self-care and six dollar juices.

self care picture for site

Here are some life-skills I learned in school: how to make garlic toast, how not to make garlic toast, how to put out an electrical fire, how to call for help in an emergency, and how to take care of someone hurt in an accident.  Here’s a skill I didn’t learn in school: how to take care of myself.   

The concept of “self-care” is trending right now; for good reason. Most of us (and probably all of you who are reading this right now) have attained a level of proficiency in meeting our basic needs of food, water, shelter and Google Fiber.  But most of us are nowhere near proficient in meeting our emotional and spiritual needs. 

Civic organizations provide a structure to engage generously with our community at large, but sometimes the act of giving leaves us feeling depleted. And spiritual communities take care of each other; but a vast majority of millennials and yuppies (no malice intended, I’ve adopted this label wholeheartedly) aren’t actively participating in faith organizations at this time in our lives, so: who’s taking care of us?

HI pic

a moment of self-care: yoga and nature! my two favorite things.

My overarching New Year’s Goal (remember this article about Big Dreams?) was to practice better self-care. Just because I look young and fit, doesn’t mean that I’m ‘on point’ when it comes to self-care. One of my biggest challenges is developing habits and sticking to them.  My work days are long and I’m racing to get to sleep after teaching so I can wake up early again the next morning; my self-care bedtime routine is sporadic at best. So, vitamins? Yea, I take them… I think. Herbal supplements? Definitely.  At least, I took them last month.  Revitalizing skin cream (I am getting older, after all)  For sure I use that, when I remember to.  Brushing my hair? Cutting my fingernails? I can do that in the car on my way to work.

These might seem like trivial, inconsequential examples, but it’s the intention behind the action of self-care that matters. What matters is that I’m channeling energy into caring, loving, life-affirming interactions with my body.  When it comes to self-care, we only get one human body. Which is why I’m a proponent of practicing yoga gently, of sitting in meditation daily, and of setting micro-intentions throughout our day.

This Instagram infographic caught my eye and reminded me just how multi-faceted the concept of self-care really is:

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It doesn’t feature “Treat Yo’ Self” (read: expensive) spa days, six dollar juices, or shopping sprees.  (Although, yes, you should get a massage. Everyone should get massages!)  It highlights intangible gifts we can give ourselves:

Presence, support, awareness, prioritizing, adjusting environment, mindfulness, and slowing down.

Just being there for ourselves and using a little mindfulness to prioritize what’s really important in life is an act of self-care. Adjusting our environment to be more life-affirming is an act of self-care. Saying no to extra events, even if they sound like exciting opportunities, is an act of self-care. Saying yes to slowing down is an act of self-care.  Setting boundaries with supervisors and co-workers is an act of self-care.  Becoming aware of our negative self-talk and mindfully choosing positive thoughts is an act of self-care.

This year has been emotionally arduous for me, to say the least. (Remember the old maxim: if you pray for patience then God will give you something to be patient about? That’s kinda how I felt.)  I confronted my deep-seated fear of failure with the “New Dog Debacle” (remember Sir Kevin-barks-a-lot?) but ultimately decided to choose self-care and found the Little One a new home.

I encountered incredible resistance at work, which triggered insecurities about my self-worth but ultimately found courage to stand up for myself and speak my truth. I learned to prioritize my vocational aspirations and choose more time for myself and my family, as opposed to feeling like I needed to work every single day of the week (I mean my studios have incredible teachers on staff and you, dear reader, can practice at home; you love me, but you don’t need me). And I took a brave step forward in healing by addressing some chronic health concerns. (Believe me, if you spent your childhood in doctor’s offices like I did, the mere act of calling to make an appointment requires herculean effort.) Oh, and I figured out a 2:00 pm routine for taking my vitamins and supplements that hasn’t failed me yet.  (I still show up to work without my hair brushed, but whatever: your hair doesn’t look too primped at 6 am classes, either!)

self care picture for site

So, why I am sharing all of this super personal info with you?  (Besides the fact that I’m honest to a fault? Thanks, Mom!)  I want YOU to broaden your understanding of Self-Care.  I want the concept of self-care to be separated from ‘indulgence’ and be seen as a skill worth learning, pursuing and perfecting.  I want self-care to be so ingrained in your daily routine that you feel present, supported, aware, mindful and courageous on a daily basis.  I don’t want you to feel guilty for putting yourself, your emotional health, and your mental well-being as the top priority in your life.

