People often ask me how I’m always so "calm" and "easy-going". “What do you do?”, they ask. “Don’t you ever get angry and lose it?”
Part of it is certainly nature—if you’ve met my dad you know what I mean, he is the most even-keeled, laid-back human being I know. I often joke that he puts the “Zen” in “Dzenawagis”, and well...the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. While I am like my mom in many ways, I have my dad’s temperament through and through. It’s in my blood.
But…a lot of it is nurture too.
In college, I lived in a constant state of stress. For some reason (and it was not pressure from my parents or anyone else, I did this to myself) school was always my #1 priority, and everything else—including my health, took second stage. My body bore the brunt of this chronic stress, and throughout my college career, I suffered from a variety of symptoms like irregular bleeding, heart palpitations, ocular migraines, severe stomach pain, and more.
I had no idea that any of this was stress-related until after graduation when it all just magically disappeared. Almost instantly too. Wait a minute…I had been doing this to myself? How was working so hard that I was physically ill benefiting anyone? That was when my priorities began to shift and self-care became #1, because as my dad always says, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”. And he’s right.
It’s taken me 30+ years to figure out exactly what I need to do to feel “good”, but now that I know, I take taking care of myself very seriously. Dan likes to joke that it’s my part-time job, and it kind of is. When my self-care routine is strong, I am my best self, and when I am my best self, everyone around me benefits. A yoga teacher of mine once said that “You can only give what you have an abundance of”, and I certainly don’t want to be giving out an abundance of stress and anxiety. The world doesn’t need any more of that.
After years of trial and error, I've found that this is what optimal self-care looks like for me:
- Yoga: Always my #1, I get on my mat at least 3 times a week, and I will tell you, there is a very clear difference in my mood on the weeks when this isn’t the case. Because I’m certified to teach I often just lead my own home practice, but I love Yoga International when I’m looking for someone to guide me.
- Meditation: At the end of every yoga practice, and sometimes more. It can be as simple as sitting for 5 minutes a day and visualizing the breath moving in and out of the body.
- Writing: I have been a journaler since childhood, and it has served me well as an adult too (I carry my journal with me everywhere). When there is something I need to work out, I write, and the answer usually finds its way onto the pages. Or it at least helps to clear my mind.
- Rest: I’ve found that I’m an 8-hour a night kind of girl, and I make every effort possible to get that when I can. Over the past few years, I’ve had a resurgence of sleeping in on the weekends too and I feel no guilt whatsoever about it (sorry to my friends out there with children 😉).
- Diet: I’m a vegetarian (pescatarian technically, I occasionally eat seafood) and have been for 23 years. It was never difficult for me to give up meat, it’s always felt very natural, and I’ve found that it’s what feels best for my body. I also try to keep junk and processed foods to a minimum and I buy local and organic when I can. I've started doing an ayurvedic cleanse in the spring and fall too and that has been a game-changer for me.
- Exercise: While yoga can be exercise, my personal practice is typically more restorative than calorie-burning, so I do make sure to get my cardio and strength training in addition. I do circuit classes at my gym 2-3x a week, and in the summer I take walks around my neighborhood until my Fitbit tells me I hit 10,000 steps.
- Massage: This may seem luxurious, but I get a massage once a month. While yoga is great for stretching the muscle, it doesn’t get the knots out, and massage releases stored tension like nothing else for me.
- Saying No: A lot of people struggle with this, but it’s something that I’ve become very comfortable with. I do not overcommit, and I gracefully decline invites when I have too much going on. Unless I have to, or I want to, I don’t mindlessly say "yes".
- Taking Space: I am an introvert, and part of that means that I recharge with quiet time. I know myself, and know that if I have a lot of extroverted activities on my agenda, that I need a lot of personal space before and after to prepare and recover. Taking this space is crucial for me to feel good and not burn out.
- Taking Vacation: It pains me when I read statistics about how in America, “54% of employees end the year with unused time off”. Time is so valuable, and actual relaxation is irreplaceable. I know that personally, time off is essential to my well-being, and because I love to travel too, I don’t think I’ve ever had a paid vacation day go unused.
Now, do I always hit everything on this list? No. But I do my best, and I don't get upset with myself when I can't fit it all in. The months when I do though? Golden. 100% worth the effort. ✨
This is an interesting read that I've seen floating around the internet lately that offers an expanded and somewhat non-traditional definition of self-care. To each his own. ✌🏻