Self-Care Routines: PART 1
Routines of Self-Care
After a few years of many imbalances, which culminated in a very severe and intense year last year emotionally and physically I was left feeling depleted, drained, constantly fatigued, injured, ill and “spread too thin”. These imbalances were, in the end, real blessings. But, they were the furthest thing from a breeze to move through. A thought that I came back to continuously was a quote I once heard from a Tara Brach talk: “no mud, no lotus”. This got me through major times of distress.
If you don’t already know this about me, I am a HUGE believer in the fact that in every single illness, disease, injury or ailment there is a wealth of lessons and wisdoms to recognise, realize and then assimilate. It is then our responsibility as individuals to integrate these lessons into our lives and into our beings. And with this, comes an immense amount of healing. Healing from what? Healing from old (often negative) belief programs/patterns that are embedded in your mind but are perhaps no longer serving you, healing from identification with ego, healing from past traumas and the list really does go on. I believe that healing is a constantly evolving journey, something that continuously and lovingly unfolds (even if & when it doesn’t feel so loving at the time!). One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that most of my biggest lessons and positive steps forward on my souls journey in this life have emerged out of a period of perceived darkness and struggle.
These imbalances marked a very important journey for me because they lead me to discovering new rituals, routines & ideas of what it really means to care for, and attend to myself. I have a completely new understanding of what it means to love myself and to truly nurture myself (on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, energetic & spiritual). I have learnt SO much, yet there is still so much to learn (and to put into practice). And even within what I have learnt, it is always always always a process of coming back to the learnings and creating positive habits and rituals out of them so that the lessons become a lived reality: embedded firmly into a deep routine of caring for the self. Every day.
It’s not like once I learnt the lesson, poof, it engrained itself into my being and all is healed and happy. Every single day I have to remind myself to come back to those lessons learnt, and apply them. There is no use learning the lessons and understanding their significance cognitively and intellectually but then not implementing them into real and tangible ways as solutions (or at least aids) to correcting underlying imbalances.
So, I have consequently decided to write a post on the things I’ve learnt thus far in relation to practical everyday things you can DO to bring a sense of nurturing and love to your relationship to and with yourself. I do this with the hope and intention of it bringing some solace, comfort, healing, and positive change for you in your life, if it resonates. Many of you have expressed interest in discovering new ways of creating SELF-CARE time and routines this year and so I hope that by sharing what has really worked for me, I will be able to shed some light on how to make real, long-term changes in how we, as a society and as individuals, come to understand the process of caring for ourselves and what that means to us within in any given moment.
I truly and deeply believe that caring for the self is something that has been sorely overlooked & if looked at at all is seen as something arrogant or insignificant. Often, our self-care routines (as big or small as they may currently be) somehow, tragically, make their way to the bottom of our daily to-do list. I want to try and actively CHANGE THIS. I think we need to change this in order to live to our fullest potential as human beings. In order to live more compassionately & lovingly we need to first and foremost attend to ourselves. It is from THERE that we can draw from in order to give our relationships, work and daily activities our undivided and loving attention. As a result of this, we will be able to cultivate more meaningful and authentic relationships with others because we have a loving and cared for relationship to/with ourselves, I’m afraid it does not work the other way around - at least not in my experience! The same extends to work and daily life activities: I believe that true positive change occurs when we have cultivated the capacity and discipline to first fill our own tanks. Once our tanks are full, the love and energy will pour out from us into everything we choose to direct our energy into (almost as effortlessly as these ice-cream sandwiches could go down right now as I type this!).
My understanding of balance is that it is a completely dynamic and ever-changing and evolving process in which the individual navigates what they need in any given moment to bring them back to a state of harmony. It is ALWAYS changing, because nothing in our reality is ever static. Because our environments and sensory and energetic input is constantly shifting, it makes sense that what we need in order to come back towards our point of balance changes, too. I feel that this also applies to our relationship to self-care. In any given moment an act of self-care can mean a variety of different things. In one moment, self-care can mean getting up early, going for a walk, following that with a green juice and starting the day off like that. On another day, self-care can mean eating that double chocolate-chunk cookie with friends, chatting over some lattes and not moving from the couch. I really believe that it, too, is a dynamic process. To me, it always comes back to intention. The intention behind your action is what charges it with a high energetic frequency and brings about the full fruition of that action. When action is preceded by a loving thought, a loving intention: a healing vibrational charge carries that action through and lets it become even a small act of healing. And all of these small acts of healing accumulate until suddenly you notice, “hey! that feels a lot better. I can do this”.
One thing I’ve really learnt is that much of my healing has been visible not only in the BIG changes, the big realisations and the big moments of “OH MY GASH YES MY LIFE IS NOW CHANGED FOREVER”. But that it has also been made visible, if not more so, through the smaller acts of repair and the smaller (but no less significant) acts of care. Personally, I am one of those people that always tends to lean towards extremes. Extremes extremes extremes. And as a result, a lot of my past experiences have fallen within these categories: amazing, blissful, unified ecstatic experiences and then the flip side of that being VERY down, low energy, drained, exhausted, emotionally volatile and moody and then, naturally, the corresponding experiences (unstable to say the least!). This has not only affected my relationships with others, but has really effected my relationship to myself. What I began to realize was that living in this state of constantly being in flux between these two opposing states was not doing me any good in my quest for living a more balanced life and living with a consciously increased level of ease within myself.
ANYWAY, all of this to say that I started to see the potency in creating small rituals, routines and lifestyle changes that were, and remain to be, deeply supportive of me maintaining my balance and are now critical little action steps that help me in supporting and loving myself daily. These techniques and adjustments, although small and seemingly insignificant, have ended up being some of the most healing and transformational practices that have helped me immensely in: 1) slowing down 2) creating space for myself 3) becoming still and present with myself 4) making contact with my most authentic & true self. AND that self, I am happy to say, is a self I have come to truly love.
STARTING POINT: One of my biggest and most consistent patterns of self-care is constantly investigating my old, outdated limiting beliefs. Where have they come from? What triggered them initially (for example: what was the initial event/trauma/experience that led me to create that pattern of perceiving and believing that perhaps played a functional role in me coping at the time but is perhaps now stifling my ability to live fully and freely)? Why am I holding onto them? How can I begin to, practically, let them go? Who would I be without these thoughts, and do I love that self? Importantly: do I love myself for where I am right now? Can I give space to the reality of where I am now, having seen where I want to go? Can I hold myself and support myself without negating the state and space I am currently in? Can I forgive myself? Can I recognise that I don’t truly NEED to forgive myself because in every single situation I can now recognise that I have always been and will always be doing the best I can in that moment with the knowledge, awareness and ability available in that moment?
Often the journey of moving towards self-loving can seem so daunting because we see where we want to be and we compare that to where we currently are (in terms of how we relate to ourselves). And with that disparity, we often feel that there is too big of a space to fill between where we are now and where we are heading and consequently we give up on the journey towards self-love without ever truly beginning. So it is my intention that these small, practical and very accessible (and surprisingly POWERFUL) additions, adjustments and changes will make that gap smaller and smaller with each passing day. Remember, it’s all about the baby steps which then become the big steps.
In part one of this two-part “series” looking into routines & rituals to help effect positive changes in your life, I look just at some very practical, tangible everyday adjustments that can be made to best support the journey of restoring or maintaining balance: this in turn gives rise to a level of wellbeing that enables you to have the energy, time and dedication to taking further actions steps towards self-care and self-love which I will delve deeper into in part 2!
ROUTINES & ADJUSTMENTS of LIFESTYLE:
1) Meditation & Yoga:
This goes without saying much more, really. Meditation & Yoga were absolute game-changers for me. They were the most potent ways of me moving beyond mental limitations and chaos. These two aspects are fundamental in me setting myself up for the day ahead. I literally feel it when I have not done meditation in a day. My mind feels scattered and my energy does not feel one-pointed and clear. Meditation gives me a lived sense of spaciousness that is unparalleled. It has also allowed me to connect deeper with my authentic self, and when I make contact with my deepest and truest self on a more regular basis I am able to extend a loving tenderness to myself and live my life from there. Start small. But start. Honestly, even 10 minutes of sitting with yourself in the morning can be the difference between making balanced, healthy choices throughout the rest of your day OR being caught up in the mind to the point where every choice is marred or obscured by the business of the mind. The same goes for YOGA: whenever I feel that I have some blocked energies or I am struggling to move through an experience with grace and ease, my yoga practice is there, arms wide open with all of the love, tenderness and wisdom that it offers.
