Welcome to 31 Days of Self-care

How many of us take the time to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate?

All of those “re-” words that we read much about, but we find hard to actually to do.

I’m guilty of a lifelong habit of keeping busy. Not so much “keeping busy” in the “I’m avoiding everything else” sense, but more like the world has so much to offer, I want to do it all! It’s all deliciously good. Well, maybe not so much dishes and laundry chores. Although, washing dishes offers me the opportunity for another “re-” word. Reflection!

I’m much better at relaxing than I used to be. The several caregiver roles I’ve had have never afforded as much time to relax as surely would have best benefitted both myself and my carees. Taking care of ourselves helps us take better care of those around us and in the long run helps build a healthier community. And in truth, part of the responsibility was mine to make sure I got some relaxation time!

Make a habit of taking a few minutes to relax.

I have learned to take moments here and there, even in a meeting, to relax my mind. I’ve learned to breathe shallowly and go within even when in the middle of chaos, like a busy airport or subway. I don’t shut down completely, but concentrating on breathing changes my perception of the action around me or the activity I’m in. It’s called “centering.” It’s a self-care tool that’s invaluable. Indeed, in my last caregiving role where I was alone taking care of Betty, I learned to use this technique well. Often it was a means of survival and had to replace proper sleep. Yoga breathing techniques are an excellent place to start learning this practice. Practice at home until you get the technique that’s right for you. You’ll know. As we learn to listen to our bodies and get better acquainted with the nuances, we know what helps us feel best.

Learn to relax into sleep when it’s time to sleep. I call in all my helpers – God, my angels, Jesus, Mother Mary. If I’m having a tough time relaxing to sleep, I ask my angels to surround my bed and ask them to help me shut down and sleep. Works like magic every time! I wake up refreshed and ready to go!

Try this.

As you slow your breathing, envision a restful place. With each slow inhale, bring positive feelings into your heart. Slowly breath out and release stress and any negative feelings. This activates the body’s natural relaxation response. Repeat this until you feel a gentleness all through you. Now envision a place that creates a feeling of peace. Perhaps it’s a river flowing gently or a park bench watching the squirrels and birds. Relax the mind to the point that it’s not being guided as to where thoughts will go. Gently allow feelings. When starting to get distracted and stressed again, go back to slowly inhaling and exhaling.

One of the best benefits of relaxation is using this time to quietly understand where we are. Ask where are we in life? Where are we on our career path? Where are we with our health? Take these questions one at a time and follow with envisioning what the answers look like, compared to how we want them to look.

Note: This envisioning should not resemble work. Just let your mind go. You can write, create vision boards, and make phone calls later. Now is not the time.

Let’s review! 

  • Yoga techniques teach us how to center with different breathing techniques. Don’t worry about feeling silly. It takes time to be comfortable with anything new, right?! It will soon become second nature!
  • Explore options for learning to relax and center. No system works for everyone. In fact, I prefer Pilates!
  •  Music is a terrific relaxation tool. The options are without limits!
  • Use breathing techniques to decompress at any time. At your desk (although I recommend stepping away from the desk!) or even in a meeting! They benefit overall health.
  • Relax into freeform thinking and envision however you wish your life to look.
  • Find your favorite spot to relax and own it. Maybe it’s out in nature. Pick a corner and put a favorite blanket and candle there. Add a plant. Find or create a “relaxation hotspot”.
  • Sometimes we can’t have a physical location. Create that space in the mind. Design it to reflect rest and caring. Go there when relaxation is needed. The beauty of this is it travels with us!
  • If worrying about time, set a timer to let you know when you have to “come back”. Otherwise, you’re going to get distracted worrying about losing track of time and missing a commitment.
  • Make relaxation time a commitment to the design of your self-care plan.