Day 6: Part Two: Self Care Strategies Continued
Mindfulness and Solitude
There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes
-That Nich Hanh
This is one of my favorite sayings by That Nich Hanh. What it means is, we have choice over our lives, even when it comes to the not-so-fun chores and tasks we have to do each day. We have a choice to look at the chore or task at hand, and get all spun up and stressed about it (or spend the time while doing the task distracted by other things we have to do), We also have a choice to experience the pleasure of embodiment in doing the task. We wash the dishes in order to experience washing the dishes. The warmth of the water, the slippery bubbles, the satisfaction of turning a clean plate over under running water. These tiny moments are just a few minutes of your day, but hold a treasure of joy and meaning, if we are willing to bring our presence to them. In this way,we can find meaning and fulfillment in even the most mundane parts of our lives.
Some ideas for inviting more mindfulness into our lives:
• Qi Gong
• Grounding/connecting to the Earth
• Deep breathing
Many times, in order to find places for mindfulness, we must have solitude. For some, the word solitude equates to loneliness. But there is a dramatic difference between solitude and loneliness, and we find the difference in making friends with ourselves--which is what self care is all about. When we feel solid in our relationship with self, spending time alone can be a rich, nourishing, and rewarding treat we can give ourselves.
Therapy and Support for Mental Health
Therapy has been stigmatized for a long time as something that only ‘crazy’ people need. My crazy idea is that everybody needs therapy!
As human beings, we all experience a vast emotional landscape that can sometimes feel confusing or overwhelming. Life is complex. Sometimes we need help with our relationships. Sometimes we have trauma or experiences from the past that can make navigating our present emotions difficult. Sometimes we lose a loved one. Sometimes we just have a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad year. When we hurt ourselves, or get sick, we go to the doctor. The same is true for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Having a caring, trusted, neutral person that will listen to our stories, hold space for us to vent, and offer us new tools for our emotional tool boxes is an immense gift we can give ourselves, even if we don’t feel mentally ‘unwell’. Most insurances now cover mental health providers, and more and more therapists are offering sliding scale options or grad-student level counseling for a lower cash rate for those who don’t have coverage.
Need some help finding a good therapist? At TAC, we recommend one of our Partners, the North Carolina Center for Resiliency. Goodtherapy.org is another great resource with a 'Therapist Finder' that you can put all kinds of search critieria in to find a provider that best meets your needs.
Joy, Creativity, and Play
When’s the last time you blew bubbles, or made sidewalk chalk art, or had a pillow fight? Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean the children inside us ever grew up. Making time for play and creativity can significantly reduce stress, and exponentially increase the joy in our lives.
If you have children, you have an instant and never-ending joy fountain! Find the opportunities to play along with your kids. Run after them at Marbles, and challenge them to a giant lego build-off. Play hide and seek in the house. See if the whirly things at the playground still make you dizzy. Make mud pies and have snowball fights. Collaborate on a finger paint masterpiece. Set up a mini obstacle course in your backyard using items you already have laying around. If you don’t have children, please remember that adults are just big kids! You can still play and be creative. Take an art class (even if it’s just a one-time ‘wine and design’ class). Take a walk around the art museum and get inspired. Get yourself a lovely new journal and write. Go to karaoke with your friends. Find the places that spark your creativity and fun, and enjoy them, guilt-free.
Let’s get it out of the way first: social media does *not* count towards filling up your Social Bucket. I promise.
Now, let’s think of things that do. For starters, think of the people on your list that matter most to you. You most likely see these people on a regular basis if they are your spouse/partner, children, close friends and family, etc. Think of the quality of time spent with these people--has it become more route and less meaningful than you’d like? Does it feel daunting when you try to think of how to keep all these connections maintained?
An easy way to bring more fulfillment to our social connections is to bring in ritual. Have a regular thing you do with your bestie every week. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or partner or children. Find something to do in which you get to meet new people (combine bestie and new people time if you’re feeling nervous!). The activities can be the same every time, or completely spontaneous. The goal is giving your yes (your commitment of time and energy) to those most important to you, and building it into your life regularly. Scheduling time to maintain your social relationships may feel like not much fun on the front end, but it can be a great way to maintain your important connections for the longterm.
