Editor’s Note: We’re sharing this article, originally published in February 2020, to provide a little inspiration for anyone wanting to make some positive change in your life (whether you’re in your thirties or any other decade). We hope you find some helpful insights in Sarah’s words.
What’s that old banality? You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? While I certainly don’t feel that old just yet, I do believe that as long as you’re willing to take a large swill of humility, habits can be formed in the plight of your thirties (and in any decade of life, really).
In fact, when I take a good, hard look at some of the routines (or lack thereof) of my twenties, I lament the fact that I made life so much harder for myself. But when you’re residing in blissful ignorance or naivety, you are able to operate on a different continuum. Until one day you can’t, and it’s time to face the music.
Not everyone needs the rug pulled out from underneath them to realize a change needs to be made. There does not always need to be a shame spiral or a stark shift in perspective to lay the groundwork for new habits. Sometimes, it’s as simple as quelling the noise and taking our own inherent advice. It’s quite incredible what we already know.
There does not always need to be a shame spiral or a stark shift in perspective to lay the groundwork for new habits. Sometimes, it’s as simple as quelling the noise and taking our own inherent advice.
Changing habits over time is something we all do, whether we reflect on it or not. One day you’re spending money you don’t have on takeout again, basking in blissful naivety. And then before you know it, you have a favorite stove burner and “house shoes.” Jokes aside, my twentysomething hiccups are now my thirtysomething goals. I’m craving systems and simplicity, which begin with small but mighty tweaks.
Here are a handful of the best changes I’ve started to implement in my thirties.
1. Actually checking the mail (and opening it, too).
You know the insurmountable pile I am talking about. The glaring glisten of a cellophane-covered address that holds the burden of a bill you’d rather soon forget. Personally, our mailbox is a tiny slot that lives on the outside of our home, which then allows the envelopes to cascade into a basket on the front porch, aka a black hole. This makes it all too easy to turn a blind eye. (Peeks out the door: Anything with a handwritten return address, therefore worth opening? Oh, just another love letter from Sallie Mae? Or that rectangular one—that’s probably a credit card offering from an illegitimate company I won’t be able to even find on google. Nah. And so it collects.)
But those days are long behind me. (And by long, we’re talking a few weeks.) This newfound habit was more painful to start than hopping on your (insert least favorite exercise equipment here) but once you get going, there’s no turning back. As a matter of fact, I have *almost* found great satisfaction in the ripping open of the paper, and even more in tackling the matter head-on as they arrive. The ambiguous mound of paper no longer rears its ugly head and instead, a small veneer of ease has been laid on my mind.
2. Hiring a financial coach.
In most areas of my life, sooner or later, I am so far deep in the “out of sight, out of mind” quicksand (note the aforementioned ignoring of unopened mail) that the idea of beginning to sift through it all feels daunting at best. When it came to tackling finances, I finally had my “come to Jesus” moment last year when I asked myself: If I could have done it myself by now, don’t you think I would have?
I finally waved my white flag and found someone to help me. No one I knew formerly but instead, a pro at the very things I am not well-versed (or interested) in but that need some attention. We hire trainers when we need to know how to move, we have people change our oil when we could surely YouTube it and save $50, so why should the theme of finances be any different?
Truth be told, I am still on this journey but I can speak with full confidence that I have already seen a massive difference in the story I created around money. Having someone not only hold me accountable but also give me a tried and true plan that I could digest has empowered me as an adult and is slowly but surely chiseling away at the shame boulder that seems to have amassed over time. I am a grown-ass woman, own a few businesses and a house, and have a family. We are all plenty capable of facing hard facts and the very least we can do is tackle the literal currency that keeps the systems in our life afloat.
3. Getting cozy with retinol.
No, this is not for everyone. And depending on your skin type, whether or not you’re pregnant or nursing, or any other myriad of reasons, it may not be the best fit for you and you should honor that. But life and gravity have not scooted past my face, and if there’s one thing I wish I would’ve started sooner preemptively, it would have been a more thorough, consistent skincare routine.
Between life stressors, lack of sleep (looking at you, motherhood), and a tenure at any laundromat tanning bed I could visit in my early twenties, my face had started to remind me that while I’m still young, my usual arsenal of mediocre skincare needed a serious—for lack of better words—facelift.
Luckily, we now live in a time where the conversation around skincare is commonplace and the options are endless (sometimes even overwhelming). I recommend doing a deep dive into research, booking an appointment with a dermatologist, or asking your closest confidants what’s working for them. (Bonus points if they have similar skin goals so you can compare experiences.)
I should also mention that sunscreen is undoubtedly the first measure of protection, but I think Baz Luhrmann pretty much covered that perfectly in his 1999 graduation speech, so I’ll nod to retinol, for those of us who didn’t listen to Baz sooner. (We live and learn… and moisturize.)
4. Incorporating meal planning into my routine.
We’ve all pinned the recipes and made the ambitious declarations of “next week is going to be different!” I have been (and still am) guilty of this sometimes, too. While I wish I could say I was perfect at meal planning all the time, I celebrate the moments when I am on the ball (note: because I’m not hangry!) and do not let the times that I am less prepared negate the times that I was.
