Taking time out of your busy life to spend on yourself seems like a fantasy in today's fast-paced world. I struggle to find time to meditate or do yoga, sometimes even to take a deep breath. Between keeping up with my enthusiastic toddler, running my own business, going to school, keeping appointments and maintaining an acceptably clean household, I feel as if I'm always running to the next thing or worrying about tomorrow. However the health of our mental, emotional and physical bodies depends on these short lived moments of rest and restoration. So I have developed a list of 5 quick things to help you recenter, heal and de-stress in the throes of life.
1. Epson Salt Bath:
Not everyone can afford to buy fancy Bath Bombs from Lush, but I bet going to Walmart or the 99 cent store for Epson Salt isn't too much of a stretch. I recommend if you are feeling especially weary from a long day, substitute one of these baths in place of one of your nightly TV shows. Epson Salts are made up of magnesium sulfate. They are absorbed through the skin, which draws out toxins and relieves muscle tension, inflammation and soreness. Twenty minutes soaking in an Epson Salt bath will alleviate headaches, abdominal cramps, muscle pain and tension plus leave your skin super soft. I would choose soaking over the evening news any day (or the Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, or any Late Night show). Directions for use : Buy Epson Salt. Use 1 to 2 Cups in Warm water. Soak for a minimum of 20 minutes; however I recommend longer - as long as you have time for. Optional: Candles, incense, drops of essential oils or flower petals, gentle calming music, a locked bathroom door. :D
2. Turn off ALL electronic devices for 60 minutes:
I know. How will you survive without your cell phone, computer, TV or Music? Trust me, unless you are an ER or OR doctor, no one will die. There have been multiple studies done on heavy technology use having a detrimental effect on sleep patterns and mental health. Those who use technology more than 4 hours a day have been recorded to have increased cases of insomnia, disturbed sleeping patterns, depression and/or anxiety. If you feel like a live wire and notice that you are jittery and revved up or have trouble sleeping or silencing mental chatter and worries, maybe its time to take 60 minutes away from your electronics. What you do during that time is up to you. I recommend sitting under a tree and listening to nature or reading a book. Drawing or writing are wonderful options too. Take a walk. Even just listening to the silence around you can be calming. I play a few instruments, so I like to take my ocarina to a park and play to the sounds of leaves rustling in the breeze. I find this is the best time to get my thoughts straight.
For some, the thought of meditation is daunting. Sometimes we hold certain expectations and misconceptions for how we meditate or what the outcome is meant to do. Meditation is meant to bring attention to the present moment, no worries about what's coming next or stress about what has already happened. Here are 3 simple meditations so easy you can do them standing in line at a Starbucks.
ATTENTION: With any meditation, do not breathe too deep or too slow. It should not feel forced. This breathing should feel natural. If at any time you feel lightheaded or dizzy or have any other complications, stop and try doing the exercise with your natural normal breathing pattern. Please be gentle with yourself. Also, please do not use while driving.
~~~~~~~~~GROUNDING : Take deep slow breaths and focus on the feeling of breathing. Become aware of your chest rising and falling, your stomach expanding and contracting, then your legs (where are you stiff, do you have any pain? Don't do anything about it, just be aware of it), then your ankles (breathe all the way down to your ankles), then your feet. Feel your feet on the floor. Pay attention to where the weight is distributed, if there's any pain or discomfort... Then imagine breathing through the soles of your feet into the ground. You can take this one step further by imagining roots growing into the ground. This can be done for as long as you feel necessary. I like to do it several times a day, it is calming and helps me focus.
~~~~~~~~~~CENTERING : Take deep slow breaths and focus on the feeling of breathing. Become aware of your chest rising and falling. Find your core, the place within your body that feels as if it is the center of you. Imagine that core being a small sun. With each inhale, expand your sun; let it grow bigger and brighter. When you exhale allow it to relax. Try to expand the sun with each breath until you are at the center of your sun. This exercise is what I use when I want a boost of motivation or when I'm feeling a little down. Sometimes I use different colors, red for passion or blue for calm or green for healing/compassion.
~~~~~~~~~~PEACE : Close your eyes and observe your breathing (do not change it, just feel it). Become as still as you can and try to just watch your breathing. If you have any thoughts, acknowledge them, but do not think about them. Your goal is to notice the thought and remind yourself that you will return to this another time, right now is quiet time. With each thought that comes, imagine it becoming a cloud (or jumping on a cloud) and passing over your head behind you. Once your active mind notices you are not responding to these thoughts it will quiet down and it will be silent within. (This one might take some practice, it took me about 5 or 6 ten minute tries for my overactive mind to calm my first week working with this practice. But now all I have to do is close my eyes with the intention for peace and calm; it is quiet). I use this meditation when I feel overstimulated, overworked, tired or anxious. Having this dark quiet place to retreat to is so rejuvenating. I always feel refreshed afterwards. I've done this one on a train, sitting at a table at Starbucks, in a loud mall plaza, in class, and at work. These meditations are wonderful for all settings.
How boring... Stretching? Can she really think stretching will help me feel less stressed? You might be surprised. By doing 15 to 20 minutes of gentle stretching per day you will find you have increased energy, flexibility, range of motion in all your joints, more restful sleep and you might even find aches and pains disappearing suddenly. I have found stretches for clients who work in cubicles that have really helped them with wrist, back and neck pain. Many people do Yoga, and if you have the money for a mat, you can too. I personally LOVE Yoga, it helped strengthen my core, open my hips and improve my balance and flexibility (plus it made my pregnancy a breeze). There are other types of stretching as well, sports stretching, Pilates, water stretches (where you do stretches in a pool), and even those big bouncy ball stretches. Whatever method you choose, gentle stretching without a yoga mat or a ball or a pool can be FREE and helpful. You can search for stretches for specific areas or even a whole routine on google.
For those unfamiliar with affirmations, they are short but powerful statements that you repeat to yourself to provide emotional encouragement. Affirmations are thoughts to rewire our brains into a new thinking patterns, so we may have more control over our lives and ourselves. The most effective affirmations are spoken aloud, but I have also used affirmations internally as a mantra (I repeat the phrase slow and steady over and over). When writing your own affirmations, ask yourself: What is it I want today? Once you identify what you want to improve, you can start with the encouragement.
Are you struggling with self image? "I am healthy. I am strong. I am beautiful. I love me."
Is there a difficult relationship in your life triggering you? "I am above negative thoughts and actions and they do not affect me."
Are you feeling depressed and lost? "I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy."
Maybe you just want to work harder or find more time to spend on your interests. "I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful." "Creative energy surges through me and leads me to new and brilliant ideas."
No matter what your intention is, you can make an affirmation. Avoid 'not' or 'negative' phrases such as, "I will not...", "I am not..", etc. By using nos or nots, the intention of moving forward becomes confused. Instead of focusing on things you wish to avoid with a 'not' statement, you actually end up manifesting that exact situation. Another type of affirmation is Gratitude Affirmations- List 10 things you are grateful for. EXAMPLE: 1. I am so grateful for my beautiful daughter. 2. I am grateful to have the financial means for food and shelter. 3. I am so grateful for my creativity and resourcefulness. 4. I am so grateful to my friends and family for their support and love. etc.. You can even add things like, "I am so grateful for video games, because they bring me joy." "I am grateful for the blue bird who sings outside my window in the morning." "I am grateful that police officer let me off with a warning the other day." If 10 things feels excessive, start with 5 things.
I hope this list of Self Care activities finds you well. I find them helpful and healing. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with friends and family and help them find peace in their lives too. Have a wonderful day :D