Let’s talk about Stuff, Baby
Stuff. It’s everywhere. In drawers and closets and bins and piles. In the garage, the driveway, our pockets, the backyard. Owning things puts us in an obligatory relationship with our stuff. Whether it’s a house, a car, clothes, collections, papers, books, etc. We spend time, money, and energy on procuring, upgrading, repairing, maintaining, organizing, storing, and stressing about our stuff. That’s time, money and energy we could be spending on what matters most to us.
Clutter can cause anxiety. According to recent research, clutter in our spaces decreases our ability to focus, process information and make decisions, and increases stress levels and the likelihood of depression. Think of clutter in your home as clutter in your mind. So, the less piles of things you have laying around, the clearer you’ll feel mentally and emotionally.
Marie Kondo and her book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ along with her Netflix series is all the rage right now. I’m a big fan of her work, and I can testify to the magic of developing a new relationship with my stuff. The idea of letting go of anything that doesn't spark joy (and everything that’s left having a reserved place in my home) can ripple outwards to other areas of life as well--and it’s helped me to reevaluate the relationships and obligations that were not joyful or sustaining for me.
So, how much stuff do we actually need? First, let’s take a look at the word ‘need’. It’s a strong word. Byron Katie is fond of saying ‘How do I know I don’t need a thing? Because I don’t already have it.’ While that may sound extreme, the meaning behind it is that many of us already have our basic ‘stuff needs’ met. We have shelter, clothing, food, water, and transportation. The trap we can get ourselves into is convincing ourselves that we ‘need’ something, when in reality we just really, really want it. And what often happens when we buy the thing we ‘needed’, is we have a momentary rush of excitement, which after a short time fades away. When initial excitement of having the thing is gone, we find something else we just have to have, and the cycle continues all over.
A good way of deciding whether or not to buy an item is to ask yourself first: ‘Does this help fill one of my Buckets, or drain it (thinking of your Financial Bucket here is a great idea!)?’ and second ‘Am I prepared to be committed to caring for this item?’ If we look at our stuff in relational terms, and remember the time, money, and energy we devote to having things, it’s easier to decide whether or not we really need to buy that 3rd pair of leather boots that are on sale right now.
Impulse buying: Chase the feeling, not the form. The next time you’re feeling impulsive about a purchase, take a moment to get present with yourself. Ask yourself what is the feeling you’re looking for? Sink into that for a minute. Is it a feeling of comfort, safety, or excitement? Is there a way to give yourself that feeling without buying something? When you change your relationship with your stuff, you open up a whole new world of freedom.
Gift Giving: Presence over presents! Gift giving is a lovely thing we humans do, that should feel good for the giver and the receiver. One of the ways we can combat the clutter and the stress when gift giving, is to remember these tips:
• Give experiences (planned outings, concert tickets, camping trips, spa day, etc)
• Give consumables (meals, nice bottle of wine, locally roasted coffee,tea etc)
• Give hand made (whether made by you, or a local artisan, hand made gifts tend to last longer, and if you make your own gifts, you save money and yourself from the shopping frenzy)
Check your motive. Ask yourself: Does giving this gift feel good to me? Am I giving out of obligation, or a sincere feeling of joyfulness or gratitude? If not, then simply don’t do it.
This reduces the likelihood of the gifts we give being introduced into the waste stream, takes some of the stress and pressure off of gift shopping, and helps us remember our joy.
It is my hope that you’ve received some insights and benefits from this series that can help you on your way to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with yourself. I am deeply grateful for your company in this self-care adventure. Until next time!
I got so excited writing about this series that I had to break the all the information into this last day into two parts! I want to begin the final part in this series by expressing my gratitude for all of you reading this. I am thankful to be in the company of so many self-care warriors! Today, I’m going to talk about some self-care strategies that can work for everyone, no matter what your bucket list looks like.
Having a morning and evening routine
Humans love ritual. Ritual, in one form or another can be seen throughout the entire course of human history. The lovely thing about owning your life is that you get to make up your own rituals that can enrich you daily. It can be as complex (an involved yoga, meditation, and journaling practice) or as simple (a loving self affirmation that you say to yourself, or enjoying a cup of tea) as you like. Ritualizing self-care makes it easier to incorporate into our daily lives, and turns routine into pleasure.
