Years ago, I listened to a podcast with author and researcher, Brene’ Brown, and she described the importance of experiencing disappointments in life in order to learn and know hope. She was specifically talking about parents who swoop in to guard their children from every disappointment in life, and how those same kids are missing out on the important life skill of learning about hope. She describes hope as a cognitive process more than a feeling. This idea and the relationship between disappointment and hope has stuck with me.
Most of us would probably agree that the year 2020 was filled with disappointment. For some, much more disappointment than others. And, with that, 2020 became a year for kids and adults alike to learn more about hope.
I was recently able to get the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and this most definitely has me very hopeful: Hopeful for a life moving forward that allows for eating with friends at restaurants, large family gatherings, concerts, hugs, handshakes, smiles eventually not covered by masks, large and crowded yoga classes with our mats only a few inches apart…I could go on and on and on.
I also hope we never forget. I hope we are a little closer to truly understanding how precious and fragile this life is. I hope we remember human connection is a necessity like the air we breathe, and we should treat all humans kindly, justly, and respectfully. I hope we never forget how truly allowing ourselves to experience the highs and the lows is an important part of being human and healing. I hope we learned how to be more compassionate with ourselves and how to extend that compassion to others. I hope we learned the importance of relaxation and true rest. Along with that, I hope we do not go back to busy but instead place high value on experiencing the simple pleasures of life rather than rushing through it to try and fill it up.
As a recovering Type A personality who can lean towards being a bit controlling (thank goodness for Yoga!), this quote always makes me smile. It could easily be the 2020 motto. Relax. Nothing is under control. And yet, as we continue to journey through this life, we canremember that we can always choose to invite hope to stay.
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.
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.***
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?