2) EAT REAL FOOD:
Fuel your body with real, whole, un-processed foods and you will feel fundamentally nourished. Health, balance and self-care extends FAR beyond what you do and don’t eat. However, eating good, balanced & wholesome food is still one of the best recipes for making the journey towards self-care a lot easier (because you have attended to yourself on a physiological, biological, functional as well as soul level by caring about what you put into your body). My new favorite guidelines for making food delicious and making my relationship to food simple yet satisfying are: simple. nourishing. whole. un-processed. lots of plants. fresh. intentional. mindful. intuitive. sattvic. Eat when you are hungry (or peckish!), don’t when you are not and it really can be that simple. Eat foods from the Earth not from the factories.
3) GET UP EARLY & go to bed early:
This is deceivingly simple. Yet, it is often very hard to achieve when work piles up and you’re busy running around like a nearly headless chicken trying to tick all of the things off of your mental to-do list for the day. But this is a routine that has really helped me to feel my best. When I feel my best, I am able to make wise & peaceful decisions, especially decisions regarding further self-care. When we don’t get enough sleep not only do we feel the effects of it physically (because it is during sleep that our body detoxes, repairs & rejuvenates) but also energetically. During sleep our energy body digests and assimilates all of the lived experiences and shifts in energy from the day passed and with that, we are able to wake up with a cleared etheric/subtle energetic body: one that is open, clear & energised. You may notice that next time you have a sleepless or late night, you wake up not only feeling physically groggy but there is a very definitive energetic lull. Personally, I absolutely love waking up early. My favorite time of the day is actually 5AM-7AM. I find immense fulfilment during these hours. It is a time that I feel very inspired, very calm & very receptive to energy work. This is a great time to do spiritual practices like yoga, for example. Or, to meditate.
4) Avoid eating too much solid food after 8:30PM
This may seem slightly odd to some of you – but as small as this adjustment to lifestyle may seem, it has a pretty unusually big effect on me personally. When I eat late, I often end up having bad quality of sleep that night: restlessness, weird/negative dreams, and I simply don’t feel I go into a deep and sound sleep state. On a more practical level, this makes sense because when we sleep our body begins to start the process of detoxing and repairing, but if it is using the energy it would have been using on those processes of rejuvenating the physical & energetic body on metabolic processes to digest the food you’ve just eaten instead, we can often wake up feeling “out of it” and groggy because we haven’t fully regenerated during the night. These processes of regeneration allow for optimal being and vitality, those mornings that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to hop out of bed and start the day are the days where those processes have had the time to do their thing!
However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule (of course – none of them are, they are just guidelines for what have worked for me!). Obviously ones’ eating times are subject to change according to how busy you have been in a day, your energy expenditure etc. Some days my eating routines are way out of whack: I have breakfast at 12PM, lunch at 5PM and dinner at 9:30PM just because I haven’t paid enough attention to staying with a routine to support my busy day. So on those days, I simply listen to my natural hunger cues and don’t make these guidelines a rigid rule to live by. The point is to reduce stress and to support myself in the best way possible. So as a general rule of thumb I find this third point to help in supporting my best expression of myself and my ability to care for myself.
5) Drink something warming before bed
I usually have a warming beverage about an hour before bed. This soothes the nervous system, brings a sense of ease and calm to the mind and the body AND personally, winds me right down. Either this will be a plant based milky something yum like a turmeric milk sweetened with maple or honey OR it can be an herbal tea. Whatever you feel like that evening: but, make it a loving act. Make the mug of warmth and sit mindfully and really enjoy it. I have a post about mindful eating on one of my recipes posts: the raw cheesecake bars.
6) Switch off all electronic devices minimum of 1 hour before bed (preferably 2 hours)
I’m sure many of you have read or seen how being glued to technology before bed can be a recipe for disaster as it interrupts our natural sleep hormones and therefore our natural sleep cycles, which therefore can potentially impair ones’ ability to get adequate or good quality sleep. Personally, this point is very important. To switch off and detach from technology a good two hours before bed is a very supportive routine: it brings a sense of spaciousness to my evening, a time that is dedicated to other more intricate little acts of care which I delve deeper into in PART 2. This time has become quite a sacred time for me. A time where I do my evening meditation or yoga practice, a time where I light candles & read, a time where I journal or simple just sit in the space. It is un-interrupted time where I have consciously set aside my to-do list and have now dedicated this time to becoming still with myself.
7) Morning routines & rituals without interference of technology (at least 1-2 hours):
Similar to the previous one, this one is also vital for my overall well-being. To wake up and immediately reach for your phone essentially immediately connects you to a world outside of yourself before you have even fully woken up, processed the fact that you are a conscious living being and that you are again experiencing another day on this speck of dust floating in the Universe. To wake up like that is a very big jolt to the energy body. The energy body really craves being attended to early in the morning. An example of one of my morning routines is: wake up early, get into the bathroom where I do my morning natural hygiene routine (more on that below), I then light incense to clear my space, light some candles, get onto my mat, do a get 10-minute meditation, then a yoga flow. I then follow that with a cup of tea, maybe a juice and some breakfast. Then, I will re-connect to my phone and the outside world. This is an important example of how to fill your tank before the day has even fully begun, and this is why waking up early is so important to me: it gives me the space to attend to myself and nurture myself in ways that are meaningful to me before the bustle of the day unfolds. This is also subject to change: some mornings I teach early morning classes, or some mornings I feel like going for a brisk walk or a jog instead of my yoga flow. But I always try to make sure that I prioritise that morning time and definitely that morning meditation.
8) Natural hygiene:
These are things that have also really been small but potent game-changers for me. The accumulative effects of these small acts of care are ginormous and long standing. In Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions, doing what is called a “netti” in the morning helps to clear out the entire sinus and nasal passageways (clearing out the grog and fog) (also known as nasal cleansing), face masks and exfoliations are also a great way of showing yourself and your skin some TLC, and then I tend to wake myself up with a cold shower in Summer time to give my immune system and nervous systems a wake-up (this also depends on my state of balance though, some mornings a cold shower is way too “slap in the face” and I need a more soothing start to the day and then I have a warming shower).
9) PRACTISE GRATITUDE:
This is an insaaaaanely powerful one. One that can literally elevate your entire mood, shift your energy within a moment, help you to release difficult experiences or perceptions thereof, it has the power of elevating you to higher states of awareness and can allow you to completely re-work and re-define how you function in the world. Gratitude is a healing force to be reckoned with. When we can shift the energy from feeling a sense of “something is missing or lacking” to a state of, “OH, I recognise that I still am working towards this and that, but I am so immensely grateful for this and this right here and right now” your entire outlook on life shifts, because it brings you to a present state of contentment and fulfilment. Gratitude can dramatically shift the vibrational charge behind any action, and when that charge is elevated to a place where the action and the intention align, the power of that will help you to move forward in life with immense grace and integrity and trust.
10) To do lists:
To do lists have become an all-time favorite and go-to for clearing up and making space in my mind. When I have a clear idea of what I am going to be directing my energy into I have a clear and one-pointed focus which really does wonders for my mental health and my ability to then extend that one-pointed focus into tuning into what I need at any given moment that day to find out what I need in order to re-balance myself. Making these lists really reduces my tendency towards anxiety because there is clarity in my day going forward.
These are some of the daily routines and lifestyle adjustments that have immensely helped me in my journey towards finding more balance in my life which has in turn really allowed me to cultivate strong practices of self-care that are more specifically aimed at loving and attending to the self.
In part 2 of this series I delve deeper into these specific rituals and practices. In part 2, some of the practices and rituals I share are slightly less conventional and less to do with routine adjustments and more to do with particular habits I’ve added into my life.
I hope that this has found you well and that some of what I have shared and spoken about resonates with you! With much healing love,