And how to cultivate a new relationship with yourself.
The last month has been particularly intense. I’ve had an extra-full plate at work, I haven’t been sleeping well, I’ve been navigating some bumpy family stuff and the holidays are always an emotionally intense time for me. In the old days I would have turned to some not-so-healthy habits to relieve my stress, but today, I know that self-care is not only essential, it’s my best friend when times get tough. When it comes to nourishing and grounding myself, here are 7 key practices I can’t live without:
1. I begin my day intentionally.
I love my 20 minute morning meditation practice. But if things are hectic, I find that even when I take 5 minutes to start my day with a clear intention, gratitude practice, prayer or stillness, this has a huge impact on how the rest of my day flows. My husband, son and I also do morning “power circles” right before we head out the door when one of us is having a hard time or needs extra support. I’m also a big fan of the “eight hugs a day” club; touch is powerful.
2. I make pleasure-full movement a priority.
My favorite ways to move my body include yoga, vigorous walks with friends around the lake and Nia dance. I often have to juggle like crazy to make this happen and always have to plan in advance to build this in, but daily, enjoyable movement is a non-negotiable for me at this life stage.
3. I eat foods that make me feel great (most of the time!) and take breakfast seriously.
Often I ask, “What would really nourish us right now?” before I decide what’s for breakfast or dinner. This means planning ahead and keeping the fridge and pantry stocked with lots of my favorite staples: hummus, a variety of nuts and nut butters, fruits/veggies, garbanzo and black beans for salads and dips, green, mint and ginger teas, etc. I love the clean, quick, GF recipes in It’s All Good and It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow. Breakfast is king at our house. I find if I start the day eating protein, it helps me maintain steady blood sugar levels and has a huge impact on how I feel around 3 or 4 p.m. I like to drink a cup of warm water and lemon immediately upon waking to “get things moving.” Favorite breakfasts include a spinach/mushroom omelet, migas or breakfast tacos, smoked salmon or trout and whole grain bagels, steel cut oatmeal with blueberries/almonds/milk, yogurt with fruit and nuts or if we’re in a hurry, apples with almond butter.
4. I build in time with friends who let me show up “warts and all.”
Heartfelt face-to-face connection is key to lowering stress hormones and keeping perspective. Ideally it’s a lunch, evening women’s circle or walking date, but even a good 15 min. phone call with a dear friend boosts my mood.
5. I take time to pause and rest.
Pausing to ask, “What is mine to do?” helps me use my energy more effectively (critical to running two businesses). These pauses also help me tune in and ask my body what it needs: one of my hormonal balancing tinctures, some B Complex, Vitamin C or a nap? For the past year, I have started taking 20 min. afternoon rests almost every afternoon. Now in my fifties, I believe this will be key to creating sustainability throughout the decades to come.
6. I walk on the earth (ideally barefoot).
Even if it’s just 5 minutes of pulling weeds in the backyard or refilling the bird bath, 10 minutes in my hammock or walking to the park and back after dinner with family, I find connecting with the natural world has a calming effect on my nervous system and helps me reset and shake off any “funk.”
7. I prepare for a good night’s sleep.
After dinner, we make it a priority to relax and unwind. It’s not a time to get stuff done, it’s time to let the busyness of the day fall away. Sometimes this means embracing a “good is good enough,” attitude and letting the house be messy, clothes pile up, work deadlines wait and scrounging in the pantry for lunch fixings for my son so I don’t have to hit the store. I love late evening walks with my husband or neighbor, delicious aromatherapy baths, gentle yoga stretches before bed (legs up the wall is my favorite) and I snuggle down by 9:30 with something inspirational to read. At 10:00 p.m. it’s lights out, usually after a short calming, breathing exercise.
Honestly, I feel shy and hesitant about sharing my personal self-care practice and rituals. I don’t ever want anyone to think there is a right or wrong way to practice self-care (read more about how I define self-care). I also don’t see self-care as something you need to add to your to-do list, but rather it’s about cultivating a new relationship with yourself. And, I have found that often, the more we hear what self-care practices our friends are committed to, the more curious and motivated we become about adding to, changing or enhancing ours.
Written by Renee Peterson Trudeau for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.