Life can be stressful---true!
Another truth: There are many different ways to overcome that stress.
However, I’d like to encourage you to first consider examining your basic self-care practices---and I mean basic. These are the things you do on a consistent basis to nourish your body, mind and soul. Through my own experience I have found that---like air and water---the other basic necessities of life I need to be healthy and happy are to eat healthy, exercise regularly and connect with family and friends. I hope my story may inspire you in some way to create a lifestyle that promotes health and happiness.
My Basic (and I Mean Basic) Self-Care Plan
For me this consists of a balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. There is an array of wonderful eating plans available---from vegan to Paleo---but I really focus on a “clean diet” consisting of organic, fresh foods when possible and I try to stay away from processed foods. When I veer off from this too much I feel physically bad (i.e., bloated, low energy, etc.) which in turn affects me on an emotional level (i.e., frustration, feeling down, etc.).
I average a 1-hour workout 5 times a week, which primarily consists of spin class, yoga and walking. Aside from the physical health benefits from exercise, I do it primarily to keep my mind at ease. The “runner’s high” or endorphin release keeps my stress at bay. Even just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise can cause an endorphin release. I know that if I’m in a bad mood a good workout is often the best cure!
Connect with my family
My “family” consists of biological family members and close friends. Maintaining those intimate connections is so important to me. It keeps me grounded. It is also very therapeutic to talk to someone you trust about life’s challenges and it’s so rewarding to be there for them too. Going for long walks with a close friend is a double dose of self-care!
These self-care practices are my foundation. Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs these practices are fundamental to nourishing my body, mind and soul. I know this all sounds basic, but when I don’t stay consistent I feel it. Take a moment right now to reflect on the times in your life when you have felt most stressed. When I look back on past challenges I can usually associate the lack of one or all of those practices to my situation. I want to share one particular time with you as it was a major turning point in my life.
About 10 years ago when I was in commercial real estate, I was working on a high profile, extremely complex redevelopment project. It was a dream assignment for me and it was both very exciting and very stressful. Our team was working all hours, under tight deadlines with a lot of local politics and publicity. The opposition for this project was very fierce and added an enormous amount of pressure. Because I was consumed with this project I wasn’t exercising regularly and I was eating out for every meal. I felt I didn’t even have time to reach out to my friends and family. After several months of working under these conditions, my stress level was rising to a point I had never experienced before. It was so intense that I found myself having problems concentrating on very minor tasks, which in turn added to my stress. Finally, I reached out to my personal counselor who I had been seeing throughout my life. She suggested I take an anti-anxiety drug. I had never taken any medication like this, so I was uncomfortable with her recommendation, but I was desperate. I followed her advice and took it for a period of 4 days. During that time, the medication worked like a dream---the anxiety was completely gone and I was able to function normally.
On the 5th day I woke up filled with anxiety again, but instead of taking a pill I went for a 4-mile run. After the run, I had the same feeling of calm and focus that I received from the medication. I never took it again. I experienced firsthand the direct connection between exercise and my mental health. In that moment I knew that I would never let any job, person or thing stop me from putting my basic needs first.
I have kept this promise to myself and it’s a life saver. Yes, I still get stressed, down or upset, but it’s manageable! I have the mindset to work through life’s issues and feel that those basic practices are key. But again, those are the basics. There are a vast array of ways to take care of ourselves and I’ve tried a lot of them which I will share with you in future blogs!
I hope this article has inspired you to find out what your basic self-care practices are and to commit to taking care of yourself! If you’d like more inspiration I invite you to join a 10-Day Self-Care Challenge hosted by my friend, Laura Plumb, best-selling author of Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners. She has designed a beautiful challenge that gives you ten self-care practices and inspiration to love yourself. It starts October 1st and you will have a chance to win several self-care products, including our new 30-card deck of Yoga Practice Cards!