful and saying or writing out confident statements like this can really motivate us to take action, even when it's difficult.

In a perfect world, I would have gone on to do these self-care activities immediately or at least scheduled them into the calendar, but I couldn't do either right away. So I kept these needs in mind and carried on parenting, adulting, catching up with people that I hadn't seen in a long time due to Covid, etc., determined to find time for self-care as soon as I could.

Then something neat happened. Without any planning or scheduling, here are some actions I spontaneously took in the days that followed:

  • started going for early morning jogs

  • took time to slow down and appreciate nature while I was out on my jogs

  • had a short nap one afternoon, and asked the kids to play quietly for a bit (which they actually did, for the most part)

  • canceled plans with friends one evening after a very social week, when I knew I just needed to rest

  • took both kids out on their bikes and jogged or walked briskly while they rode (a new milestone for our youngest kiddo, who is just starting to like bike rides)

  • lied on a comfy rug to rest while listening to music, which turned into an intuitive yoga-ish movement practice

I'm not advocating for not making plans for self-care, just sharing how things went for me this particular time, when I did a self-check-in (using PIES), took stock of my needs, and articulated the reasons why this was important to me. I think sometimes we need a plan in order to make things happen, but other times we just need to take inspired action.

On a larger scale, another action I took more deliberately was to cancel a trip to my parents' house in Sudbury, Ontario, which would have been sandwiched between a bunch of other summer plans. Miraculously, when I spoke to my mom about this, she suggested that the kids go spend a few days with them instead of our whole family, so that my husband and I could have some time to ourselves. Hallelujah! (Yes, I have the best parents ever!) This was the break I/we really needed.

Do you prioritize and schedule self-care? Do you make plans or just do what feels right at the moment? Do you have practices for checking in with yourself? If you ever struggle to identify how you're doing or what you even need, I highly recommend the PIES prompt. Even on mentally or emotionally foggy days, it feels accessible to me.

What about the rut? Well, I feel like I'm in a totally different, more positive place now than I was that day at the park. But honestly, I'm also riding a new emotional whirlwind with the sudden busyness of the summer season, after spending so much time doing so little throughout the pandemic. I'm excited to see people that I've missed and grateful to see things opening up, and I'm also anxious about over-doing it, as an introvert and a person who finds transitions challenging. My hope is that I can maintain this sense of connection to myself and my needs, and honour them as I navigate these choppy, thrilling, breathtaking and overwhelming waters over the next few weeks.


I intended to keep my summer posts short, but this one just wouldn't quite cooperate. Oh well! If you're looking for shorter reads, check out my "summer shorts" which are organized by tags on the homepage.

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