Mary Helen Robert, LAc
There seems to be a new article on self-care almost every day so I decided I wanted to contribute to the discussion. I would like to emphasize that self-care routines can be very simple, cheap, and easy. Try not to overthink it. I feel like I can say with confidence that most of us would love to indulge in a warm bath in an outdoor tub with fresh picked flower petals (or something of the like), but this is not always available to us. I, for one, do not even have a bath tub and just the thought of basking in an outdoor tub in the wilderness brings a child-like smile to my face. Someday. But, for now, I would like to encourage you to delight in the everyday – your unique everyday.
How can you extend your morning routine to include a 5-10 minute guided meditation, yoga/stretching practice or breathing exercise to help set the tone for your day? How would you like your day to progress? What are your intentions? Perhaps you could go for a short walk after lunch – unplugged – focusing on breathing the fresh air and the comfort it brings to move after a meal. You could also set reminders to “stop” or “breathe” throughout the day. I encourage patients to do this all the time. Set a reminder on your beloved phone/computer to go off every hour reminding you to get up and take a stroll for few minutes, or take a few deep breaths and stretch your shoulders, your neck. Send a friend or loved one a message/note about how grateful you are for something they did, or just how appreciative you are for having them in your life. These are simple things that can make a huge impact on your daily life. If you really think about it, you squander far more time doing menial tasks throughout the day and YOU have the power to change that!
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got, and you’ll always feel what you always felt.” – ATtributed to Mark Twain/Albert einstein/Henry ford/tony robbins
When you can incorporate these practices into your daily routine you will begin to incorporate them into your weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly routines. This usually happens without your conscious awareness. You begin to adjust because of how nice it feels to stop, check-in, disconnect, breathe, reflect, reconnect… By doing this on a daily basis we unconsciously cultivate a yearning to find ways to incorporate such routines into all cycles of our life. It is all just one big cycle, or I guess I should say, a multitude of cycles, of varying degrees.
Think about that for a moment. You have your daily cycle of course – your morning, mid-day, evening routines/rituals, but you also have monthly and yearly cycles. Your emotions fluctuate throughout these cycles. You can probably pinpoint times of the year when you feel more blue or disconnected, elated/overjoyed. We all experience this. If you do not already pay attention to the cycles in your life I highly encourage you to ponder it further. I think if you allow yourself to do this you will feel more empowered. You’ll notice little things, even big things. And, as far as self-care goes, you will be better able to discern what it is you need in order to care for yourself. You’ll see how your needs (and wants) change through the seasons.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir
This is Chinese medicine at its core. This ancient medicine was developed by people who observed changes/fluctuations/patterns in nature and applied them to the human body/mind – The microcosm of the macrocosm. How does the weather affect you? Do you transition well from season to season or do you get a cold or feel emotionally imbalanced in the transitory stages (fall to winter, winter to spring)? Joint pain and dry skin in the winter? Does your back/neck pain flare at the same times every month/year? And, spring cleaning isn’t just for your home – how can you eradicate those mental cobwebs? Rest assured you will notice many things if you take the time. I love to witness the child-like glee in my patients when they tell me of their new discoveries – how they noticed their pain intensified at certain times, in certain situations, and in the company of certain people. This knowledge is the impetus for growth and what leads me to number one on my self-care list.
Actually, everything stems from my number one. Of course there are more on my list and the possibilities are endless, but my focus here will be but a few. I implore you to explore some/add some self-care practices of your own. And please, please don’t think of this as being selfish. If you don’t take good care of you then you are adversely impacting everyone and everything around you. You know the saying “if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!” Everyone can relate to this. Everyone.
So, back to my numero uno………………….Pay Attention! If you wonder why I consider this self-care it is because I feel like everything starts from this moment – the moment of our awareness.
“Where we put our awareness, and for how long, maps our destiny.” – Joe Dispenza.
When we pay attention to the subtle nuances of our daily lives we become more connected to our surroundings: the people, places, colors, smells, flora, fauna… Everything. With this, we are better able to connect with ourselves, our thoughts and our emotions. Numerous studies have shown that environments can increase or decrease stress which in turn affects our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Pay attention to how you feel in different environments and focus on the places that make you feel most at ease and connected or lost and disconnected. Your environment can be making you sick. An unhealthy environment can be super toxic so again, pay attention so you can make healthy adjustments.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
It is also important for us to pay attention to our words. Sometimes we need to enlist the help of those we live with for this one. We might require someone to ring a little bell to remind us of when we are using our words in ways that diminish our self worth. You can start with eliminating the word “should.” Instead of “I should” do x/y/z you can say “I will” do x/y/z. “I can” do x/y/z. “I’m excited” about x/y/z.
“I removed the word should from my vocabulary forever. Should is a word that makes a prisoner of me. Every time I say should, I am making myself wrong, or I am making someone else wrong. I am, in effect, saying I am not good enough.” -louise Hay
Another hugely important part of self-care for me is a free day(s) – The world is your oyster! Let the day carry you instead of planning out the day. I find this freedom to be incredibly important for me. Spontaneity feeds me like not much else. A spontaneous trip to the ocean would be just about as good as it gets. I’m also very impulsive and consistently make hasty decisions – even the big ones. Although this works for me, I know it doesn’t work for everyone. This still doesn’t mean that you should not bask in the glory of a free day! I say at least once per month – at least. Just go out for breakfast or a hike/walk and see what inspires you and follow that thread. You never know what you’ll end up experiencing, learning, the people you might meet……….Let your unplanned day be your muse.
I’ll leave you with the lovely ladies at Golubka Kitchen. They have an extensive self-care interview series which happens to include some Chattanooga folks. There are many interviews for which to inspire and enhance your self-care routines. Actually the entire website is full of fabulous recipes, meal plans and other goodies. Enjoy!