As we head into the Holiday season, things can get hectic. You may still be recovering from Thanksgiving family celebrations and/or drama as you start scheduling out all the holiday obligations. Making gift and card lists, attending company holiday parties, occasions with friends, dealing with kids, it’s easy to get sucked down the black hole of yuletide chaos. However, the many Holiday shows on TV will remind us that this is a time to reflect and feel gratitude for all we have.
It’s also a time for celebrating with great food, drinks, presents, and enjoying ourselves – these are not things to be guilty about! When creating your holiday gift list, know that there’s probably no person who’s more deserving of the gift of nurturing than yourself.
In our last blog post, we talked about what self-care means and why it’s so important if you want to lead a well-balanced life. We touched on how physical exercise may be the best example of self-care, as well as the recovery period. But what about all the time when you’re not at the gym?
Working out is not the only time or the only way to engage in self-care. Far from it. To incorporate anything into your life, you need to make it a habit, and this is achieved through continuous discipline. Yes, in our modern lives, even nurturing ourselves and having fun can require discipline.
There are so many ways we can nurture ourselves. Our definition of nurturing can be different, depending on individual lifestyles and personalities. But we can all agree that one form of self-nurturing is something that’s calming and relaxing – and it’s something we offer right here at Evolutions.
When a massage therapist asks clients about their history of getting massages, the typical response is: “I love it but I can’t go as often as I’d like to.”
Why is that? We have no issue with scheduling regular doctor visits (which is a good thing), dental checkups, etc., but we find it difficult to schedule massages and other ways of relaxation. Yes, a doctor’s appointment is self-care, but it’s not considered nurturing (and in this article, we will refer to nurturing as something we do to relax and lift our spirits).
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
We’ve all heard some version of this sage advice. Most are familiar with the ways a healthy diet and exercise is believed to prevent ailments later on, such as heart problems, stroke, diabetes, etc. But few realize how relaxing sessions with a massage therapist also fits into the prevention category.
Regular massage sessions can help prevent skeletomuscular injuries from becoming issues later in life, such as loss of mobility and flexibility. Because our muscles tend to keep shortening as we age, massages help to stretch and lengthen the muscles to maintain optimum mobility. A combination of techniques can be used to improve structural dysfunction, promote healthy muscle maintenance, reduce mental stress and improve overall health.
Of course, cost is a concern. But prevention can save money in the long run. Consider the price of prescriptions drugs, doctor visits, and surgeries in the future that may be avoided by investing in supporting healthy function and mobility now.
If you participate in our yoga classes, massages can greatly enhance your experience. Yoga stretches and strengthens muscles while massage targets knots, tension or ‘trigger points’ in the muscles. If there are specific movements or stretches you’re struggling with, the massage therapist may be able to assist in those areas. Through massage therapy, these shortened, restricted muscles may loosen up, allowing more ease and mobility the next time you work on that pose or that movement. Both massage and yoga help to detoxify the body increasing circulation in the blood and lymphatic system for overall health and freedom of movement.
For many, meditation can seem overwhelming. Who knew that breathing and keeping still can be so hard? Meditation seems to be the complete opposite to what we’re used to in daily life. The constant thinking, worrying, working, planning feels unnatural to the self-induced stillness that’s required for meditation.
Massage therapy can help you breathe. It sounds a bit silly, but there’s science behind it! Through techniques that act on the circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems, massage therapy can ease the heart rate, slow down overactivity of the nerves, and relax the muscles. All of this allows deeper breathing.
It’s no secret that stress is the common culprit for so many illnesses. Through meditation, you can calm your nervous system, body, mind, and spirit so you can simply be human and live the life nature had intended.
It’s quite possible to be overcommitted at this time of year. Are you running around like a turkey with its head cut off? Are there things that you could just let go? Ask yourself which activities and relationships are truly adding value to your life, and intentionally make space for those things. Release the rest.
Relax your body and mind. As you soak, be in the present moment, feeling the warm water enveloping you. Enhance the experience by lighting a candle, reading a book or magazine, listening to soothing music, and allowing yourself to drift away.
Write down all the things that you’re thankful for. You’d be surprised to find your pen not being able to stop! When you finish, your heart will warm up as you realize how many there are that you may not have been aware of. Keep that list and look back on it periodically. Add to it at regular intervals.
Go on a social media and technology fast. Make it a priority to be with you and other living, breathing things fully present in real time.
Have you been considering learning a new skill or trying a new hobby but always made excuses that you don’t have the time or the energy? There is no time but now. Want to paint watercolor landscapes? Go for it. Want to start an indoor garden? Go for it. