I just returned from a family graduation celebration in Philadelphia. We indulged. It was a gastronomic whirlwind: divine Greek dishes, sublime Italian gelato and delicious Saag Paneer with a heaping side of poor sleep. When I get off my normal routine–which my body craves–and need to get back in my groove, I head back to basics. Recently at a retreat I led in the Midwest I was asked, “What are things you do on a daily basis to care for yourself?” Here are 9 of my favorite daily self-care practices:
1. I begin my day intentionally. I love my 20 minute morning meditation practice. But if things are hectic, I find that even when I take 5 minutes to start my day with a clear intention, gratitude practice, prayer or stillness, this has a huge impact on how the rest of my day flows. My husband, son and I also do morning “power circles” right before we head out the door. We take two minutes to circle up, ask for support, remind each other to look for opportunities where we can give and receive love during the day, hug and head out the door.
2. I make pleasure-full movement a priority. My favorites are yoga, vigorous walks with friends around the lake and Nia dance. I often have to juggle like crazy to make this happen and always have to plan in advance to build this in, but it’s a non-negotiable for me at this life stage.
3. I eat foods that make me feel great (most of the time!) and ask, “What would really nourish us right now?” before I decide what’s for dinner. This also means planning ahead and keeping the fridge and pantry stocked with lots of my favorite staples: hummus, a variety of nuts and nut butters, fruit/veggies, garbanzo and black beans for salads and dips, green and ginger teas, etc. I also always carry bags of almonds and dried apricots with me in my purse or the car.
4. I take breakfast seriously. I find if I start the day eating protein, it helps me maintain steady blood sugar levels and has a huge impact on how I feel later in the day. I like to drink a cup of warm water immediately upon waking to “get things moving.” Then it’s often a spinach omelet, scrambled eggs with leeks, steel cut oatmeal with blueberries/almonds and soy milk, goat’s milk yogurt with fruit and granola or if we’re in a hurry, apples with almond butter and GF bagels.
5. I build in girlfriend time. Heartfelt face-to-face connection is key to lowering stress hormones and keeping perspective. Ideally it’s a lunch, evening women’s circle or walking date, but even a good 15 min. phone call with a dear friend boosts my mood.
6. I take time to pause and rest. Pausing to ask, “What is mine to do?” helps me use my energy more effectively (critical to running two businesses). These pauses also help me tune in and ask my body what it needs (one of my hormonal balancing tinctures, some B Complex, Vitamin C or a nap?). For the past year, I have started taking 20 min. afternoon rests almost every afternoon. I believe this will be key to creating a sustainable energy level over the decades to come.
7. I walk on the earth (ideally barefoot). Even if it’s just 5 minutes of pulling weeds in the backyard or refilling the bird bath, 10 minutes in my hammock or walking to the park and back after dinner with family, I find communing with nature has a calming effect on my nervous system and helps me reset and shake off any “funk.”
8. I prepare for a good night’s sleep. After dinner, we make it a priority to relax and unwind. It’s not a time to get stuff done, it’s time to let the busyness of the day fall away. Sometimes this means embracing a “good is good enough,” attitude and letting the house be messy, clothes pile up, work deadlines wait and scrounging in the pantry for lunch fixings for my son so I don’t have to hit the store. I love late evening strolls with my husband or neighbor, delicious aromatherapy baths, gentle yoga stretches before bed (legs up the wall is my favorite) and I snuggle down by 9:30 with something inspirational to read. At 10:00 p.m. it’s lights out, usually after a short calming, breathing exercise.
9. I make eating dinner with my family a priority. I find it helps me feel grounded and connected to share a meal with those I love. Family dinner also helps lower stress levels, allows us to plug-in to each other and share about our day and practice mindfulness while we take in a good meal.
I felt hesitant about sharing my personal self-care practice and rituals as I don’t ever want you to think there is right or wrong way to practice self-care (read more about how I define self-care). I also don’t see self-care as something you need to add to your to-do list, but rather it’s about cultivating a new relationship with yourself. But I have found that often the more we hear what self-care practices our friends are committed to, the more curious and motivated we become about adding to, changing or enhancing ours.
I’d love to hear what self-care practices you can’t live without! Let’s create some self-care waves by sharing these and make a kinder way of being with ourselves the norm, rather than the exception.
INVITE: Want support for accessing your Wise Self (your true nature) and hearing what your next steps should be? Join me June 20-22 at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and view all our upcoming retreats.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.
Photo: A retreat attendee lounges on the front lawn at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health looking out at the Berkshire Mountains. Join me here June 20-22 next month! www.Kripalu.org