I have a confession to make - I am a recovering type "A". I have spent most of my life juggling multiple balls in the air, trying to be all things to all people and to do everything in exactly the right way so that no one could possibly find fault. Quite frankly this way of being is exhausting. A couple of years ago I got wise to the fact that perhaps this wasn't the best thing for my health and sanity. It took even more time to come around to the fact that taking time for rest and relaxation was not decadent or lazy but rather a vital component of bringing my stress level down and living a healthy life.
Over the past few years I have found a number of self care practices that have helped me find and maintain equilibrium, but a work trip of my husband's compounded with big life events that were both wonderful and highly emotionally exhausting led me to burn out. I have started to build myself back up and fill the well by adding many of these practices back into my daily routine. Notice how I said "many" and not "all." I purchased a copy of Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo's excellent Reform Your Inner Mean Girl book a few months ago, and the top of my list was "Doing Addict." No big surprise there. One of the first things I decided to do when I recognized that I had reached burn out was to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. Single point focus (I guess another word for this would be the omnipresent "mindfulness") has done wonders in allowing me to remain calm and not get into a spin. I can't get as much done, but to be honest for the first time in my life I am ok with that.
Here is a list of my favourite self care practices. In an ideal world I would do all of them, daily, but in the spirit of truly reforming my type "A" tendencies I am only committing myself to a few of these practices every day.
Tapping (aka EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique)
I discovered EFT through a Tapping Solution Summit several years ago. I have fallen in love with the technique, and find it works wonders to help me regain equilibrium when I am struggling with stress, anxiety or worry. I use it with my kids as well; my daughter asks for it if she is feeling upset or anxious. Nick and Jessica Ortner head up the Tapping Solution website, and also published an incredible book by the same name, which you can find here. The book includes a link to a morning and evening stress reduction tapping sequence that I absolutely love. I notice a huge difference in my sleep and general stress level when I use it on a daily basis. At 20 minutes each, the sequences are do-able, even with a busy schedule.
A Solitary Walk
I love my kids so much, and am so thrilled to have made the choice to spend my days with them. That being said I am putting a lot of my time and energy into caring for others, and I quickly notice when this starts taking a toll on me. Being able to get outside by myself for a half hour walk down by the waterfront, or in a park makes all the difference. I come home refreshed and recharged - and am a better parent and partner because of it.
The word meditation can elicit lots of different ideas and images. Sitting quietly with no one to engage with other than yourself can be a daunting proposition. But the payoff is huge. I have tried so many different styles of meditation, all with their own benefits, but I find myself coming back to silent meditation. I love Michael Stone's Meditation App, I set a custom meditation for a minimum of 5 minutes, with a bell ringing every minute. I love a fully silent meditation, but find the bell helps me bring my mind back into focus when it starts to wander.
A Warm Cup of Tea
With to do lists a mile long, I often find it challenging to allow myself to stop. The ritual of boiling the kettle, taking a few minutes to let the tea steep and then sitting down to enjoy it goes a long ways towards helping my nervous system calm down. I am not sure that the tea itself is as important as the ritual of slowing down enough to enjoy it - however I do have some great tea recommendations that help engage a relaxation response. I love the Lullaby and Angelwater teas from Silk Road, as well as the Relaxing Blend from Harmonic Arts. I love to brew up a pot of Oatstraw tea, it was recommended to me by a health care provider several years ago and in addition to enjoying the taste I also appreciate it's many stress relieving benefits.
I have had a flourishing love affair with novels, well pretty much since birth. Unfortunately I often let reading for fun fall by the wayside, as I tend to focus on more technical books that are related to health and wellness. I have made the decision to carve out time each week to read whatever I want, something that is NOT on a required (or even recommended) reading list. It feels decadent and delicious, much like a slice of chocolate cashew cheesecake. Which is also good for engaging the relaxation response!
A "Relaxing Bath"
My daughter coined the term "relaxing bath" after I added some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil to her bath. I try to fit in a relaxing bath whenever I can, adding Epsom salts, frankincense & lavender essential oils along with some baking soda and apple cider vinegar for a detox bath if I am feeling fancy.
When I am busy and stressed out the last thing I feel like doing is exercise. But I have begun to re-framed how I view it, not as something I have to do, but rather as something I want to do because it nourishes my body and my spirit. Most importantly I have found forms of exercise that I genuinely enjoy doing. With all of the options out there, there's no need to push yourself to do something you really don't like. I will be following this up later with a blog post specifically on some of the forms of exercise I love doing, but for now let it suffice to say that finding a form of exercise you enjoy doing is soul food in and of itself!
Dr Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Breath Technique
Some days are crazy, and sometimes this simple technique is all I have time for. It is an excellent tool to use when you are in a highly charged, stressful situation (screaming kids, a rude driver, etc.) I love how quick and easy it is to use - and it can be done anytime, anywhere. For a breakdown on how to execute this breath sequence you can check out the video here.
In an ideal world it would be fantastic to book regular massages with a professional masseuse. If your time or budget doesn't allow for this, then partner or self massage is a wonderful option. Hands and feet tend to be the most neglected body parts, which is why they are two areas I love to focus on. I love using a combination of sea buckthorn best skin ever or coconut oil with a few drops of lavender and frankincense essential oil.
Cultivating gratitude is such a beautiful practice. I posted about our Nightly Tea Ritual with our kids a few months ago, and I find that I really miss it on the nights when we don't manage to fit it in. In addition to our family ritual, I find that cultivating my own gratitude practice is a beautiful from of self care. It allows me to switch to a more positive mindset, where I can appreciate what I have rather than focusing on what I feel I still need or want.
I have a couple of card decks I love to select a daily card from. I find the practice of sitting and reflecting allows me to slow down and tune into my intuition in a way I am not able to when I am constantly rushing around. A couple of my favourite decks include Gabrielle Bernstein's Miracles Now, Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Love Notes and pretty much any deck by Toni Carmine Salerno.
I know there is a lot on this list; trying to do all of it every day would be a major undertaking. But as I said above even incorporating a few of these practices will go a long ways towards helping maintain a sense of equilibrium.
What are your favourite self care practices? I am always looking for inspiration and would love to know what you do to take care of yourself.