How do we fit ritual in? Many successful, happy people have a morning and an evening routine that they do daily in order to fill their own cup before being awesome in the world, and in the evening to set the stage for a restful night’s sleep. You can, too. Start by getting up 5-10 minutes earlier than usual in the morning for one week. Fit in one little thing for yourself each day. The next week, try getting up 20 minutes earlier. Expand on what you’re already doing, or try out a new thing. Suggestions include journaling, gratitude practice, yoga or other exercise, meditation,
For your evening routine, keep it simple and relaxing so your body is ready for sleep. This is your time to release your nervous system from the busyness of the day. Take 20-30 minutes to read a book (not FaceBook!), take a hot bath, have a cup of non caffeinated tea, meditate, do some yin-based yoga or tai chi. Try to stay away from screens of any kind, which can inhibit your body’s natural sleep cycle.
Getting plenty of sleep
Speaking of which, I know you know you need more sleep. According to recent studies, the average adult over the age of 25 should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Most people get by on way less than that. Sleeps seems to be that one place in our lives where we feel ‘unproductive’, so we steal away time that we could be sleeping to get other things done. My answer to that is: don’t! During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.
Sleep is critical for your brain and body. Did you know that your capacity to learn new information, problem solve, creativity levels, and your ability to control your emotions and behavior and cope with change all rely on a good night’s sleep? Just as much as your brain needs sleep, your body depends on it to heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, increase your immune function and fertility, and lower your stress levels.
Poor sleep habits, or chronic sleep deficiency (or ‘sleep debt’) are linked to depression, increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Going to bed on time consistently every day (even on the weekends) is the key to feeling like your best self.
As a parent, during the week I go to bed very shortly after my children, and rise an hour before they get up for school. I have a quiet hour to myself when I’m not feeling tired out to enjoy my ‘me time’ and work on self care. This way, I get enough sleep to be present for my kids and tackle my day with my buckets filled. Your mileage may vary, but the point is to be intentional with your time, and remember that sleep time is ‘me time’, too.
There is so much advice out there on diet. So. Much. Advice. And often those guidelines do not take into consideration each individual’s constitution, activity levels, and lifestyle. Most of us are able to figure out the foods we need to eat in order to feel healthy and nourished (if not, shoot me an email--diet is a big part of what we talk about at TAC!). So today, I want to talk about how we eat, and why it can make a difference in how we feel.
In France, you don’t eat. You dine. Meals can take hours, as food is savored slowly, and conversation is enjoyed with loved ones and friends. While that may not fit into your lifestyle, making the conscious decision to eat mindfully and have at least one meal a day connecting with the important people in your life can make a huge difference in your mental well being, and in the way your body digests and assimilates food. Even if you have to dine solo, you can still take some time to chew slowly, put your fork down between bites, and really pay attention to the smell, texture, and taste of your food.
Don’t forget that gratitude! Expressing gratitude for the food we eat is a lovely little ritual I do with my family, and on my own, that helps me ground in the moment, and reminds me to slow down, be present with my food, and with my company. Gratitude for meals can be simple or extravagant, whatever works for you. We like to take a moment before we have dinner to share 3 things we’re grateful for that day.
Check out my blog post, ‘The Tao of Eating’ for some helpful information on eating mindfully.
Long ago, we moved all day, in order to survive. Now, we no longer hunt, gather, and travel for our food and shelter. With our big brains, we’ve created technologies and a society that eliminates the need to be constantly focused on staying alive. Now, our jobs call for sitting in the car, sitting at work, sitting at home. But our bodies are still the same bodies that have evolved for movement-oriented survival. Simply put, we must move to live, even if our day to day survival no longer depends on it.
And movement isn’t just about being physically fit. Movement allows us to ground in and be fully present in our bodies--to be embodied. Embodiment allows for full functioning of our whole being, bringing mind, body, and spirit into cohesion. The benefits are endless: better sleep, disease prevention, longer lives, more stable moods, better decision-making skills, and the list goes on and on...
How do we do it? Like all things, make movement a priority and not a task (it should definitely be in your Bucket List!). Does working out sound boring or daunting? Find ways to make movement a fun part of your daily routine that feels joyful. Instead of stressing over how to cram in that workout, go outside and play. Play is exercise! How long has it been since you’ve been to a playground (with or without kids)? When’s the last time you did a cartwheel, or played hopscotch, hide and seek, or flew a kite? Take a dance or martial arts class, do qi gong in the park with friends. Anytime you can make movement social and fun, it’s a win-win!
The final post in this series is coming up next--stay tuned!
Day 5: Self Integrity: Being responsible about your wellbeing
The concept of taking care of ourselves isn’t to be stressed about the things we have to cut out of--or add into--our lives. It’s about honoring the self. It’s about remembering what’s really important in our lives, and using our time wisely in congruence with our values and priorities.
