Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Art of Self-Care

 "Self-love, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting." ~William Shakespeare

 As the autumn moves along and the cooler weather saunters in, we start our journeys inside. This is the perfect time of year to start doing some extra self-care so that we can avoid the intrepid viruses and flu that come banging at our door as the holiday season approaches.

Our lives are so busy that we often neglect taking good care of ourselves. 

I don't know about anyone else, but my head tends to get full at this time of year from the return of school to the flurry of holidays on their way. I find myself running in circles at times, trying to tackle the stuff on my task list, but it feels like a juggling act where I'm never really quite sure which things are in the air until I've dropped one. I get forgetful, distracted, and very much like a squirrel trying to figure out where to hide her nuts. And somehow at the end of the day, I look at the task list that has nothing checked off, but I know I've been truly busy. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering what I did all day.

Then I start to get the fall sinus congestion, which is in part due to allergies, but it's a reminder for me to step back and anchor my self-care routine. I've come to realize over the years that sinus congestion for me means that my head is full of too much junk, and I need to empty it.

A brief daily routine is just the trick to return me to balance, and it's MEGA important: Meditation, Exercise, and Gratitude for All. It anchors me in every way that I need it. It doesn't have to be complicated or long, but these few moments are critical. When I allow myself to do this simple care routine, everything else falls in place naturally. There's no struggle with anything, because my mind is at peace and able to handle any challenges that come my way. My life is full of more joy when I've cared for myself.

Meditation is how I start and end my day. It can be a few moments or an hour. I start the day with gratitude for the blessings and lessons that have come my way and are continuing to come. Then I sit quietly, maybe playing some light music. As thoughts come, I acknowledge each one and then let them pass. I have a notebook handy in case I remember something critical or need to journal. As I acknowledge and release the thoughts, my head and heart clear, and I feel more at peace to meet my day. At the end of the day, I do the same routine. These few moments of self-care help me find my center, be at peace after a long day, and make a good transition for sleep.

Exercise helps keep me flowing. I hesitate to call it exercise, because for me that word conjures up visions of trying to keep up with Joanie Greggain's oldies workout when I was a teenager, always feeling completely inadequate and awkward. What I really mean is movement. Moving my body in some way each day, even if it's only a few moments of yoga or stretching, releases tension and helps the lymph system do it's job to keep my immune system in top shape. We are not designed to sit all the time. Muscles that are not used become weak and stagnant, and stagnation leads to illness. No thanks! I'd rather give myself 15-30 minutes a day of some self-care than several days in bed with the flu.

Gratitude for All...I make an effort to be thankful throughout my day for everything. Yes, even the things that go wrong. There is a lesson in every challenge, and there is so much amazing goodness on this planet - people, wildlife, beauty - if we just take a moment to see it. Being grateful helps me change my perspective when I get stuck in anger, fatigue, frustration, etc., allowing me to regain my center and choose to do something more effective with the situation in front of me than be upset.

I find a few other things also help at this time of year. Soups and stews with root vegetables and dark leafy greens support our bodies, warming and nourishing us from the inside-out. And plenty of water! It helps moisten our organs to keep things flowing and helps our skin from getting dried out. And if we can end our days and head for bed a little earlier, it would be beneficial to try and get a little more sleep. Our bodies crave it as we head into late fall and winter.

Self-care is how we nourish and strengthen ourselves so we can be at our best and able to do what we want in our lives. If we don't take the time to do it on a regular basis, our bodies will give us the time-out we need. Self-care is not selfish; it's self-sustaining. If we want to do things for others, we need to care for ourselves respectfully first. If we don't respect ourselves and our own needs, we can't give that same respect to others, and our words and actions will come from a place of disarray and disappointment. 

There are too many people and things out there to enjoy and love. If we're stuck in a place of dis-contentedness, then that's what life will serve up to us. A little self-care goes a long way to keeping us centered and choosing from a calm and conscious perspective.

Here's to an autumn filled with splendor and to a self-care routine that gives you the space to enjoy it!

And please see The Apothecary page if you're looking for some herbal support this season. :)


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