“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”— Hermann Hesse
There are so many articles about stress relief but all the stress relievers in the world won’t help you if you’re not taking proper care of yourself.
2020 was a challenging year for pretty much everyone I know. The fact that we all got through it is a testament to our resilience. In order to prepare for whatever life has in store for us, let’s talk about some examples of self care that can keep our batteries charged and help us live our best lives.
Of course, sleep should be the primary self care activity on your list. For so many of us with overpacked schedules and days filled with obligations, sleep is a luxury. But, as I said in my blog, what many people fail to realize is that a good night’s sleep is at the core of optimal brain function, balancing your hormones, increasing your chances at longevity, and avoiding debilitating diseases.
What do you do to make sleep part of a self-care routine? Start by thinking about your nightly routine. Are you eating or drinking immediately before bed? If so, it’s especially important to stay away from caffeine and sugar, which tend to keep you awake.
Next, make sure your bedroom is the perfect “zen zone” for restful sleep. Paint a calming color on the wall. Take out any screens and distractions and make sleeping the center-stage activity. Block out any sunlight streaming in with blackout shades or curtains.
And of course, how well you manage the challenges of your day plays into getting a good night sleep because if you have trouble sleeping or falling asleep, this is usually a result of stress, life events or habits that disrupt sleep.
Life sometimes goes at the speed of light, and there’s so much going on in your world. So many people I know prioritize their career and family and they’re sort of the last ones on their own list. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake, and that’s a sure way to burn out and feel run-down.
And even though a lot of people are choosing Zoom meetings and not commuting to work, whether we’re working at home or working remotely, we are sitting on our butts way too much!
Sitting is the new smoking according to Los Angeles wellness coach, Lisa Goldenthal. “So many activities we do involve sitting, whether we’re at a desk, in a meeting, commuting, eating lunch, even chilling out on the couch during our downtime. We need to counteract all that inactivity with exercise.”
These are some exercise recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:
Even if you’re too busy to workout at the gym or work with a trainer every day, a great way to feel more grounded is to take more nature walks and do grounding yoga poses.
EAT THE RAINBOW
The power of Culinary Alchemy®
I have worked with thousands of people helping them achieve their health, nutrition, wellness and longevity goals. At the core of my philosophy is eating the rainbow for optimal nutritional benefits.
Start off with a cleanse or detox and continue to exercise and practice deep breathing. Cleansing your digestive system will help strengthen your immune system’s ability to fight off colds and viruses that pop up.
And then your overall eating plan should be based on fresh, filling and heart-healthy, fruits and vegetables. They are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and low in fat and calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.
Here is a list of foods for skin health and hair health benefits. From brightening dark spots, to reducing inflammation, and preventing early aging, indulging in these superfoods is a great way to support your skin.
The colors in nature are replicated in the foods we eat. Aim to create meals with deep, warm hues from ingredients like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, pomegranates, and brussels sprouts. Soups and cooked vegetables are preferred as warming foods are optimal for health. Here is a more comprehensive list of foods to include in your meals (aim for organic or local) :
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squashes
- Onions and leeks
- Olives, olive oil, and vinegars
- Fermented foods
- Navy beans
- Walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts
- Lemons and limes
- Dark leafy greens: kale, swiss chard, mustard greens
Herbs and spices: bay leaves, black pepper, chili, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary.
HAVE LUNCH WITH A FRIEND
We are social creatures, and that’s a good thing!
Apart from eating properly and getting outdoors to walk and exercise, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks — in person and online — can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness.
Longevity researcher Dan Buettner often talks about the health benefits of friendship:
“I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network. In general, you want friends with whom you can have a meaningful conversation. You can call them on a bad day and they will care. Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”
So go for walks with your friends, get a lunch on the books, start a book club. Never underestimate the power of sharing your ideas, worries, and of course all the good times with dear friends.
RATE YOUR WELLNESS
I just read an excellent book called Career Interrupted by Reena Gupta and Rebecca Cullen. One of the themes of the book is learning to balance your three-legged stool of work, friends and family, and wellness. If one leg of your stool is weak, you will be completely out of balance.
In the wellness chapter of the book, the authors talk about how essential it is to have a quantifiable body-mind-soul wellness, so they came up with a BMS (Body, Mind, and Soul) rating. It’s something you can measure for yourself because only you will know when you are out of alignment.
“Every day around the same time, you should rate yourself in each category, body-wellness, mind-wellness, soul-wellness, from 1–10. Don’t be hard on yourself if you do poorly one day. The key is transparency and awareness.
Now take the average of all three categories, with the top score being thirty and the bottom score being three. If the number you come up with feels low to you, think about what score you would realistically like to attain. Set that as a goal to reach within a certain time period. Once again there is no right or wrong answer as it is a relative score for you and the only person you are competing with is your past self. It’s as simple as that. Someday, you may feel really happy and satisfied at a 10% score and some days you may score 80% and feel like you can do better. Yes, it’s possible that it can happen.”
GET YOUR HYGGE ON
Embrace hygge! Hygge, a Danish quality of “coziness and comfortable conviviality,” is something we can all get turned onto, no matter what culture we come from.
The mindset of finding comfort, pleasure, and wellbeing in simple things is so needed today. Those inherently soothing basics that we often overlook like taking a walk in nature, having an honest conversation with a loved one, taking your time and cooking a nourishing meal, napping, reading a book.
Gratitude is inherent in this concept. Reap the benefits of gratitude in your life by truly digesting the nourishment that comes from what we need, not what we are led to believe we need. If that means starting (and sticking to) a gratitude practice, you should definitely try it! From journaling, to prayer, to serving your community — connecting your gratitude to a physical practice can absolutely improve your mental and physical health. My method, Culinary Alchemy® involves fusing your meals with gratitude to gain the full nutritional benefits.
Whether you decide you want to go for a hike, soak in a hot bath, or enjoy some playtime at the park with your fur baby, taking self-care time is imperative.
Look for small ways you can incorporate it into everyday life; for example, you might find more time in your day by cutting back on screen time and waking up 20 minutes earlier. Go to a local specialty shop and get some amazing herbal teas to start your day with. Practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins, and remind yourself to keep you on your to-do list!
XO – Serena