Self-Care Sunday

I have been preaching and teaching about the importance of self-care since around 2010.  And while today self-care is a word that has become frequently used—almost to the point of feeling cliché’—I absolutely still believe it is imperative, now more than ever, for all people to practice.

First, it is worth the reminder that self-care is not simply pampering (although pampering can be a tool for self-care).  Self-care is not overindulgence.  Self-care is not being selfish.  Self-care is consciously choosing behaviors that help cultivate a sense of wellbeing in your life and release stress from your mind, body, and soul.

I fully believe when we feel better everything we do and every interaction we have is better. Self-care in some ways is the far opposite of selfishness. Practicing self-care allows our best and highest self to show up for others regularly in the world.

The importance of knowing yourself and knowing how to manage your energy are integral pieces of the self-care puzzle.  Where do you get your energy?  What (and who) fill you up?  What (and who) leave you feeling run down and depleted? What boundaries do you need to create or maintain? What do you need to let go of in your life?  What might you need to add? What is your relationship with play? What is your relationship with rest?  I believe these are all important questions to answer to in order to figure out how to best practice self-care. Self-care can look very different for each person.

I have always known I need a large amount of time alone to refuel my energy level, and the pandemic has solidified that knowing for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I greatly miss people and in person human connection. I yearn for the days I will be able to safely go out to dinner with friends, interact with students more in person, eat lunch with my co-workers, and have large family gatherings again. However, I have enjoyed my time at home alone much of the time during the pandemic. I discovered through the pandemic that in the future I need to make a conscious effort to spend more time at home to replenish my energy. 

What have you learned about yourself and your needs during this time? 

I believe everyone should have some self-care tools in their health & wellness toolbox.  Today, I will be sharing three of my most recent favorite self-care practices with you.

Acupressure mat: https://rb.gy/9zzgdh essential oil: https://rb.gy/a0oees
bolster: https://rb.gy/uymcyy

Cultivating true rest & relaxation.  Over the years, I have realized sitting down does not necessarily equate to rest.  If the mind is racing or the finger is scrolling, perhaps this is not actually restorative rest. Prior to the pandemic, one of my biggest sources or rest was getting a monthly massage.  I have not gotten one now for a very long time. One of the new ways I’ve started integrating deeper rest and relaxation during this time is by spending time on my acupressure mat.  This somehow leaves me feeling similarly to how I felt after a massage: deeply relaxed and at ease. In preparation, I ritualistically set the ambiance (which I feel is a very important and necessary step in creating a sense of ease, rest, & relaxation) in my little yoga room by turning on the electric fire place, turning off the lights, lighting a few candles, diffusing lavender essential oil, turning on meditative music, grabbing a bolster for under my knees, a blanket to cover up with, an eye pillow, and I lie down and rest on my acupressure mat anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes.  While the initial jolt of lying down on the prickly mat is intense, that feeling subsides quickly, and it really does leave me feeling heavenly.

Working with food and my body. I realize this might not be a popular one, but in the past year, I started experimenting with my sugar, gluten, and wine intake, and I noticed that these three things consistently seemed to be the culprits behind waking up feeling tired, bloated and puffy (to the point I often couldn’t put my rings on my fingers in the mornings), and with achy joints.  While I have experimented with many ways of eating over the years (thank you very much, Diet Culture), I now believe fully there is no one right way for everyone to eat. Each person needs to figure out how to eat in order to feel healthy, energized, and well~while still enjoying food. For me, at this point in my life, I need to leave white sugar and gluten behind and limit my alcohol intake in order to feel my best. Since I’ve made these changes, I definitely feel better!

Walking outside in nature. Now that the weather is warming up, I am making myself get outside to walk regularly.  I’ve also begun focusing on walking to relax rather than to “get a workout.”  It has started to feel like meditation in motion. The fresh air and movement is healing.  It is amazing how a short walk can clear my head and energize my body.

Once again, Self-care is consciously choosing behaviors that help cultivate a sense of wellbeing in your life and release stress from your mind, body, and soul.

Do you need to revamp or amp up your self-care practices? If so, commit. You can do it! And, if you need to hear this: You are worth it.

***I am not currently affiliated with any of the brands linked or mentioned, but I wish I were.***

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I am by no means a sleep expert, but I can sincerely tell you I have always loved my sleep. Even as far back as my teenage years, I have intuitively known I simply feel better when I’m well rested. And to this day, I highly value and prioritize my sleep. Sleep science is now starting to show us how important our sleep actually is: It is during this time that our brain and body are actively repairing. Sleep is central to good health. Years ago at the Women’s Wellness Conference in CoMO, the keynote speaker, Dr. Sara Gottfried shared about the importance of deep sleep and HRV balance for long-term health and wellness. She showed us her Oura ring she used to track her sleep data. I ended up buying an Oura ring shortly after that conference. (Quick tip: If you get on Youtube and look for reviews on products, you can often find discount codes. Another quick tip: If you buy one, make sure to order the sizer, so you know the correct size to order.)

