When I first started learning meditation and engaging myself in self care: It felt weird, and I felt guilty. I was taking time for something I was told was good for me, but since I had no frame of reference for it, it seemed silly. And It felt awkward. I wasn’t raised with the concept of being still, or of doing anything for myself. Sitting meant I was not doing something I should or could be doing. But, as I rummaged around my head for justification, I realized 37 years of early morning runs were a form of self care. I’ll admit to survival care, but early morning runs into the sunrise, in all kinds of weather, were special, felt good, and calmed me. I could handle most anything after a good run. Back then, we didn’t call it self care.
Since I quit running, my self care has taken on a myriad of forms; meditation, yoga, walks, hiking, skiing, extra sleep, cycling, a day on the sofa reading a good book, or sometimes baking bread and enjoying every warm, buttered bite! I’ll admit many of these forms of self care require a lot of time. Some are most fruitful early in the morning when the mind is still offline, and some are best done with others.
At first, I treated self care like everything else, get it done! One more thing to check off the list. And in its early stages of my life, when I was working in a job I didn’t like, it often felt indulgent and time consuming. But, slowly I noticed I felt better and calmer after a meditation. I learned enough yoga asanas so that class wasn’t new every time I went, and I noticed feeling calm, centered and focused after class. I found I could handle the stresses of life better if I had even just 5 minutes of soft belly breathing and a quick connection to my creator. On difficult days, I’d take 20 minutes at lunch and do my autogenic meditation, or take a walk to decompress. If I was upset, I’d focus on something that made me feel joy or love and suddenly, I’d be calm enough to handle the problem. Practicing these little tools, changed my mindset. And my life.
So, how can you find some time in a busy, hectic life to get some everyday self love? Take small bites. On your busiest days, take 10 mins in the morning(or at lunch) to listen to a 8-10 minute meditation or just belly breathe for that period of time, repeat before bed. On days when you have more flexibility, take a mindful walk in the park. Thirty minutes will do the trick. Nature calms the mind and body. Breathing in the oxygen, looking up and around at the trees, shrubs, flowers, lakes, calms the mind while increasing focus and concentration and decreasing blood pressure.
Sample one of these small bites:
- Go outside at lunch.
- Eat lunch outside.
- Daydream for 10 minutes. (set a timer, if needed)
- Watch the clouds, find shapes.
- Watch the day become night. What does it sound like? How long does it take?
- Journal your monkey mind, this is how this article became life!
- Soak your feet for 10 minutes in warm lavender and epsom salt water, then massage them while belly breathing. (you can do this while watching TV.)
- Spend 5 minutes stretching mindfully, noticing how you feel while in the stretch and afterwards.
- Waiting for someone? Put down the phone or computer, step out of your car/space and take a walk, or look up at the sky or trees…notice the world around you. What does it look like, smell like, how loud is it? What color is it?
One thing I have found particularly helpful in creating mindfulness, and self care in my day, is to stop and pause periodically throughout the day and assess. You can do this while brushing your teeth, driving home, or just sit for a few minutes and consider things. Start with the morning and review your day, each encounter, each activity. What happened? Was it satisfying, why or why not? How did you feel during, after…? Review your day and all the parts of it. You can do this periodically throughout the day and your awareness of yourself, your life and others will pick up quickly. You will find yourself being kinder and more gentle not only with others, but also with yourself. And a huge added bonus…you will sleep much better because your brain won’t need to wake you at 2 am to review your day!
To be loving and kind to others you have to be loving and kind to yourself. Making space on a daily basis, in 10 minute slots, will help you stay mindful and grounded. Self care and mindfulness go hand in hand and these small bites, add up over time. Very quickly, you’ll notice the day flows, rather than runs. You’ll get more done in a day and you won’t feel so stressed doing it. And, before you know it, your life will flow too!
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