From a fiscal standpoint, having a plan in place for each day’s meals and leftovers that can accompany has allowed me to budget accordingly. I’ve found myself spending half the amount on food that I used to. From a logistical standpoint, not having to think in the moment about what I’m cooking for dinner and tomorrow’s lunch, especially in a season of life where time is scarce, has cleared so much space in my mind. (Also, I get far fewer texts from my husband asking about dinner ideas every day by 10:30 a.m.)
I’ve started to treat this prep time as a form of self-care and less like another to-do. Whenever we can “automate” any aspect of our lives to set ourselves up for success, it’s a win.
I’ve started to treat this prep time as a form of self-care and less like another to-do. Whenever we can “automate” any aspect of our lives to set ourselves up for success, it’s a win. And may that turmeric stain on your white shirt as a result of said meal planning be worn like a goddamn gold medal, my friend.
5. Embracing all four seasons.
When I first found out I was due with my son in December nearly three years ago, I had a moment of panic. Would my postpartum hormone crash be exacerbated by seasonal affective disorder? The fact that I had that as my first thought should tell you just how much stake I have put into the seasons. As a born and raised Midwesterner, I have become so accustomed to all four seasons’ extremes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t each come with their own set of carry-ons. I often wish I could just check that baggage at the turn of the calendar month but I’ve found that the only way out is through, much to my dismay.
Once my son arrived and I was hunkered in during the month of January, I quickly found myself embracing it—and no one was more surprised than me. It completely shifted something in my brain that I’ve taken into every season thereafter. I am finally leaning into the change that happens; both in nature and in turn within myself.
Instead of resisting the change and feeling frustrated every 2-5 months when I accept I cannot will it away, I’ve brought a sliver of ease into my life by welcoming the elements with wide-open arms.
Historically we are meant to evolve with the seasons. The way we eat, the way we live, and the resilience and adaptability that are formed because of it—it’s all a part of the cyclical pattern and rhythm. Instead of resisting the change and feeling frustrated every 2-5 months when I accept I cannot will it away, I’ve brought a sliver of ease into my life by welcoming the elements with wide-open arms, whether they’re bare and sun-kissed or soft and wool-clad. And you’ll never believe it—the seasons go by much faster with this perspective.
6. Practicing a daily brain dump.
There are few things I love more than good ol’ fashioned “brain dump.” (A concept our very own Kate Arends introduced to me recently.) While it’s nothing new per se, the way in which she spoke to me about it made so much more sense. I am a lover of lists but when your brain is a perpetual pinball game while juggling several junctures, sometimes the best way to turn down the noise is to de-amplify it by dumping out all of our thoughts.
It can be words, sentences, random thoughts that come to mind, sketches even. Write freely and with reckless abandon. This may feel brief and concise, and other days it may feel like you’re cranking out the greatest missive of your life. Give yourself and your present brain space lots of grace and meet yourself where you’re at.
Once I see it all written down, it can allow me to better divide where my time needs to be spent. (And set timers for those very categories, if you’re a “too many tabs open” kind of mind like myself.)
7. Making time for therapy––whatever that may look like.
It took my heart feeling severely hacky-sacked from breakups, a parent’s divorce, and acute trauma for me to finally seek a therapist. Interesting, considering I am the daughter of a guidance counselor and came from an open-dialogue family. But it was also in these very first sessions that I finally realized that therapy comes in many forms. This has taken shape on my yoga mat, in acupuncture, in having a drink by myself on a patio, in seeking solitude in the woods of the dog park, and more often now, in the ubiquitous oversized leather chair across from a stranger who knows more about you than many.
In whatever way this shakes out for you, I beg of you to give yourself permission to make time for it. But a fair warning: It’s not nearly as effective and almost futile if guilt accompanies the act shortly thereafter. Trust me. Just relish in your form of therapy and let it simmer inside afterward.
Now, do you need to be in your thirties to introduce any of these things into your daily repertoire? Absolutely not. Don’t wait for an unwelcome forehead pleat, a digestive issue, or a comma in your bank account to give you the green light to make a change. And don’t wait for permission from another, either.
We all have reasons we’ve told ourselves we can’t change or have ownership of something new/positive. But guess what? We do not have to do something “long enough” to declare it ours. There’s no such thing as emotional reciprocity. Take it from someone who is in the thick of habit change growing pains, who now religiously uses voice memos to remember thoughts or ideas, who is at the “I have a car tweezers” age––hard habits are tough to break but good ones are significantly more fun to gain. I don’t care if that makes me sound old––you’ll thank yourself.
Sarah Hrudka Behlke is a gal with big feelings, even bigger hair, who’s never met a stranger. She is the co-owner of design brands linyage and velvet raptor, as well as a lifestyle photographer. When she is not spilling coffee on her white tee, you can find her in her new backyard with her husband, almost 1 year old girl, and 4 year old boy––where he is likely wiping his sticky hands on her back-up white tee.