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!