Before sharing my first tip, I’ll start with an unusual piece of advice. Know what is non negotiable in your self care daily routine and protect it.
Be uncompromising about the one or two actions in your day that are most pivotal to your mental and physical well being in your current situation.
Think about it for a moment.
What is it that you do, that leads to more self – aware and self caring choices for the rest of your day?
“When I ……….. then, I choose to eat better, breathe better, focus better.. or feel more friendly towards myself. “
Commitment to that positive, self caring action doesn’t need to be self centered or obsessive, instead it can be a recognition that that the better version of yourself arises from your daily self care.
The state that I create for myself affects how I move through and perceive life.
So when you surrender a part of your daily life to the meditation, or core workout, or nature walk that serves your better self, you make those actions a non negotiable part of your daily life for months and then years. You don’t have to panic when a curve ball throws your routine out of whack because you have practiced better self care so many times that you still make good choices for yourself. You have up- levelled your habits already.
In yoga, the effort to follow through a positive change is called Tapas. The word tapas also means heat.
Change is a transformation and with any transformation there is a release of energy. Think of this as your effort, its like a fire that burns up the old for the new, or the heat produced by friction when a moving body changes course. How comfortably you can endure the effort of sticking with a change in behaviour ?
If you’re someone who finds disciplined change harder alone, then setting your goals with a practitioner, therapist, group or class is proven to increase your likelihood of success.
Here are some self-caring changes that are not difficult, expensive or tiring.
This advice comes from Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, which is concerned with living well in accordance with nature.
1.Eat a lighter dinner
Eastern medicine warns us against eating heavy, rich meals in the evenings, as our digestive systems are not as efficient overnight. Poorly digested food can worsen congestion, allergies and dysbiosis.
At night our digestive system should be resting and repairing.
If you can’t make the last meal of the day earlier, at least make it lighter by steaming or slow cooking, consuming veggies, broths and soups rather than pasta or rice.
Instead of searching for sweet treats at night, treat yourself to a special dessert or treat during the day.
At night, replace dessert with a self massage with oil before you go to bed and you’ll sleep soundly and wake feeling mentally and physically lighter.
Go to bed when you’re ready to sleep, not when you’re exhausted
You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again- one of the best things you can do for your health is protect your hours of sleep. Lack of sleep basically makes your system “ hot” – your tissues don’t have as much healing and regeneration time and your inflammation increases.
Sleep is not just an investment in rest, but also in the strength of your body. While you sleep your body produces HGH – human growth hormone, which influences the quality of your collagen, one of the main building blocks of your skin, and connective tissues. If you’re exercising regularly, eating a high amino acid and low carbohydrate diet, and using good skin products, don’t forget that sleep is your other essential anti-ageing tool.
If you have trouble getting to sleep, a lovely practice from yoga is Viparita Karani -done in its simplest version, you just lie with your lower back and hips on a firm blanket or pillow and your legs elevated up the wall and close your eyes. Viparita Karani activates the baroreflex that induces relaxation or sleepiness. Place a warmed wheat bag on the soles of the feet and wrap up your elevated legs in a soft blanket just before sleep. This simple 5 minute practice is deeply restorative for the sleep cycle.
3. Self Massage
Ayurvedic self-massage, Abyangha, increases the circulation of your lymph and helps your body to release wastes. Touch is also important for the release of oxytocin, the feel good chemical that is associated with compassion which also de-stresses our nervous systems.
Use a high-quality organic oil and massage your body with gentle, light strokes directed towards your heart. One of the great benefits of self massage is that the actions of acknowledging and feeling your body bring you into the present moment, grounding you and releasing anxiety. Sometimes we’re so used to being wound up tightly that we don’t even realize. The simple act of abyangha increases attention “ in” the body. When we feel subtle sensations like warmth and gentle touch, our nervous system moves from a state of defensive alertness to safety and ease through increased activity of the vagus nerve, which can in turn help us feel more at home and calm in our whole being-ness.
This blog was originally written for Therapyworks website.