I love my Oura ring. It is lightweight and easy to wear while sleeping. (I am not one who usually sleeps in jewelry, and I can’t imagine sleeping in my big, bulky Apple watch.) This little ring tracks all kinds of data, but I mainly use it for sleep information. It provides me with information about my total sleep, efficiency, restfulness, REM sleep, deep sleep (always shooting for over 2 hours according to Dr. Gottfried–which is a challenge for me), and latency. It also gives me an overall readiness score for the day which includes information about resting heart rate, HRV balance, body temperature, recovery index, and the previous night’s sleep score. Last night was a particularly good night sleep for me as you can see from the data below.

Prior to Dr. Gottfried’s talk, I had never heard about the importance of HRV balance and sleep. This morning, I got an email from Oura that shared the following information regarding HRV:

“HRV (heart rate variability) is a measure of the variation of time between your heartbeats. It’s a highly personal metric, and one of the key indicators of your recovery status, overall health, and fitness level.

In general, your HRV can range anywhere from below 20 to over 200 milliseconds. What’s important is finding your HRV baseline and identifying what activities or factors make it fluctuate.

Next time you check your Readiness score, keep a closer eye on your HRV. Being in touch with your daily score, and noting any habits that affect your HRV, can help you narrow things down, change things up, and discover which habits work best for your overall health.”

It’s been interesting to pay attention to my behaviors and habits and make connections between how they may be helping or hindering my sleep. I have definitely noticed how eating dinner too close to bed time or having a glass of wine usually negatively impacts my quality of sleep. I appreciate the information my Oura ring provides me; however, after having it for a few years and paying attention, these days I am generally in tune enough with my body, when I wake up in the morning, I have a good sense of what the data will indicate before even seeing it.

Having a day where you feel good in your body starts the night before. How are you sleeping these days? Prioritizing sleep is self-care. Does sleep need to be moved up on your priority list?

***I am not sponsored by Oura, but I wish I was!

Books That Changed My Life

For as long as I can remember, I have loved books. As a child and teen, there was nothing better than starting a new fiction book and seeing where the adventure of reading would take me. In 1997 my own life adventure included moving to a much larger town for college. This was my first time living on my own and navigating a new and different place, school experience, and job. It was a lot of change all at once. That year, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff. This book began my love of nonfiction, self-development & growth books. I have read dozens and dozens of these types of books since, but this one, changed my life because it started me on my nonfiction journey. I picked it up at the exact right time. As I think about all the nonfiction books I’ve read over the years, there are so many good ones I could share, but I’ve narrowed it down to the ones that have made a HUGE impact on me. They have all, in some way, changed my life for the better, and they could possible do the same for you!

Prior to reading this book, everything felt like a big deal to me. I was a Type A, gett-er done, often anxious person. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff taught me to relax a little. I discovered yoga around the time that I read this book, and the combination of the two definitely made a magical shift in how I approached life. This book includes 100 simple short writings on life lessons~essentially ways to keep little things from taking over your life. Among other things, this book taught me that the to-do list is NEVER done, so holding your breath or waiting to do other things until everything is crossed off your list of things to do is a really bad idea. There are many great little take-aways from this book!

The Four Agreements continued my shift in how I approached life. These agreements are simple, yet profound: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. This book is a quick read filled with so much wisdom!

In 2005, I was working on my graduate degreee in counseling, got married, bought a house, moved, and started a new job as a school counselor. While all of these experiences were incredibly positive life happenings, it was A LOT all at once. My stress and anxiety levels that year were very high. Radical Acceptance Embracing Your Life with the heart of A Buddha was the book that saved me.

I was introduced to the work of Cheryl Richardson through watching Oprah, and I have really enjoyed many of her books. I chose to highlightThe art of Extreme Self-Care here because it is the one that stayed with me. In this book, she offers practical and sound advice for the importance of taking care of yourself. It is a book I come back to and reference regularly!

While Brene’ Brown is perhaps most notably known for her book Daring Greatly, her earlier written book, The Gifts of Imperfection is the one that created the most change in me. Prior to reading this book, I would profess the title of perfectionist with a proud badge of honor. It wasn’t until I read this book that I started to understand how toxic perfectionism is and how often it has stifled me and held me back. I now proudly say, I’m a recovering perfectionist.

If you know me well, you know The life-changing magic of tidying up was absolutely life-changing. I read this book in 2015, and I totally overhauled my life. It is amazing how much spaciousness and freedom one can feel in life when we aren’t energetically bogged down with too many things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no where close to a minimalist; however, I can say that I am very aware of what I own and what I choose to bring into my home and life, and most everything is something I use regularly or something that sparks joy. If you actually follow Marie’s process in this book for decluttering, I can almost guarantee your life will change, too. I will forever be grateful to Marie Kondo for helping me shift my relationship to stuff.

The untethered soul is a book that helped me change my relationship to my mind and thoughts. It is one that I cannot recommend highly enough. It taught me that while the mind’s job is to essentially create problems to be solved, I do not need to believe all of its problematic thoughts. It deepened my understanding and work with mindfulness and presence. It is one I read many years ago, but I’ve been feeling the pull to come back to it in the midst of the pandemic and uncertainty.

I hope that you will check out any of these book recommendations that spoke to you. Finding the right book at the right time can truly be life changing!