Tell me, how are you going to practice Self-Care today?  Tomorrow? Next week?  What new habit are you going to set that will only make your life more wonderful?

I can’t wait to hear about it!

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a moment of self-care: take time to stop and look at the beauty around you

-lisa

yoga teaches us it’s ok to be uncomfortable.

There are quite a few moments during a yoga practice when I am uncomfortable.  My right hip aches in pigeon pose every day and my back usually feels like steel when I try to back bend.  The other day the practice room was sweltering, humid, and packed with hot bodies.  I’ve been practicing this ridiculous backbend in the Ashtanga 2nd series (this picture is NOT me… this gumby-lady looks really comfortable in this pose) and after coming out of the pose, I thought:  “Well, that’s it.  I’m going to die.”

backBendjpg.preview_0This is not an isolated phenomenon: most people are a little uncomfortable when they first start yoga.  Balancing on one foot is a little scary.  Balancing on your head is even scarier.  Being in a room with other people wearing spandex is terrifying.  Being in a room with other people, period, is terrifying.  Bending over and touching your toes hurts.  Bending your knees hurts.  Listen: I get it.  Stretching and moving our bodies in new ways is “undoing years of doing”, and that usually feel uncomfortable.  But that is, well… the point.  If we can learn to stay calm when we are uncomfortable on the mat,  then we can learn to stay calm when we are uncomfortable off the mat.  That’s why we call yoga a practice.

keep calm and say om

One thing yoga has helped me address in my life is my anxiety surrounding change.  I like to feel grounded, safe, home, and secure.  (Who doesn’t?)  Learning to embrace yoga helped me learn coping skills to look toward big changes in my life (home, job, etc.) with excitement instead of anxiety.  Yoga helped me learn the breath is the only thing that is truly in the present moment.  We cannot breathe in the past and we cannot breathe in the future: we can only breathe right now.  This article, re-posted from zenhabits.com, is worth reading because it gives the same advice: learning to be ok with discomfort helps you plan for the future.

A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life

By Leo Babauta

(original article found here at ZenHabits)

I had a 15-year-old write to me and ask about figuring out what do do with her life.  She writes:

‘As a high-school student I’m constantly being reminded to figure out what to do with my life, what career I would like to have and so on. I definitely feel huge amounts of pressure when my teachers and parents tell me to figure out something now. I’m young and I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin my future. I know what I like and what my interests are but when I read about a job related to those interests I always feel as if I wouldn’t enjoy it and I don’t know why.’

What an extremely tough thing to figure out: what to do with your future! Now, I can’t really tell this young woman what to do, as her parents might not like that very much, but I can share what I’ve learned looking back on my life, and what I would tell my kids (oldest is 21 and still figuring things out, but I also have 17- and 16-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl).  Here’s what I’d say.

You can’t figure out the future. Even young people who have a plan (be a doctor, lawyer, research scientist, singer) don’t really know what will happen. If they have any certainty at all, they’re a bit deluded. Life doesn’t go according to plan, and while a few people might do exactly what they set out to do, you never know if you’re one of those. Other things come along to change you, to change your opportunities, to change the world. The jobs of working at Google, Amazon or Twitter, for example, didn’t exist when I was a teen-ager. Neither did the job of Zen Habits blogger.

So if you can’t figure out the future, what do you do? Don’t focus on the future. Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.

Learn to be good with discomfort. One of the most important skills you can develop is being OK with some discomfort. The best things in life are often hard, and if you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you’ll miss out. You’ll live a life of safety.

