Alright, right off the bat it’s full on confession time: I am not the master guru of self-care, nor do I spend hours everyday stretching luxuriously by crackling fire, while a loaf of bread made from ancient grains that I ground myself cooks away in the oven.
In fact, there are days I don’t even stretch *gasp!!*… I know; the mobility and massage queen doesn’t stretch herself into a pretzel everyday, the shame! It just doesn’t happen like that. My life is busy, just like yours. And sometimes, being busy catches up with me.
We’ve all had “The Moment” where we just don’t have anything left. And that moment? That’s when we’ve withdrawn too much from our personal “energy bank account.” Think of this way: you have $100 in your bank account, and you take a weekend with some friends. On this weekend, you go out to eat, have some drinks, go to a show, maybe even get yourself something nice. After your weekend, you get home and…. bank account overdrawn?! What? Impossible!
Or not. And in reality, our bodies aren’t that different. How many times have you had a crazy week where everything seems to be converging impossibly on the same 7 days? 3 meetings, staying late at work, car needs to go to the shop, pets, soccer practice, cupcakes for a birthday party, haircut.. not to mention your refrigerator has one limp carrot and some ketchup in it.
That week? That’s your blowout spending spree weekend. And when you get to the end of it, how fo you feel? Like you could run a marathon or you’ve been running a marathon? I’m guessing the latter. The reality is that after your spending spree weekend, it’s possible to buckle down, save, and recoup the cost. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to us because time carries on.
So what happens if you have a spending spree one weekend, take a trip to Florida the following week, and buy a new car the week after that? Eventually the bank is coming for that credit card. The same goes for our bodies. If we don’t occasionally replenish ourselves, eventually our bodies get to the point where they just say no. This might be falling asleep at work, snapping at your partner over something that would normally be a non-issue, forgetting to pick someone up, getting sick, or even having that old back issue flare up. At this point, you’ve pushed yourself so hard that you’ve got nothing left, both for yourself and for those around you.
Considering life has a tendency to get more busy and complicated, not less, what options do we really have? I have found that the following three things have helped me tremendously in ensuring that I’m not running on empty all the time. Here are 3 steps that cost a minimum amount of time, with a maximum amount of return 🙂
Step 1: Learn how to say no!
We’ve all heard this before, but have you ever thought that in many ways saying “no” is actually saying “yes”. If you’ve ever found yourself in a position where you have said “yes” to so many things that you’re actually saying “no” to yourself or those closest to you, the result is a huge drain on your own energetic reserves. This is a slippery slope, and the reality is that in order to feel good and be successful, you and your body need to be on the same team!
So what does saying “no” actually look like? It’s not as scary as you might imagine. When you are presented with a yes or no situation, think of it in these simple terms: will this activity/conversation/interaction bring me joy? If the answer is yes, go for it! If your gut reaction is no, politely decline, without feeling like you have to over-explain or defend yourself.
Granted, when it comes to paying the bills and flossing, always go with the “yes” painful as it might be. A house with no power and a month full of rotting teeth isn’t exactly a picnic.
Step 2: Be a Self-Care Ninja
So I just spent all this time talking about saying no, and not adding too many unnecessary things onto your plate. Now, I’m going to tell you to add something to your plate. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon 🙂
How many times have you had the “I should stretch/foam roll more often” though? I’m guessing at least once a week. Especially after a good class here at AFS, when you’ve basically been doing squats for an hour straight. Trust me, I know what it’s like to go through a great workout and think “I feel great! I Should stretch” and then 45,000 other things pop in your mind, and next thing you know you’re out the door.
So how about instead of basically ignoring your body’s request for some stretching (“hey! how about we stretch after that workout? No? Go sit in the car and pick the kids up from soccer? Sureeee, that’s what I meant”), we get a little smarter about when we stretch? I’ve found two great options to ninja-fy (that’s a word now) my stretching routines:
Option 1: Stretch while you watch TV
Catching up on your latest Netflix series is a perfect time to stretch. Believe it or not, you can still watch your favorite show while simultaneously foam rolling your quadriceps (trust me, I’ve tried it). I didn’t miss a thing. Even if you only stretch for half the show, that’s exponentially more time than if you had just skipped stretching all together!
Option 2: Classic carrot and stick approach
If you’ve ever found yourself sucked into the black hole of social media for way longer than you intended, and ended up missing out on some of the great self care things you were planning to do, try flipping the order around and taking 15 minutes to do your foam rolling first. You’ll be surprised how fast those 15 minutes go, and if you can spend 15 minutes 3-5 days a week on stretching, you’ll be investing between 45-75 minutes into yourself every week, without a tremendous amount of effort or sacrifice on your part.
Step 3: Learn how to Breathe
This step is my favorite, because it’s crazy easy and does a crazy amount of good for your body.
Let’s say, despite your best efforts, this week is still a crazy-scape of scheduling impossibilities. Taking a few deep breaths throughout the day can do wonders. By deepening the breath, we can activate what’s called the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the body that lets us maintain our “rest and restore” state. It is very common, especially when stressed, to take short and shallow breaths, which can activate our “fight or flight” state. Spending an excess amount of time in this state can increase cortisol levels in the body, which can have negative consequences on our mental, physical, and emotional health in the long run.
To activate our “rest and restore” state with the breath, lightly close the mouth, and inhale through the nose slowly for a count of 5-6. Pause with full lungs briefly before slowly exhaling out the nose for a count of 6-7, pause again at the bottom of your breath before resuming. Repeat 4 times. Even this simple technique can make a tremendous difference!
These are the 3 steps I have found most helpful in my journey to making sure that I have enough in me to keep doing what I love, and feel fulfilled. As you continue your journey, I encourage you to reach out! Let us know what works best for you. Sometimes the simplest things are the ones that end up giving us the most return, because they are the easiest to be successful with. Good luck out there, and I know we’ll see you soon 🙂