A Few of My Favorite Things for Self-Care

In follow up to my last blog post, I was thinking about tools that I have used for my own self-care. Here are links to my favorite things for self-care, especially for when I'm stressed out. I hope you can find something here to help you with your own care.

  • I love Jon Kabat-Zinn's Guided Mindfulness Meditation CDs. I have Series 2, which consists of 4 different CDs. The first CD is sitting meditations in 3 different lengths (10 min, 20 min, and 30 min), the second CD is lying down meditations in the same lengths, the third is two guided meditations using a mountain and a lake as images to deepen your concentration, and the fourth is silence with bells at different intervals. Jon Kabat-Zinn has a soothing, mellow voice, and the varying lengths of all the programs makes it easier to fit meditation into one’s life.

  • Thich Hhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who teaches that through mindfulness we can learn to live happily in the present moment. Plum Village Meditations is a lovely meditation CD with 45 minutes of bell-sounding meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh and three additional guided meditations led by Sister Jina van Hengel. These include conscious breathing for calming the mind and cultivation joy, body appreciation and turning your anger into seeds of kindness. You do not need to be Buddhist or adhere to any religion to enjoy this meditation CD.

  • As a massage therapist, I am constantly on the lookout for soothing, relaxing music. Here are some of the CDs that I regularly use in my massage practice. Riley Lee is a Grand Master of the shakuhachi, the Japanese flute. Oriental Sunrise is my favorite album so far. It has the flute mixed in with the sounds of ocean, which adds a rhythmic soothing quality. The Spirit of Yoga by Ben Leinbach is also another really relaxing CD. It has Indian instruments with the occasional chanting. My latest purchase was 100 Minutes: Spanish Guitar Sleep Music. The tempo is on the slow side, the Spanish guitar playing adds interest and some of the songs have nature sounds in the background (running water, crickets).

  • I purchased yoga instructor Shiva Rea's Drops of Nectar CD just so I could try Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep, a practice to reach deep states of relaxation while still being fully conscious. The Yoga Nidra portion on the CD is about 20 minutes long. It is done while lying down and Shiva Rea guides you through a relaxation with body awareness that includes beautiful Indian music in the background.

  • I recently started to regularly attend a Kripalu yoga class with Maggie Sky at Roots & Wings. Yoga helps me to be centered and calm, as well as provide stretching, strength and balance exercises. Maggie's classes are a wonderful combination of stretching, stillness, and relaxation. Maggie is warm, caring, and an excellent teacher, encouraging and gently correcting if needed while doing the yoga poses. As a bonus she incorporates massage into the class!

  • On days when I do not attend a yoga class, and am feeling particularly overwhelmed, I really enjoy Barbara Benagh's Yoga For Stress Relief DVD. It has different practices included on the DVD such as 'Easing your Mind', 'Stomach & Digestive Issues', 'Insomnia Issues' and 'Neck, Shoulder & Back Issues'. There are over 20 different routines on this DVD ranging from 15-60 minutes in length.

  • I have terrible attendance record for any time I have joined a gym. For exercise I am most consistent when I do it at home. Jessica Smith is a fitness instructor who has a huge YouTube channel. She puts out a new fitness video once a week. She is encouraging and friendly. Her videos vary in difficulty, length and style, with walking, ballet/barre, aerobics, strength with and without weights. I really recommend her website if you enjoy exercise at home.

The Importance of Self-Care

Life can be so hectic, with us juggling so many different jobs, responsibilities, and obligations. Meeting the needs of everyone else, yet neglecting ourselves is, unfortunately, a common occurrence and can lead to illness or to using unhealthy habits to relieve the pressure. Knowing healthy ways to reduce our stress can have such significant impact on our daily lives, allowing us to be more fluid, flexible, and resilient.

I went to a stress reduction workshop a few years ago, and one of the points they made really impacted me. The workshop speaker talked about how everyone has a toolbox for dealing with stress. Some of those things in the toolbox may be helpful in the long run or detrimental (i.e. meditation, drinking, excessive eating, etc). We can all learn new, better tools for dealing with our stress. To get started here are some ideas for self-care. Try one or several as they appeal to you. Remember that you deserve it. Make taking care of yourself number one on your to-do list.

  • Sleep. Do you regularly get 6-8 hours of sleep? Try to make the time. I could write a whole post on sleep, which I probably will do in the future.

  • Meditation. Simple breathing meditation, performed regularly, can help one gain new perspectives on stressful situations, increase self-awareness, focus on the present and reduce negative emotions. It can also help with physical disorders, such as anxiety, asthma, depression. To get started here is a very nice article. Remember to start small; even five minutes is beneficial. 1

  • Aromatherapy is the use of the pure essential oils from plants for a therapeutic effect. When inhaled, essentials oils directly affect the brain. The 'smell' receptors in your nose communicate with your amygdala and hippocampus that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. Stimulating these parts of your brain can influence physical, emotional and mental health. Some essential oils known for their relaxation benefits include: Lavender, Cypress, Clary Sage, Geranium, and Tangerine. You can add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser or add a few drops to a handkerchief and inhale the scent. 2

  • Exercise. Not exercise that is like work, but physical activity that is fun. Try something new: dance at home to your favorite music or commune with nature by taking a nature walk.

  • Book a massage! Massage is a wonderful way to take care of yourself. Studies have shown that massage therapy is a means by which stress can be reduce significantly on physical and psychological levels.3

I hope you find these ideas a good starting point in adding some time for yourself. Think about what brings you rest and relaxation and remember to add it to your life on a consistent basis. Even when life is calm, it is important to practice self-care, so when the going does get tough, you have the tools to fall back on.

 

1 Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.org

2 Shutes, Jade and Weaver, Christine Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers Pearson/Prentice Hall 2008

3 American Massage Therapy Association www.amtamassage.org

Louden, Jennifer The Woman's Comfort Book Harper San Francisco 1992