Of course, there are responsibilities and obligations in life--it’s a part of being a grown up. And yes, some of our obligations and responsibilities don’t seem like very much fun. The trick is finding all the ways you can align as many of your obligations with what matters most to you. Anytime we say yes to something or someone, we enter into an obligatory relationship. Work, friends, family, pets, our home and stuff, the list can go on. But as owners of our lives, we have more power over our commitments than we realize.
Your yes is sacred!
‘Yes’ really means ‘I am prepared and willing to commit my time, energy, and resources to this person/thing. This is important to me’. How many times have you said yes to something or someone when you really, really, really wanted to say no? How did that feel?
When we give someone our ‘yes’, we should strive for that yes to be enthusiastic! We should be prepared and willing to show up with our best selves if at all possible for the things we commit ourselves to. The big things and the small things. When we say yes to people and things that don’t bring us joy, or align with what’s important to us, we sacrifice our time, energy and resources for little to no gain. The more we do this, we send a message to ourselves and others, that says ‘I’m not really that important’. We drain ourselves of the energy and resources we need for the things that actually matter to us. We do ourselves and our circle of people a disservice.
How to Say No...with Grace
It’s really OK to say no. Really. I know for some of you, saying no can feel awkward, uncomfortable, or maybe even downright painful. But saying no gracefully can be a blessing to the other person--it’s a commitment to only give the best 'you' you can give. The litmus test for when to say no is easy. Is it on your Bucket List or your list of priorities? No? Barring an emergency, it’s a-ok to say no. If you’re not sure, ask for time to think about it and get back to them in a reasonable timeframe, if possible. Once you’ve gotten clear on your priorities, and with a little practice, saying no becomes easier and easier, and you’ll find you need less time to decide what’s best for you.
But how do we say no without sounding like a jerk? Like all things, begin with gratitude. Thank the person for the invitation, the request of your time and presence, or your help and then simply say ‘No thank you.’ Period. End of sentence. Did that make you feel a little uncomfortable? We often get wrapped up in a need to excuse ourselves, or explain in detail our choices, and to absolve ourselves of the guilty feelings of saying no. And it’s simply not necessary. You own your life--you’re allowed (and encouraged!) to say no when you need to, or simply when you want to. And so is everyone else. Freedom!
It’s really about giving your best. Your best Yes and your best No. Life can become less stressful for you, and easier on others, if you say no with grace rather than back out at the last minute. Or give someone an insincere yes and show up begrudgingly, not offering them your best you.
Of course there will be things we simply must say yes to, even if we really don’t want to on the surface. This is where practicing good self-care, and being clear on your priorities is important. If occasionally we have to give a less than enthusiastic yes, we have the resources and energy to give of ourselves even when it’s not ideal.
Asking for what you need
An often overlooked (and sometimes also overused) area of self-care is asking for what we need from others. Yes, my buckets are my responsibility to fill. And, it’s ok to ask for help in filling some of them. Good examples include: physical intimacy/touch, social connection, or care when we’re feeling down or sick. A wise man once told me, ‘The surest way to not get what you need is to not ask for it’. Many of us have been taught that asking for help equates to weakness. I’m here to tell you: there is strength in vulnerability. As a species, we humans are stronger together. No one is an island. It’s natural to lean on others when we need support, just as it is to offer support to someone we care about who needs it.
The important piece here is the asking. Sometimes in our relationships, we may find ourselves expecting the other person to read our minds. The other person should just know when it comes to what we need. This type of thinking quickly leads us to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and not getting our needs met. Even if you’ve been in a relationship with someone for years, the mind-reading expectation is a recipe for disaster, my friends.
Instead of placing the responsibility on others to know what we need, we ask--kindly. We say please, and we are direct, clear, and specific on what those needs are. If you need something, but can’t name it, then neither can anyone else. Being clear and kind helps us fill our buckets, and as a bonus, improves our relationships.
Self discipline is self care, too
Self care isn’t all about luxurious naps and spa days. It requires a little work, a little discipline, to get into making it a regular habit. At first, making yourself a priority may feel difficult. Your passionate intention to go to bed/wake up earlier may feel like the worst idea ever when it’s 10pm and you’re in the middle Game of Thrones, or when it’s 6am and all you want to do is snooze through the time you reserved for yourself to journal or meditate. Or when that piece of pizza is making eyes at you after you’ve dedicated yourself to improving your diet.
Make it easy on yourself while you’re getting into the habit. Set little reminders on your phone (I’m a big fan of my bedtime alarm that goes off twenty minutes before 10pm that says ‘You deserve good sleep’). Write yourself post-its, or put your self care rituals in your daily planner. Remind yourself why you’re making you a priority. In time, as you begin to feel the benefits of living kindly to yourself, it will become second nature.
In the last part of this self-care series, we’ll talk about a few basic strategies you that can help get you started on your own self-care journey.
Day 4: Buckets
We’ve unpacked a lot so far, and hopefully shifted your perspective a little (maybe a lot!). Now I want to show you some practices that can help you get clear on where to begin, and how you can put your wellbeing first in a fast paced world.
How do we do this? Short answer: It’s easy and it’s hard and it’s worth it! Longer answer: It’s all about getting serious about what your priorities are, being intentional about your time (all the time), and making choices that are congruent with what matters most to you.
The Bucket List (no, not that bucket list)
The first step to self care is discovering what we need. Instead of looking at your schedule, scratching your head, and trying to hunt for a place to carve out time for yourself, I encourage you to take some time alone to get quiet, and come up with your Bucket List. The Bucket List is a list of all the ‘buckets’ in your life that need to be filled regularly in order for you to feel happy, healthy, and whole . Start with your own buckets. We’ll get to everything else later, I promise.
On a piece of paper or in your journal, write down your Bucket List:
Categories here include:
• Physical (movement/eating/water/rest/touch/intimacy/health care)
• Emotional/Cognitive (therapy/support, reading/study/classes, play/joy/creativity)
• Spiritual (church/meditation/yoga/mindfulness)
• Financial (budget/planning, etc)
• Social (meaningful connection/relationships)
(These are suggestions--your specific buckets may look slightly different, or you may find you have only one or two buckets per category, or many, or none. It’s all OK. Just like you, it’s a living list. Your Bucket List will grow and evolve as you do.)
Did you surprise yourself with the amount of buckets (needs)? Don’t worry about how to fill them in this moment. The most important thing right now is acknowledgement of all the buckets you are made of. Look how multifaceted and complex you are--nicely done! (This is a great place to pause and find gratitude!)
Before you begin the loving task of filling your Buckets, here’s a very important piece when you look at your Bucket List: All of your buckets--all of them--are your responsibility to fill. Not anyone else’s. I am responsible for my buckets, and you are responsible for yours. On the surface, this may sound harsh and uncaring. But the reality is that these are *your* buckets. No one knows just how to fill them precisely the way you do. This life is yours--you own it! This is the very reason why self-care is essential, not selfish. As you become experienced in this work, you may find that filling your own buckets (and graciously allowing others to fill theirs) becomes a song of gratefulness for this life you’ve been given. Is it OK to ask for help filling your buckets? Absolutely! That’s why we live in community--more on that later.
Expanding Your Circle
Next, write down everything else that’s important to you. Notice the question is not ‘What are your responsibilities?’ or ‘What do you have to do in order to survive?’ It may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
•What are the top 5 things that are really important to me, or bring me the most joy?
•How do I want to feel when I get up in the morning and start my day?
•How much sleep helps me feel my best each day? (be honest!)
•How do I want to show up in the world?
•Who are the people in my life that I want to be the best version of myself for?
•If you have children: What do I want to model for my children in my own life?
And just like your Bucket List, your exact questions (and your answers) can and will be different.
Once you have this information, it’s easier to look at the places in your life where you can say ‘no’ to the things that don’t fill you up, don’t really matter to you,don’t nourish and fulfill you, and ‘yes’ to the things that do. (Don’t worry--by the end of this series, you’ll learn the magical art of saying ‘no’!)
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the glue that holds a self care lifestyle together. Can’t wait!
Day 3: The Way of Self Care
So now that we’ve expressed some gratitude for being gifted with this life, it’s time to take ownership of it! But how do we become aligned with self care as lifestyle, and take charge of our time in order to live our best lives? Is there some magic spell to recite? Some Chinese herbs to take? Some online life-hack course for only 3 easy payments?
No. We can only get out of this life what we’ve put in. But like all things, if we want to change our lives, and this world, we begin with ourselves. No, it’s not what you think. There’s no diet, no pill, no workout. No shaming, no guilt. This work is a work of love. For you and by you. When we lovingly invest in ourselves, magic happens. We find we have the resources, energy, joy, and desire to create a life that is truly worthy to call our own.
Self Care is Not Selfish
So much of what we’re told from childhood and well into adulthood is that giving, serving, and putting others’ needs before our own is a honorable pursuit. Whether you’re a parent (moms in particular), a spouse or partner, a friend, a caregiver, an employee--in almost every area of our lives, the general expectation is to sacrifice for the other, often to our own detriment.
We’ve been taught very little about how to care for our own needs in our constant effort to do for others first. We’ve been told that we’re selfish if we put our needs first. ‘Adulting’ becomes challenging as we’ve no strong foundation from which to build on. Our relationships and social lives suffer because we’re too tired to really connect. We have difficulty listening to our own body, and what it needs, and so our health and energy declines. In an attempt to put a band-aid over our unmet needs, we get into unhealthy patterns of eating, drinking, spending, and connecting. We can start to feel isolated, disconnected, anxious, depressed, and out of touch with ourselves and the world around us.
Most of us have at least one person or situation in our lives that demands our attention, time, and energy. A child, an ailing parent, a spouse or partner, a job, school, etc. Not to mention all the thousand, never-ending things such as maintaining our households, vehicles, and stuff. Of course we want to show up for these people and things. Because they matter to us. But how can we really show up for what matters when we’re sliding in late, tired, hangry, and depleted?
You Can’t Pour From an Empty Vessel
This is where the magic of self care happens. This is where we find that when we slow down, and take good care of ourselves and get what we need first, we have the capacity, desire, and resources to take good care of the people and things that matter to us. Taking time to recharge and replenish makes us better parents, employees, friends, spouses/partners, and caregivers. ‘Selfishness’ becomes a gift we can give to others with generous abandon. And in turn, teaches others to do the same. In this way, by caring for ourselves, we care for the world.
It’s at this point (if not before) that you may be saying to yourself, ‘That sounds great! I’ll just have my people call your people and clear out my schedule so I have time to do all these self care things. /eyeroll.’ And I get it. As a single parent of two amazing daughters (and one fur-child), with a full time job, a partner, and a massage practice on the side, I understand all too well the struggle of finding time and energy to care for myself. I learned the hard way that if I don’t prioritize my needs, I have absolutely nothing left for anyone or anything else. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
How do we achieve this? Join us tomorrow for The Bucket List exercise! (no, not that bucket list).
Day 2: Don’t make time. Make priorities!
Time is time is time. Although some would argue that we made it all up, we’ve all agreed to the basic construct of time. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. No more, no less. We cannot ‘make’ more--we have the time that we have. On a larger scale, we cannot ‘make’ more life--we have the life that we have. And it’s by looking at time in that lens, as small, incremental steps on the path of our entire life, that we can begin to see that it’s not the time that matters--it’s what you do what you’ve been given. If this is the allotment of time I’ve been given, and it’s all mine, what am I going to do with it? How am I going to own the time and the life I’ve been generously gifted with?
It all begins with Gratitude.
If we see our lives (and our time) as a precious gift, it becomes abundantly clear to us that we are responsible for it. No matter our belief system, being grateful for the miracle of our breath, our body, our life has the power to shift our perspective, and in turn, the course of our lives. Expressing gratitude, for the big things and the small, no matter what else the world has thrown at us--even being grateful for the challenges and the storms--helps us to remember that we own our lives. And as such, we have the power to shape it into what we desire.
I invite you to practice gratitude for your life, just as it is right now. Need a little help? Gratefulness.org is a great website that has many free resources for helping you tune into, and express gratitude in simple and effective ways.
Tomorrow, we’ll begin our journey into the way of self care. Until then, I’m grateful you’re here.
This month, we’ve been talking about self-care as a general theme on our blog, and our social media channels. In this last week of January, I want to put all the concepts of self care together in a 6 part daily series that addresses common reasons why we all have difficulty with starting and maintaining good self care, and ways we can integrate self care into the foundation of our lives. Read on for an introduction to the concept of self care as a lifestyle, and stay with us for the next 5 days as we break down the concepts into clear, actionable steps you can use to get self care off your to-list, and into part of who you are.
Day 1: It's OK.
