Self-care. Yup, I’m starting now. We often neglect to prioritize ourselves, and that stops right now folks. You already know the pattern – work, pick up and shuttle the kids, stop at the post office, market, dollar store and then home to cook and serve and eat dinner. Looks like your average day, right? It ends right now, beginning of the year. This is YOUR year. We make resolutions to get in shape, eat clean, live healthy, etc., but carving out some time for structured self-care is challenging, even for the best of us.
So what’s your definition of self-care? It’s different for all of us, and very personal. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that there are different levels of experience that make up self-care. It is based on human physiological needs, you know, the basics: food, water, sleep. And then, there are the deeper levels: love, self-esteem, safety and self-actualization. All of these more subtle needs require consistent attention and nurturing. So, to function at your personal best, it’s important to satisfy your body’s most fundamental needs. Movement, breathing and some solid R&R. These basic foundations of self-care can increase relaxation and overall feelings of wellness, giving your immune system a boost, increasing brain activity and functionality (but don’t let this go to your head) and of course, a better balance physically and emotionally.
So the best advice I have for you is to keep to a routine and maintain your self-care practices. No matter if you’re a gym rat, runner, swimmer or yoga guru – you need to be consistent. By taking time to care for yourself, you create a ripple effect that makes everyone around you happy and relaxed. Happy people are healthy people.
First, let’s talk about breathing. We all do it (duh) and it’s nothing we think about. Change that habit. Research shows that controlled breathing can lower your blood pressure. Calm, cool and collected folks. One study from Harvard shows that meditating can increase brain capacity. That’s right, and you heard it here first peeps! The controlled breathing of meditation (and possibly yoga) increases the size of your brain! Which parts? The brain matter that controls emotional and sensory processing and cognitive ability. Breathing is the simplest thing to practice because you can do it anywhere. And, you don’t really have to think about it. But it helps.
Try this little exercise: Sit up tall – lengthen the spine (I feel like Denise Austin now) “Lift your head to the sky, that’s it…taller, taller, taller…” lol
Seriously peeps- pay attention to your midsection as you inhale. Pause. Feel your tummy get soft. Now exhale. Pause. Bring your stomach (the muscles) back towards your now very tall spine. Relax and repeat. This soothes your frazzled nerves, frustration at the sink of dirty dishes and your inner restlessness that screams “run away – now!”
Next, let’s talk about movement. All the studies talk about the amazing benefits of exercise. It is a stress reducer, brain enhancer, addiction killer, etc. And all that is true, I promise, but exercise won’t save you unless you get out there and get busy! Studies show the optimal time to move it is between 6 am and 10 am. Just 30 minutes will do it, but you can start the day with a quick 10-minute warm up set, (this is one of my faves) and take a 20 walk later in the day. But be consistent. Me, I’m so lucky I have a dog who could probably walk from Florida to the moon and back.
Last but not least, you need to rest. Sleep is supremely important to your overall health; mentally, physically, etc. A lack of good sleep can lead to anxiety attacks, depression and general lethargy. Blech. By now, all you return visitors, and I love you so much, know that I am plagued by insomnia. I’ve posted tips on how to make it on minimal sleep, but mostly, I’m running on pure caffeine and adrenaline. Not the best way to live. So let’s talk about good sleep. Your best sleep is going to be somewhere between 10pm and 6 am. For me, it’s an hour somewhere between 8-10 on the sofa and then 3 hours between midnight and, well, you get the picture. Imagine my surprise when I read about the parasympathetic nervous system. Yup, it’s a mouthful. Basically it’s the “rest and digest” system in our bodies. Restorative sleep is necessary to recalibrate our bodies and minds to be ready to face our over packed, crazy hectic days.
Alrighty then – let’s recap. We all suck at taking care of ourselves. That’s OK – don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. BUT, now, you are going to revamp your routine. You are priority one. Finito Benito. Time to take care of yourself. Breathe…deeply, mindfully. Relax. Next – move it. Walk, run, swim – you’ll be in top form mentally and physically. No fear for the zombie apocalypse. And last – rest. Get some good old R&R at night. Chill, unplug, detox -take a bath with a glass of wine or whisky (choose your poison) and get to bed. We’ll talk in the morning.
Stay motivated and caffeinated!😉☕