These days, life moves fast. There is always a task to fulfill, a dream to follow, a mission to accomplish. We find ourselves with long to do lists, constantly running errands, planning meals, squeezing time in to socialize with friends and families, executing business strategies, managing finances, maneuvering through the ups and downs of life. While there is often tremendous power to be found when we reach our highest goals (and even the dullest of daily obligations), it can become increasingly difficult to connect to our inner calm and centered self when our body and mind are drained from so much doing. We’re leaving ourselves with little time to rest, reflect and recover from a bustling, and often overwhelming, lifestyle.
It is essential to our happiness and well being to create space in our lives to honor our needs. This process looks and feels different for everyone. For some, it’s disconnecting from technology for a day, or treating yourself to a weekly massage, or maybe it’s something as simple as spending a few minutes alone once the kids are asleep. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, what’s important is that it feels nourishing. When we use our time intentionally to nurture ourselves, we begin to cultivate greater health and inner peace, and are able to contribute from a place of deeper passion and increased energy in our relationships and endeavors.
Carving out time for yourself may seem like an overwhelming task in itself. It’s okay to aim small at first, finding a few moments in the morning or evening as you begin or end your day. Exploring the transformative ways of this slow and gentle practice brings more calm and bliss into everyday life. Over the years I’ve discovered a few favorite basics that I’d like to share with you:
Conscious Breathing - This simple action is highly underused in our culture, yet it is incredibly effective for treating stress, anxiety, and the underlying cause of a myriad of emotional and physical ailments. You can sit or lie down for this practice for as much or little time as you’d like. I like to set a timer anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Do what you feel is best for you right now. If you have 5 minutes, great! Maybe next time it’s 10. I find that I benefit the most when I’m sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed. I start out with my hands on my sides, hugging my ribs just above my navel. I inhale deeply and slowly, focusing on expanding my ribs out to the sides, not just forward into my belly. I like to count to six on the inhale, hold for six, and exhale for six. As my breath deepens and regulates, my nervous system relaxes, my body softens and my mind begins to quiet down. Mindful breathing creates feelings of calm and clarity, lowers tension and stress, regulates hormones in the body, and facilitates our ability to listen within to our own intuition.
Stretching and Body Work – When I connect my breathing practice with bodily movement, something remarkable happens: I begin to feel free! Opening up and stretching my body while practicing mindful breathing exercises allows me to ground into the present moment, dissolving thoughts, worries, and all the other mental chatter that keeps me feeling confined and anxious. I love to stretch first thing in the morning, slowly feeling myself come to life, my blood flowing and warming my body, my mind slowly waking up on a light and positive note. You can practice what you already know, or try something new. Do what feels good. Whether it’s an hour yoga session, or a few minutes of forward folding and light twists, it counts. Every moment you choose to move, breathe, detox and nourish yourself matters. The possibilities to feel good here are endless.
Creative Self Expression – I believe that we are all creative beings designed to spread our magic in the world. When we connect to our creativity, we pave a path for joy and a way toward embracing the unique gifts our authentic self holds. I love the liberation and satisfaction that comes from expressing myself creatively, through grand gestures and everyday, simple occurrences. More often than not, I connect with creativity in brief, fleeting moments: tending to my garden while I sip on my morning tea; blending herbs for my shop while I prepare dinner; searching for DIY furniture ideas while I pay bills online; singing off key to myself (and my poor boyfriend) in the shower. On the surface these moments seem commonplace, but their effects on the spirit profound. When we allow ourselves to engage in creating and connecting from the heart, we express ourselves in the world. We simultaneously proclaim and accept who we are, bathing in the healing energies of joy and love.
Nourishing the Body – It amazes me how much confidence is lacking in our society these days about food choices. The body’s intuition feels stifled for many, and we’re looking to experts, television, food industry and diet trends to tell us how and what to eat. We’ve been fed (pun intended) propaganda that pushes the agenda of a profit-driven, nutrient deficient food industry that leaves health and integrity out of the equation. In the midst of swirling misinformation, it’s no wonder that most are unable to hear the voice within. Accessible, easy, cheap and tempting, harmful foods have become mainstream fuel. How can we shift this current reality, starting in our own body and home? The answer to nourishing my body becomes clear when I ask myself a simple question: am I choosing nutritious, clean, real foods? Ask yourself this question and answer honestly. What comes up? Where can you create change and bring more health into your life? I would encourage you to thoroughly read labels, research brands, say no to synthetics and additives, and invite more organic whole foods (and pure, clean water!) into your body. This, to me, is the foundation of self care. Nourish and care for your body and it will thank you!
Self care can feel like a nap, a hug, a hike, a bath, a homemade meal, a laugh, a good cry. It can sound like a moment of silence in the forest, or your favorite song blaring in the car with the windows rolled down, or the sound of your neighbor's dog barking while you stretch on the porch. What matters most is that it feels nourishing for you. Take a moment (or five!) to honor yourself daily and begin to delve deeply into the sacred and healing world of self care!