Imagine a day like this:
Snoozing the alarm. Jumping out of bed, tired, with no breakfast (or scarfing breakfast in the car), scrambling to get everyone ready, and get out of the house on time for school and/or work. Sitting in traffic. Power lunch meeting conference calls. Sitting at a desk all day. More coffee to keep you going. Going hard at the gym on an empty tank. Soccer practice. Getting home tired, stressed, and rushing through dinner and homework, or that thing with your friend you really wished you had said no to but felt obligated. Crashing into bed exhausted, and staying up late to finally have some time to yourself to catch up on Netflix, check up on social media, or answer those ever-important work emails.
While this example may seem extreme, I’ll bet there were at least a few places that have some similarity to our own lives. Being stressed, overworked, overscheduled, exhausted, and busy have become status symbols in our modern culture. Productivity and achievement has come to be a badge for our value in the world as human beings. Resting, gathering our energy, and taking time to properly care for ourselves is seen as laziness or selfishness in a society that honors what you do over who you are.
Psst. I have a secret to tell you. It’s OK to rest. It’s OK to say ‘No’. It’s OK to have a slower day. A slower week. A slower life. Not a wasted or unfulfilling life. But one that’s filled with intention, passion, joy, creativity, rest, and a deep level of love and care for the self. On your terms.
For many of us, slowing down and really nurturing ourselves either feels impossible or like an insult. But a lifestyle with self care at its core doesn’t mean dropping our lives and hermiting in the woods and growing an epic beard (not knocking that life choice one bit!). It means taking a deeper look into our values and desires. It means finding or remembering our priorities--the most important one being ourselves--and making mindful, conscious choices everyday that align with them. It also means giving ourselves permission (and discipline) to leave out the rest--all the things that don’t serve us, don’t nourish us, and aren’t in line with who and what matters most to us.
Our time each day is finite. We can only wake up so early or stay up so late. Instead of cramming the day with things, people, stuff, and obligations that don’t align with our values, what would happen if we eliminate the unnecessary? How would you feel if you had time and energy everyday for joyfulness, creativity, connection with loved ones, rest, play, working on your passion, or just doing absolutely nothing? Sounds pretty good, right?
Stick with me over the next few days as we explore the ways in which we can take off the mantle of ‘busy’, learn to take the best care of ourselves, let go of the stress and obligations that the world deems important for us, and find out how we can reimagine our lives, rekindle our passions, nurture our best selves, and live the life we really want, without sacrificing what matters. Let’s start living the self-care life!
By Kim Boomhower, LMBT
Did you know that massage is not just pampering and relaxation? While massage can definitely help you to feel relaxed and indulgent, it also has a whole range of benefits that you’ve probably never thought of before. Massage can ease the stress of trying to get pregnant and can help to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Once you’ve achieved your goal, it can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy, help support the major work that your body is doing to create and sustain life as well as helping to prepare your body for the trials of labor. And don’t forget postpartum care. Once you’ve given birth your journey is not complete, it’s only beginning. Massage can help you to assimilate all the amazing changes your body goes through after giving birth. By taking care of yourself with regular bodywork, you will be more present in your body, and thus able to adjust to taking care of your new family.
Fertility requires a delicate balance of hormones to produce, release, fertilize and implant an egg. This balance can be affected by many conditions within the body, including stress. Whether daily stress, or a one-time big events, stress can cause changes in ovulation and cycle length and studies have shown that stress during an IVF cycle causes a decrease in the number of eggs developed, retrieved and transferred. Not only does stress cause a physical reaction in the body, but also an emotional reaction. Stress can magnify the feelings of fear, worry, emptiness and anger. The combination of mental and physical reactions can lead to a downward spiral and feelings of a loss of control. Techniques that help women work with and release stress can enhance feelings of control. Massage-based techniques and movement therapies help to break the vicious cycle by encouraging relaxation. More specifically, they can help relax tense muscles and tight connective tissues that may constrict blood vessels, and thus enable blood to flow more freely. Soothing massage helps reduce emotional tension, calm stress-related conditions and may help women with hormone-related difficulties.
In addition to managing stress levels, fertility massage can also be very effective in reducing adhesions in the pelvis and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that bind two parts of tissue together and may appear as thin sheets of tissue similar to plastic wrap or as thick fibrous bands. Pelvic adhesions can form after an injury or inflammation, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and bladder or yeast infections, as well as from general stress in the body. These bands of tissue can affect any organ in the pelvis including the uterus, fallopian tubes and bladder, as well as surrounding muscle tissue. Pelvic adhesions affect the function of reproductive organs, slow blood circulation, and may hinder conception. Abdominal and pelvic massage is a safe, non-invasive technique to reduce or eliminate adhesions, restoring movement, blood flow, and optimal function to the reproductive organs.
