My Self-Care Story

Self-care is a hot topic that is getting a lot of attention in the news and social media right now. We know self-care is important but what is it really? Are you doing it right? How can you make the most of the little free time you already have? As I go through my yoga therapy studies and the evolution of my own practice my perceptions around self-care has changed and I want to share with you what I have learned.

In this blog post, I share my views on self-care, my daily routine and how I managed to have the best winter ever despite it being long, dark and cold, AND how self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.

This Fall I will be hosting a day-long Self-Care workshop to help you design a self-care practice that will work for your lifestyle. You will also learn how you can be accountable to maintaining a self-care program that is supportive and nourishing to YOU!

What is self-care? In my experience, self-care is going to be different for everyone. There may be some similiarities and there will certainly be differences. For me, self-care is more than checking off an action on my to-do list. It is something that is becoming a lifestyle, a series of choices that I know are nourishing and supportive. What this is for me, may be completely different for you. And it didn’t happen overnight. It was as series of choices that have evolved over time. Things taken out of my life and things added. Let me share a couple of examples. There have been some toxic relationships that I had to let go of if I wanted to thrive and have a lifestyle that was free from drama and guilt. I cut out drinking alcohol because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I thought this was going to negatively impact my social life but it only made it better. Some things I’ve added: I’ve started to include some Ayurvedic dincharya practices into my morning and bedtime routines (learn more). Some things that evolved: my diet and how I practice yoga. These lifestyle choices nourish me, they help me sleep better, I have more energy, I handle stress better, I am better at my job. What works for me, might not work for you. Let me give you an example. Some people might find that playing with or petting a dog to be extremely comforting and relaxing. They find it re-energizing and supportive. Someone who is allergic to or afraid of dogs might find petting a dog extremely agitating and therefore not nourishing or supportive. This is why we need to assess what feels good for us, what is sustainable, and what is the outcome of the self-care practices we choose.

My experience of Ayurveda and self-care began in ernest last summer. I began integrating the Ayurvedic practices of Dinaycharya that I learned in my training. I gradually introduced these practices into my daily routines, with consistency. They are now a natural and organic part of my lifestyle.  What I noticed, and what I attribute to these practices is that I had a really excellent winter.

Let me explain:

Winter has always been a troubling season for me.

I get cold and stay cold and find myself shivering all the time. Going outside is extremely uncomfortable.  My happy place is piled under blankets with an electric heating pad.

The long dark days are depressing. No amount of Vitamin D could pull me out the seasonal funk.

I had no desire to go outside, to exercise, to be social. I literally hibernate.

Winter was a real struggle that never seemed to end.

Does this sound familiar? I also worked on going to bed by 10pm each night, waking up early every morning, eating at regular times during the day – which I still find challenging.  But what I took away from these seemingly benign practices was so much more than I though was possible. We can all agree that here in Ontario we had a long, cold winter. Everyone, and I mean literally everyone complained about how terrible winter had been, how long it felt, how there was an urgency for spring for to arrive. While, yes, it was long, this was the first year I didn’t feel negatively about it. I felt like I had weathered the winter well. The snow and the cold didn’t bother me the way it had in the past. I had energy to do more things and try new stuff.  I would even go so far as to say this was the best winter I’ve experienced. When I share this, people look at me dumbfounded. I don’t have any other explanation as to why I didn’t experience all the symptoms I typically do in the winter. When I considered what I was doing differently, it was my self-care routine.

If we want to experience to a different outcome in our lives – whether it’s how we feel, the outcome of our businesses or our relationships, we have to do something differently. Same actions, same outcome. New actions, different outcome. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t start this self-care routine thinking it was going to make my experience of winter better. I was curious. I was willing to try something new if there was potential that it could help me feel differently and in a very general way. There is very little time spent or cost associated with these practices.

I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of how I can create balance in my life. Balance does not mean more of something and less of something else. For me, balance is the outcome of how I am able to be with a situation without being thrown out of whack. It’s about how I relate to stressor or a bad driver or a negative comment. Balance is a state of being that you can cultivate when you are nourished from the inside out.

