I’ve come to find through my own spiritual path that the distinction between the body/mind/spirit is not as clear cut as one might think. They are really three aspects of one mechanism that make up the phenomenon of being. They are systems upon systems intricately woven into each other, like a cell to an organ to a body to a community to a planet to a solar system. We break them up into categories so that we can digest and comprehend.
I was a pretty toxic person in my twenties. I drank far too much alcohol, was a heavy tobacco smoker, coffee drinker and my diet was just awful. I started doing yoga one day and it gradually changed my life. Practicing yoga really woke me up to my own body. That first month of practicing I remember feeling my posture and frame aligned, a very new sensation for me. I started having clarity of mind and alcohol lost it's taste. Gradually over the span of many years I made little decisions that made other decisions much easier. Now I consider myself to be pretty healthy. I exercise regularly, I don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco anymore, and I'm happy now. I do like an occasional pastry every now and then, but hey we’re all a work in progress!
When you change one thing in a system you change the whole system. This is how small changes can make a big impact on our lives. Sometimes when you try to make all the changes at once it becomes unsustainable and falls apart. I suggest picking one thing that makes sense to you and your lifestyle and go with it. Once you start to make a habit of these changes it will become easier to make better choices in other aspects in your life.
Remember that Self Care is Self Love
Loving yourself will help you when things get tough. Be easy on yourself if you stumble. When you make choices that are good for you, you might have a tendency to latch onto old patterns because they are comfortable, not because they serve you. Allow yourself to feel this discomfort and take some action knowing that the discomfort will pass. If you fall just get right back on the horse. Listening and honoring your needs is so important to self care. It’s not selfish! Ask yourself, “In order for me to grow and heal what does my body, mind and spirit need?” Be patient and listen for the answer. Your inner teacher is extremely wise and will tell you what you need, you just have to listen.
Here are some actions you can take to allow your body to come back into balance.
Stretch, take a walk outside, ride a bike, go to a gym...
Many of our physiological functions rely on us moving for them to properly work and stay regulated. Our endorphins start to kick in when we start moving improving and stabilizing our mood. Our lymphatic system relies on our movement to circulate our lymphatic fluid, flushing waste out of our cells and keeping our immune system healthy.
You don’t have to exercise for two hours a day in order for it to be worthwhile. You don’t even have to go to the gym! Take a walk around the block, around the lake, through the woods or at the beach. Try riding your bicycle to that meeting instead of driving. Take a ten minute stretch break at work. The more you can incorporate movement into your daily routine the more you will look forward to it, and the more you will want to make better choices.
Stay Hydrated. Your body will thank you!
Water does so much: it lubricates our joints, regulates our body temperature, keeps our fascia mobile, transports nutrients, and is essential for cellular growth. Without water our muscles tighten and cramp, waste products get locked up inside our tissues, fresh nutrients are locked out of our tissues and our fascia dries up and starts to adhere to our articulating musculature limiting range of motion. Remember too that caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you, so pay attention to your intake and consider upping your intake of water to counter balance the effects of alcohol or caffeine consumption.
How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Try this nifty hydration calculator from Camel Pak
Get a Massage, Bodywork or Self Massage
Bodywork works wonders
Massage & Bodywork is fantastic, marvelous, stupendous! Ok, I'm a biased massage therapist, but in all seriousness massage is really good for you. It relieves stress, increases circulation, alleviates pain, helps you sleep, improves your athletic performance, and this is just the beginning of the list of benefits! Many of my clients tell me that they had no idea how stressed and clenched they were until after their session. Massage is one of the few things in this world that feels really good and it’s good for you! I wish I could say the same for pastries!
Our body, whether we are conscious of it or not, is constantly taking in information and adjusting based on that information. When we experience stress, emotional or physical trauma, or when we lock our body in the same position for long stretches of time, we hold these issues in our tissues. Massage can start the unlocking of these issues by providing the necessary feedback for our body to make the changes so that it be more balanced and efficient, plus it breaks up scar tissue and creates space in the fascia so you have more mobility and flexibility.
Self massage can be a quick way to relieve pain and pressure and create space in your muscles and fascia. Obviously you wont be able to get all the benefits as with a professional session, but it can offer some relief in the in-between time before you get on your massage therapist's table or mat. Stay tuned for future articles on self massage techniques!
Soak it, Heat it, Ice it.
Who doesn’t love a nice bath, hot shower, or foot soak when you get to the end of your day? Personally I love to soak my feet in a hot or Epsom salt bath. There is much controversy as to the effectiveness of salt baths however. There are claims that salt baths are "detoxifying" for your system. The idea is that they draw out toxins from your tissue by the process of osmosis. The science these days seem to debunk this idea due to the fact that the magnesium sulfate in the salt salt cannot permeate through the skin, therefore it would not be possible for the process of osmosis to take place in your tissues. It could be that the love I have for a hot Epsom salt bath at the end of a hard day could be nothing more than the work of the placebo effect! Whatever your school of thought is regarding magnesium sulfate, or Dead Sea Salt, or Epsom Salt baths, know that they are completely harmless. The fact that it makes me feel better is good reason enough for me to continue!
Works really well for chronic pain and soreness, loosens tight fascia and decreases pain. Keep in mind that hot therapy will increase circulation so if you have an acute injury it’s best not to add heat. Many of my clients tell me that they prefer to apply heat to a recently injured area because "it feels better". The pain will decrease, but only for a short period of time.
Works really well for acute pain and swollen tissue. It works well after any strenuous activity as it constricts blood vessels, decreases inflammation, reduces swelling and helps repair the small micro-tears that naturally occur in muscles after overexertion. Don't Ice right before or directly after a workout and don't leave ice on one spot for more than 20 minutes. You'll get better results icing several times per day for 10-20 minutes at a time.
Get Enough Sleep
Have Clarity of Mind
Proper sleep plays an important role in your physical and emotional health. It helps regulate your hormones, supports cellular functions, boosts immune function, increases concentration and cognition, just to mention a few.
In my own personal experience I find it hard to get into a good sleep groove when my eating is off or when I’m not getting enough movement or exercise. Lack of sleep really puts me into a downward spiral where all things self-care go out the window. When I’m tired I board the caffeine and pastry train and ride that hard. At night I’m wired so much from all the sugar and caffeine that I can’t sleep. Thus the cycle continues. At this stage I find that I have to implement one other self care strategy first before I can tackle a bad sleep cycle. Sometimes that means that I look at my eating, other times I add movement or get a massage to wake up my system. Perhaps I say no to that doughnut and get an apple, or I have decaffeinated tea. I stopped drinking coffee about 6 months ago and switched to black tea. My sleep has improved dramatically since this move.
The suggestions mentioned in this article are not meant to be an exhaustive list of body self care techniques. My intention was to share with you some actions that I have taken that have worked for me in my healing journey. Perhaps they work for you as well!
Eat a well-balanced diet
Take in foods that support and nourish you!
I am the worst at knowing when I need to eat. I often times get so wrapped up in a work or art project that I completely forget about food. I start getting a bad temper and my irritability level goes through the roof. I get 'hangry'. Just when I think all is lost in the world I have a sandwich and I'm back to my old happy self.
My job is physically demanding, so I need to keep my calories coming in continually throughout my day. During days when I have a lot of clients I find that snacking on fruit and nuts continually is an effective way to keep up the energy level I need. Caffeine and sugar give me a boost of energy at the start, but quickly fades leaving me with even less energy.
There are so many diets and cleanses out there, and frankly I don't feel the need to delve into any of them right here and now. I am at my happiest when I'm eating whole foods, whole grains, minimal meat, greens and limited sugar. The biggest suggestion I have is to listen to your body. Make a note of how certain foods make you feel, limit foods that make you feel heavy and drained and take in foods that give you the energy and support you need.
Sometimes when I'm in a bad eating cycle I like to watch a good healthy food documentary. By the time the film ends I usually have a clear resolve to eat better and it helps me to formulate a healthy eating plan. Here are a few documentaries that I would recommend: "Forks over Knives", "Cowspiracy", and "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead",
Stay Tuned for more tips from our next article: Self Care for the Mind!