Starting a Self Care Routine
*This is the first in a 3-month series on self-care – first for the body, then for the home/space, and lastly for the mind*
“Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire.” – Amy Ippoliti
For the first time just this week, the World Health Organization announced its classification of “burnout” as an epidemic affecting 40% of workers – describing it as a “state of vital exhaustion resulting from chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed.” The research cites low number of vacation days, technology keeping us attached to email round the clock, and high levels of office stress as causes for burnout, and work/family balance, a strong support network and a relaxed, positive outlook as methods to reduce it.
Another phenomenon, likely arising as a means to quell said burnout – is that of self-care. I discovered self-care after the birth of my first child – as a stay-at-home mom with little local family to rely on and prior to realizing what kind of help and support a new mom really needs for survival. I no longer had the time or freedom to make mani/pedi appointments, indulge in a spa day or take a long nap, so I found my self-care (i.e. survival) in mini-moments: a 20-minute bath, an uninterrupted glass of wine and a magazine, a walk outside while the baby napped in the stroller.
Five years later I still find my self-care in mini-moments, because, mom or not, all of our lives are crunched for time and space, busied, stressful, sometimes overwhelming and often dedicated to someone or something other than ourselves. We’re grinding the hell out of work, life, parenting – and the World Health Organization confirms 40% of us are burnt out. And when we’re busy self-care is the first thing we cross off the to-do list.
In this 3-part summer self-care series, I’ll share the methods that have given me relief during a hard week or sometimes saved me on a day I thought I couldn’t keep showing up for everyone but myself. We’ll start first with the body. Disclaimer: Not all of these tactics will be for you. You likely won’t be able to practice all or even many on a regular basis. I challenge you to find one thing in each of the three self care buckets that is realistic for you to do once, weekly, for five minutes minimum. Make a commitment to do that for a sustainable period of time and observe how you feel. I guarantee that the sweet juice of street relief is worth the squeeze of trying and implementing self-care rituals.
SELF CARE FOR THE BODY
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a hormone manufactured by the skin with the help of sunlight that is difficult to obtain in sufficient qualities through diet. Most of us work indoors and when we do get outside, have been trained to protect ourselves from sun exposure at all costs. However, recent research has shown that we are twice as likely to fall ill from health issues stemming from Vitamin D deficiency and lack of sunlight exposure than we are from Melanoma. In fact 75% of cancers can be prevented by adequate consumption of Vitamin D. AND despite our obsession with sunscreen, studies show it hasn’t really worked to reduce cancer, rather, the chemicals in some sunscreens have been associated with causing it!
Vitamin D is credited with regulating calcium levels in the blood, contributing to bone strength, creating and supporting t-cells, and reducing inflammation in the body. And as a society we are WAYY deficient. Even those living in sunny climates with outdoor lifestyles have been proven to still be deficient in adequate amounts of D. Experts now suggest getting out into the sun for a minimum of 30 minutes before applying sunscreen or a cover up, so as to soak in the crucial and quite deficient vitamin D.
So, whatever you’re doing – consider doing it outside. Eating lunch, folding laundry, working on your laptop, practicing yoga – it can all be done in collaboration with getting a bit of sun. On top of the Vitamin D you will benefit from a dose of the calming benefits found from being in nature.
Lemon Water – Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, recommends drinking lukewarm lemon water first thing in the morning, even if it just comes first while the coffee’s brewing. There are tons of health benefits to lemon water, from nutritional to antibacterial, to digestive, to positive effects on mood and energy levels. This has become part of my dinacharya (in Ayurveda – a daily routine to promote health) and I’m totally hooked.
Dry Brushing – Dry brushing is an age-old practice that is regaining popularity within the circles of self-care. It involves using a dry brush on the skin, typically before a shower, in a specific pattern (towards the heart) to stimulate the lymphatic system. And stimulate the lymphatic system you will – I often experience a breakout along the chin line (near the lymph nodes) if I dry brush after having taken some time off. This is my signal that the lymphatic system is purging and the dry brushing has worked. Other benefits to dry brushing include natural detoxification, exfoliation, reduction in cellulite and stretch marks, and energy boosts. Read more on dry brushing and how to select a dry brush, here.
Foot care – We walk, run, cycle and practice yoga on our feet all day long but they tend to be one of the most neglected areas of the body. A few ways I try to give back to my hard-working feet include:
- Yogi Toe Spreaders: Stretch and lengthen the connective tissues in your feet as well as improve balance, reduce pain and improve posture by wearing toe spreaders while you rest or sleep.
- Foot Facial: Taylor at Prep & Foxx, who lovingly cares for many of the yogi and runner toes in Philly, turned me on to this ritual and I’m loving it. Lather up the feet with Aquaphor or a great lotion around bedtime and engulf them in some cozy socks. The hydration helps with callouses, dry and damaged feet, and it just feels so warm and cozy!
- Rotate your shoes: Especially this time of year, as flip flops and flat sandals don’t provide adequate arch support which can eventually lead to plantar fasciitis and other arch issues. Swap them out daily with sneakers or supportive flats.
Get to know your body better: Whether it’s through yoga, massage, acupuncture, Reiki or another intuitive physical practice, we can all benefit from getting out of our heads from time to time and tuning into the body. One of my favorite practices that has brought me so much more in tune with my body is Myofasical release.
Fascia has its own revolution. It’s a more recently discovered body of connective tissue that wraps around, supports and attaches to most organs and muscles throughout the entire body. Myofascial release allows contracted muscles to relax and relieves pain and soreness from injury or exercise. I swear by both myofascial release massage (see: Steve C @ Bella Vista Massage) and rolling on therapy balls using the Roll Model Method. If you’ve never tried it, hit up Anisha or Ashley at Maha. Especially for those of you sitting at a desk or experiencing back or neck pain – take it from me, this is life.changing.
Flower Essences – Huh? This one was new to me too but has proven to be such a gift to both me and my 5-year old. Flower essences are liquid extracts, pressed from plants and flowers, used to address emotional well-being and mind-body health. They are catalysts for emotional change and work by stimulating awareness. They are taken orally and are chosen based on what mental and emotional issues are most important to address for your health at the time. I recommend finding a practitioner who has experience doling out flower essences, or consulting the Flower Essence Repertory. This is a subtle therapy, meaning most people report differences in feeling calmer, clearer and better able to cope, but you may wish to keep a journal, discuss with a counselor, or record dreams in order to notice the subtle shifts.
This article was submitted by Haley Purdy. Practice with Haley on Mondays at 4:30pm and Fridays at 4:15pm. Register here.
Haley found yoga in 2013 as a means of self care after the birth of her first daughter. After more than 10 years in the corporate marketing world, she soon decided that her career path and soul path were not in harmony. She completed her 200-hour teacher training at Maha Yoga under the teaching of Justicia DeClue. Today she is a mom of two girls, and an English Bulldog, Bodhi, all die-hard Eagles fans.
As a champion of self care, Haley encourages her students to use their time on the mat to get out of the mind and into the body; to take breaks from the grind to appreciate the breath. Haley enjoys the motto, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”