As a result of this self-care lifestyle that I have cultivated over time,  I have more clarity and awareness around how my diet impacts different aspects of my life. While winter was wonderful for me, I found there was some struggle going into spring, which sparked a new curiosity for me. What do I need to change during the winter, to support myself going into spring? Now I get to explore. Self-care in and of itself evolves and changes over time and for me, across seasons.

Through my yoga therapy training we learn a lot about Ayruveda and how we can support ourselves. In my physical yoga practice there are practices I can do that help me feel more grounded and supported when I feel unthethered. There are practices that are energizing or calming. Movement, breathing, and meditation all factor into my lifestyle and supports and nourishes me. These might look different everyday too.

Check out my earlier blog post about Dinacharya practices. If you’re curious, pick one or two that feel like they would be easy to incorporate, notice how it feels for you and go from there. If you want to introduce a movement, breathing or meditation practice into your life, let’s talk about ways I can support you to get started.

This Fall I will be running a day long self-care workshop that will explore a variety of self-care practices that you can build into your routine that is manageable and supportive. We will create individual plans to help you measure whether or not your self-care practices are supporting you. If you are not on my mailing list and you don’t want to miss out upcoming events and new blog posts, sign up today.

 

 

Part 2: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Perhaps you’ve started to integrate some Ayurvedic self-care practices into your daily routine from Part 1 and you’re ready to add some more. Today I will share some more practices that you can build into your  evening routine for sleep hygiene and better health.

Do you find that you have a long hectic day at work and by the time you get the kids to bed all you want to do is enjoy a glass of wine and turn on Netflix? I hear ya. Even though alcohol and numbing our minds to the screen gives us immediate gratification, the effects it has on our sleep quality might not be worth it long term. Our bodies are designed to process toxins and restore our system over the course of the night so we can wake feeling rested and energized. Unfortunately for many of us, we have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, and wake up feeling tired and foggy. Luckily there are a few things that we can start to incorporate into our evening routine.

Ayurvedic science says that our mid-day lunch should be the largest meal of the day followed by a light walk to aid digestion. Many cultures today already do this. In the evenings, a light supper is recommended and an evening walk will help to ensure that our food is fully digested before we go to bed. This is important because we don’t want our body to have to use up all its energy to digest our food while we sleep. This takes away from the restorative functions we need for good health. So maybe start with a light, healthy dinner and a short walk. A pre-bed routine will help with ease-ful sleep. It is recommended to turn off screens at least one hour before bed to help the nervous system prepare for sleep.

If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, consider these ideas to help you sleep more restoratively, deeply and easily.

  1. Set a consistent bedtime. If you have an irregular morning schedule, go to bed 8 hours before you have to get up. Some people need more or less sleep time. Keep track of how many hours you sleep and if it feels it’s not enough, or too much adjust accordingly.
  2. Have a bed time routine. This may include other items from this list. It might include reading a book, gentle yoga, chatting with family member, washing your face, brushing your teeth or a self oil massage before you go to bed.
  3. Bedroom is only for sleep and sex (that means no TV or work). That way your body/brain can fall asleep easier.
  4. Minimize screen time before bed. Whether it is your tv, phone or other device, it provides more stimuli and can set your nervous system on high alert. It will take a longer time for your nervous system to begin to settle into the rest/digest system.
  5. Keep your bedroom dark for sleep (invest in an eye-mask and earplugs if you need to)
  6. Avoid alcohol and heavy food. As I mentioned earlier, your body has to put a lot of effort into digestion, which it shouldn’t have to do while you sleep.
  7. Enjoy a cup of warm spiced milk (nut milk is okay too!). This can aid in digestion and set the nervous system at ease.
  8. Indulge in a self foot massage with warm oil. This can help to ground and settle out any erratic energies.

A few yoga postures that I help me prepare for sleep include child’s pose, cat/cow, and legs up the wall. If I’m having a particularly hard time falling asleep I’ll listen to a Yoga Nidra recording.  Usually the hardest one to implement is the one we need to do the most. Let me know what works for you and if I can support you in any way.

In Part 3 I will share a Digestive Reset Program that I will be participating in this Fall so stay tuned!

Happy Exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga