Currently on the brain: self care.

Last Sunday I taught a yoga class focused on this topic. I planned this class months ago and titled it Treat Yo Self, knowing that everyone can always use a little extra time to unwind around the holidays.

What I didn’t know is that this workshop would take place when stress levels were high on a personal level…not to mention on a national/global level. As I prepped for class, I started thinking more about my personal stress management, and how I balance the desire to help others, take action, and be productive with the need to slow down, tune in, and recharge. A phrase came to mind to share with my class:

You can’t help anyone until you help yourself.

These words first rang true for me during college. I had received a scholarship for students studying environmental issues and attended a conference in Arizona. Recognizing that the room was filled with many compassionate, non-profit bound bleeding hearts, the director of the foundation ended his remarks by reminding us not to neglect our personal well being. I don’t remember his exact words but they were something along the lines of:

“I know you’ll all work hard. I know you’ll do great things. But make sure you also take great care of you. Unless you take the time to care for yourself, you’ll be of no help to anyone.”

We had been in deep discussions for the past 3 days getting all fired up about climate change, American Indian rights, endangered species, and pollution. I was inspired and more motivated than ever. These words of caution took me completely by surprise. It had never occurred to me that I would need to work on taking care of myself. I didn’t fully understand his statement, but I was impacted by his serious tone.

Not long after, I was feeling very overwhelmed by my life choices ahead, the issues I was studying, and the problems others face. Feelings of guilt were high and hope and positivity were low. I thought, maybe you can only talk about overpopulation and large mammal loss for so long before you start to turn into Eeyore. 

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A professor helped turn this around for me by saying to our Conservation Biology class:

Do not to carry the weight of the things you care about on your shoulders. Caring is helpful; worrying helps no one. 

Her reminder brought back the foundation director’s words and I took them in this time. It’s okay to care deeply. We need people that are passionate. But I need to take care of myself too. Helping myself means I’m strong enough to help others. 

In my yoga teacher training, this sentiment arose again from my teachers:

You give a lot of yourself when you teach. Remember to take time for you – don’t sacrifice your yoga practice and self care for your students. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re in no position to be teaching. 

In fact, one of the teachers whose classes I’ve started attending recently ends class by saying:

Take exquisite care of yourself.

Exquisite. Not good. Not even great. Exquisite.

Knowing that she is also a writer, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t throw words around. Her message is to take incredible, impeccable care of yourself.

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As these messages sink in over time, I’m getting better at paying attention to what I need and where I can make adjustments. More sleep, less social media, and less sugar, for example, are definitely works in progress, and it’s certainly not easy. It takes just as much –if not more–discipline to set aside time for myself as it does to “be productive.” Taking the time and creating the space to be healthy and happy can sometimes feel like another item on the checklist.

But it’s enormously valuable. Even 5 minutes of meditation in the morning leaves me feeling clear-headed and lighter. When I’m feeling strong, I’m better able to handle little adversities or challenges. I’m more patient, more at ease, and more ready to be helpful.

So what are some of my personal routines and go-to’s when stress levels spike or I’ve feeling overwhelmed or burdened? What makes me feel good? What am I always glad I took the time to do?

Here’s what I came up with.

My Top 10 Self Care/Treat Yo Self Tactics

  • Get outside: A long walk by the reservoir or another outdoor space. Being connected with nature and disconnected from my phone always feels like a mini soul vacation. This is sometimes solo, sometimes while catching up with a friend. If it’s solo, I try to wander and meander as much as possible. No productivity allowed.
  • Move slow: This probably goes without saying, but I love yoga. I can feel the difference in my body and mind when I haven’t been on my mat in too long, and it calls me home. I become achy, more easily agitated, and less at-rest. It’s where I feel most connected with my body and how I ease my mind when it’s overactive. I tend to enjoy vinyasa yoga when I’m not running as much, and slower and more restorative when I am running. Speaking of running…
  • Move fast: There’s nothing quite like moving your entire body as fast as you can. While I love a chill run and don’t actively work on speed, my go-to stressed-out game plan is to run for a few miles at a chill pace and then run all-out for as long as I can. This is in no way strategic in terms of training; it’s all about enjoying how much fun it is to just move myself as fast I can and ditch all other thoughts.
  • In-home spa night: One of my favorite things ever is to take a warm shower + scented candles + relaxing music. I know, it’s all very dramatic and romantic. But man, creating a zen mini-spa in my apartment leaves me feeling amazing.
  • Pedicure: I don’t like having my fingernails painted and I’m not very into makeup or getting my hair done, but damn do I like a good pedicure. The spot I go to includes an amazing calf and foot massage and as a runner, that is basically all I need in life. As a yoga teacher, it also feels good to have your feet clean and tidy. Plus, picking out a polish color is a weirdly fun moment for me. The names are amazing and I always take it too seriously. Hmmm am I feeling Aruba Blue or Canyon Coral? Plumberry. Def Plumberry.  
  • Take a seat: I hate to admit it, but I tend to use meditation on an as-needed basis. I know that I actually need it every day, but I tend to drop off when things are going really well. I’m working on it.
  • Tech detox: Sunday mornings with coffee and a book. Sunday afternoons cooking with a podcast in the background. Just any time dedicated to me and being free of distractions…mostly on Sundays. A friend recently told me that she tries to avoid the news and social media on Sundays as a rule of thumb, and I love the idea. It’s usually what I’m craving at that point anyway – why not be a bit more disciplined about it? Let there be rest! Or something like that?
  • Treats & good eats: When things are hectic, I try to eat as healthy as possible so that I have good fuel and feel physically energized. That being said, if I’m in need of treating myself, I’m also never shy about enjoying some of my favorite things. Specifically, ice cream. It’s not really a treat because I eat it all the time, but going out for an ice cream cone is like…the best. Does it sound like I’m 8 years old? Also cookies.
  • Gabbin with gals: But for real, I don’t know what I’d do without my lady friends. I’m very lucky to know so many great women that are always ready to lend an ear or just spend quality time together. It’s a great source of inspiration for me, which is always key to taking care of myself.
  • Family time: I’m also super lucky to live so close and BE so close with my family. Time spent with my parents, sister, long-term man-friend/partner, and our extended families is always rejuvenating for me. Which is why I’m always pumped about the holidays!
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Trail running = nature and running all in one. Boom. Double treat.

How do you take care of or treat yourself? Bubble baths? Nice dinner out? Kickboxing class? Share below! I’m always in need of new options.

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