In the last 150 years the human experience has become faster-paced, more stimulated, and much more scheduled. If we zoom back and digest this in the context of how long human beings have been around (about 60,000 years), it is clear that our human instrument is grappling to adapt to a very different lifestyle.
While life back in the day had no shortage of challenges, humans had more time to process and adapt to their stress stimuli. Today, humans are juggling prolonged bouts of stress, navigating complex mood disorders, and grappling with new diseases that are a direct result of poor daily lifestyle choices that accumulate over time.
One solution on the path to reclaiming our vitality and health is to carve out time to take inventory of what is really going on and step into rituals of self-care. While some might look at a choice to nourish as selfish, it is vital to remember that if you’re running on empty, it will be so much harder to give back to your loved ones and your wider community.
Civil rights activist Audre Lorde wisely wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
Self-care doesn’t have to be lavish. In fact, the smallest of acts can make a huge amount of impact on the nervous system, which, when restored, will provide you more physical energy, a clearer mind, and a more connected heart.
Make time (at least 1x a week) for one of the following self-care rituals:
- Take a bath: 2 cups of Epsom salts (to relax your muscles), tablespoon of avocado oil (to soften skin), beeswax or soy candle, and a few drops of your favorite essential oils (to energize or relax the mind).
- Buy yourself flowers: Having flowers or plants around your living or work space can be a reminder of beauty and of nature’s intelligence (buy sustainable when possible).
- Walk your legs up the wall: All you need is a wall. Put your legs up (if your low back or hamstrings are tight, move a bit away from the wall and bend your knees) for 5-8 minutes. Your lymph will get stimulated and your brain will reboot. Bonus points for covering your eyes and listening to very soft relaxing music.
- Treat yourself to a meal out: While cooking at home is a great habit—an essential part of physical and financial wellbeing—cooking all the time can get exhausting. Take yourself out to a healthy, local, high-quality restaurant that cares about what you are putting into your body. Use http://eatwellguide.org to read up on restaurants in your neighborhood.
- Lighten up: Life can become way too serious, especially if things are currently challenging in your world. Give yourself a break by putting on your favorite dance song and boogie, go see some standup comedy, spend time with an animal you love, or call/spend time with a friend that you know guarantees you ease and laughter.
- Make space for touch and pleasure: Humans are animals and need touch to feel connected and stay healthy. Book yourself a massage or use a foam roller or tennis ball to get the kinks out yourself.
- Book a spa day (or ½ day): Either invest in a spa day “out” for you or buy a few non-toxic products, some refreshing fruit, and invite a few friends over for your own pampering day “in.”
- Make a sweet treat: Sweets can lighten the heart and the actual act of baking can provide space and something for the mind to focus on. Try some of these gluten-free low sugar treats.
If you need even more ideas, ask friends or family what they do, move your body, plan a vacation, spend time in nature, sign-up for an art class, meditate, sing, go to a restorative yoga class, write down 10 things you are grateful for, unplug from all your tech, or give yourself a completely unscheduled day (just start somewhere and see where it leads you). If nothing else, simply take a well-deserved nap.
Danny Arguetty, M.A., is the mindfulness program manager at the University of Washington, a yoga teacher (and teacher trainer), nutrition/life coach, and a lover of the environment. He is the author of Nourishing the Teacher and The 6 Qualities of Consciousness. Passionate about helping people flourish through mindfulness, wellness, and personal self-development, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in group facilitation, one-on-one coaching, and experiential teaching.
Danny has guided workshops throughout the United States, led basic and advanced yoga trainings in the U.S. and India, and spoken at Facebook, Olson Kundig, and Gravity Payments (all in Seattle). He served as adjunct faculty at Williams College, leads a quarterly course on Intro to Mindfulness at UW, and is a faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.