There is no better time for women to experience the many benefits of bodywork than during pregnancy. A pregnant women’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways. Discomforts such as stretching tendons and skin, weight gain, structural alignment changes, raging hormones, constricted organs and pressure on various body structures are a normal—albeit uncomfortable—part of pregnancy. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, and also nurtures the new life growing within her. By helping her cope with all of the rapid body changes occurring, regular bodywork can help an expectant mother to have a more positive pregnancy and labor experience.
In addition to stress relief and relaxation, pregnancy massage encourages more efficient waste elimination, reduces muscle pain and discomfort, balances hormones, relieves headache and sinus congestion, reduces edema, and supports restful sleep. Your growing baby can also reap the benefits—massage increases circulation, which helps get nourishment to your baby more efficiently, as well as creates a soothing, quiet environment for mom and baby to bond with each other. Not feeling as happy about your body as you did pre-baby? Regular bodywork can help women who feel uncomfortable with their body image gain a new sense of self esteem and appreciation for their bodies, and can emotionally support women as their bodies (and hormones) change during pregnancy.
Massage is an excellent support and a refuge for your body and mind—as well as baby’s—as you make your monumental journey into motherhood!
After labor and delivery of your newborn, your body is still going through significant changes. This healing process includes a rapid reduction in uterine size that may include mild to severe cramping. Your chest becomes enlarged, sore, and sensitive as the milk ducts go into production; your pelvic floor may be very sore from delivery. In addition, your GI tract may fluctuate in reaction to the tremendous changes to your abdomen such as regained space. Your abdominal muscles now relax and may be toneless—if your abdominal muscles have detached during labor, you may feel especially weak when attempting to sit up. With all the demands of motherhood, it's important the new mother takes time to heal herself and massage is one way to find that relief.
As a new mother’s body starts to revert to its pre-pregnancy status, or even undergoes additional changes brought on by surgical procedures or breastfeeding needs, women often begin disassociating with their physical self. Massage can bring you back to your body, allowing you to begin appreciating it and the hard work it's just been through. Postpartum massage can help to re-establish the structural integrity of the pelvis after birth, supports encourages milk letdown and supports healthy lactation and reduces stress hormones. Bodywork during the postpartum period can also aid in maintaining a healthy emotional state, preventing or alleviating postpartum depression. And massage is as good for baby as it is for mom—studies show infants receiving regular massage from their mothers gain weight faster, perform better on learning and development tests, and have less health problems such as colic, diarrhea and constipation and sleep pattern issues. Massaging your baby on a regular basis also serves as a simple way to reinforce the powerful bond between mother and baby. A massage therapist who specializes in infant massage can instruct new parents on how to massage their babies.
Whatever your New Year’s goals are this January, they are bound to include some increased exercise. Maybe this year you are training for a big event? Or are you getting back into an exercise program after some time off? One thing for sure is that it pays to take it slow. Overexertion leads to more than 40% of common exercise-related injuries. So how do you up your game and prevent sprains and strains from setting you back?
Acupuncture can drastically speed recovery from minor injuries associated with increasing your workouts. A twinge does not have to progress into a full-blown tear or flare if you get regular acupuncture and/or cupping during training. TAC is here to help you stay pain-free and limber as you reach those milestones!
The acupuncture sessions will focus on:
- Reducing inflammation & swelling
- Improving circulation for faster recovery
- Muscle relaxation to prevent tightness and spasms
- Boosting endorphins to diminish the nervous system’s pain response
Many find it helpful to get treated weekly or every other week depending on your exercise intensity while you ramp things up. We have lots of tools to soothe sore muscles including acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, moxa and electrical acupuncture.
The team at TAC will be training for the Spartan Race this June and you better believe we'll be treating each other frequently as we get ourselves in shape for this crazy 10 mile obstacle course!
Get Moving and Stay Strong in 2019!
Winter is here and with the cold weather come all the deep blessings of the darker months. Cultivating inner warmth, more silence, and a turning within are all gifts winter brings. Hard to feel it, I know, when we're all out running around crazy to check things off our lists in time for this party and that trip and this meal. But the spirit and energy of winter can be felt even in the midst of the bustle, and this is particularly true for the Water element in Chinese Medicine.