Learning is hard. Building something great is hard. Writing a book is hard. A marriage is hard. Running an ultramarathon is hard. All are amazing.

If you get good at this, you can do anything. You can start a business, which you couldn’t if you’re afraid of discomfort, because starting a business is hard and uncomfortable.

How do you get good at this? Do things now that are uncomfortable and hard, on purpose. But start with small doses. Try exercising for a little bit, even if it’s hard, but just start with a few minutes of it, and increase a minute every few days or so. Try writing a blog or meditating every day. When you find yourself avoiding discomfort, push yourself just a little bit more (within limits of reason and safety of course).

Learn to be good with uncertainty. A related skill is thriving in uncertainty. Starting a business, for example, is an amazing thing to do … but if you’re afraid of uncertainty, you’ll skip it. You can’t know how things will turn out, and so if you need to know how things will turn out, you’ll avoid great projects, businesses, opportunities.

But if you can be OK with not knowing, you’ll be open to many more possibilities. Read more on uncertainty.

If you’re good at discomfort and uncertainty, you could do all kinds of things: travel the world and live cheaply while blogging about it, write a book, start a business, live in a foreign country and teach English, learn to program and create your own software, take a job with a startup, create an online magazine with other good young writers, and much more. All of those would be awesome, but you have to be OK with discomfort and uncertainty.

If any opportunities like these come along, you’ll be ready if you’ve practiced these skills.

Learn about your mind. Most people don’t realize that fear controls them. They don’t notice when they run to distraction, or rationalize doing things they told themselves they wouldn’t do. It’s hard to change mental habits because you don’t always see what’s going on in your head.

Learn about how your mind works, and you’ll be much better at all of this. The best ways: meditation and blogging. With meditation (read how to do it) you watch your mind jumping around, running from discomfort, rationalizing. With blogging, you are forced to reflect on what you’ve been doing in life and what you’ve learned from it. It’s a great tool for self-growth, and I recommend it to every young person.

Build something small. Most people fritter their time away on things that don’t matter, like TV, video games, social media, reading news. A year of that and you have nothing to show for it. But if you did a sketch every day, or started writing web app, or created a blog or a video channel that you update regularly, or started building a cookie business … at the end of a year you’ll have something great. And some new skills. Something you can point to and say, “I built that.” Which most people can’t do.

Start small, and build it every day if possible. It’s like putting your money in investments: it grows in value over time.

Become trustworthy. When someone hires a young person, the biggest fear is that the young person is not trustworthy. That they’ll come in late and lie about it and miss deadlines. Someone who has established a reputation over the years might be much more trusted, and more likely to be hired. Learn to be trustworthy by showing up on time, doing your best on every task, being honest, admitting mistakes but fixing them, trying your best to meet deadlines, being a good person.

If you do that, you’ll build a reputation and people will recommend you to others, which is the best way to get a job or investor.

Be ready for opportunities. If you do all of the above, or at least most of it, you’ll be amazing. You’ll be way, way ahead of pretty much every other person your age. And opportunities will come your way, if you have your eyes open: job opportunities, a chance to build something with someone, an idea for a startup that you can build yourself, a new thing to learn and turn into a business, the chance to submit your new screenplay.

These opportunities might come along, and you have to be ready to seize them. Take risks — that’s one of the advantages of being young. And if none come along, create your own.

Finally: The idea behind all of this is that you can’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now, because you don’t know who you’re going to be, what you’ll be able to do, what you’ll be passionate about, who you’ll meet, what opportunities will come up, or what the world will be like. But you do know this: if you are prepared, you can do anything you want.

Prepare yourself by learning about your mind, becoming trustworthy, building things, overcoming procrastination, getting good at discomfort and uncertainty.

You can put all this off and live a life of safety and boringness. Or you can start today, and see what life has to offer you.

Just remember: this advice isn’t just for young people– you can change your life trajectory at any age to uncover more fulfillment in your life.  You only get one life: ‘Keep Calm and Say Om.’

-lisa