Regular self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time and effort, we just think it does, and consequently during times of intense stress and busy-ness, self-care often falls by the wayside for many people. But self-care can take just minutes and have a big impact on moving your day from blah to better. Here are some ways to easily incorporate self-care into your busy day:
1). Deep breathing – Deep breathing relaxes the nervous system which tells the body to relax, brings more oxygen to your brain and all the cells of your body, helping you to stay alert. It also brings you into the present moment, which helps calm stressed thoughts and anxiety. Deep breathing helps move lymph fluid through your body, which helps your immune system run more smoothly. When you breathe in, your diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle under your ribcage) flattens out, pushing your internal organs down slightly, and when you exhale, your organs move up again, giving your digestive system a gentle massage.
2). Fit in PT or other stretches / exercises – Everyone has little unused windows of time throughout their day to fit in a couple of stretches or simple exercises. Do some leg lifts or lunge squats while waiting for your coffee to brew, or breakfast to cook, or while you brush your teeth. Stretch your calves and hip flexors while filling your gas tank. Roll your shoulders while your computer updates, etc. On hold to speak to a customer service rep? Put on your speaker phone and see how many PT exercises /stretches you can fit in during the time you wait.
3). Yoga on the go – Speaking of stretching, check out this blog post https://www.doyou.com for easy yoga stretches to do throughout your day. Youtube has a plethora of yoga instructional videos and some only take a few minutes!
4). Hydration – A water bottle or cup with a straw helps you drink more water throughout the day, which is essential as the days become warmer. Our bodies are made up of about 70% water and they rely on hydration to keep our billions of cells functioning at their best. Water also helps our muscles stay more flexible, so if you have chronic muscle tension, drink up!
5). Grounding yourself – Have racing thoughts, anxiety, or just a tendency to “fast-forward” in your mind to the next thing you have to get done, leading you to feel like there’s never “enough” time in your day to do everything on your list? When you notice any of this happening, stop and bring your attention to your feet. Notice what sensations you pick up through the soles of your feet. Imagine you can grow roots from the soles of your feet deep into the Earth. Feel how the Earth supports you and anchors you in this present moment. You can do this even while in your car at a stop light or stuck in traffic.
6). “Taking in the good” – Most of us use our imaginations for visualizing all the bad things that can happen, making us stressed and miserable! This is called “negativity bias” and kept our ancestors alive eons ago, when worrying that there might be a saber-toothed tiger outside our cave helped them to survive just as much as knowing that there was a dangerous predator lurking nearby. Unfortunately our nervous systems haven’t evolved since then, and our tigers are now our bosses, finances, healthcare system, government, and climate change to name a few. It’s easy to overly focus on the negative while ignoring or minimizing all the good things that happen during your day. Balance your perspective by doing what psychologist and author, Rick Hanson describes as “taking in the good.” Look for little positive things that happen throughout your day and bring all your attention to them to really feel them. Birds singing, sunny blue skies, a discount on your latte, a short commute, a laughing child, the possibilities are endless! Want to learn more? Read Dr. Hanson’s book: Hardwiring Happiness.
7). Positive self-talk – On a similar note, we often have internal dialogue with ourselves that is…well, pretty mean to be honest. “You totally screwed that up, I can’t believe you did that, crap, I think I messed up my shoulder, now I’ll never get that thing done,” etc. It’s common to be unaware of these thoughts about ourselves and have feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and/or constantly falling behind or coming up short of our expectations. Often when people begin a meditation practice, thoughts like this are the first to come up, leading them to believe that they are “not a good meditator” when really these thoughts are normal. Bringing awareness to negative self-talk is the first step, flipping the script is the second. If your thought is “I never have enough time” try this instead “wow, I ran out of time again, hmm, I need to look at my habits and my schedule to see how I can manage my time better.” Or instead of “my body feels so heavy, slow and old,” try “I’m noticing myself moving more slowly with more effort than I’d like, but I’m doing my best and with a little more activity every day, I know I will increase my strength and vitality.” This is not sugar-coating anything, just responding to your thoughts with more love and appreciation, which will initiate the changes you want to bring about faster. You can do this!
If these are difficult to remember on a regular basis, write each one down on an index card, plus any others you know of, shuffle them, and pick one or more each morning to do during your day. This will mix up your routines and keep you from getting into self-care “ruts.”
I hope this post helps you find more moments of Zen in your day!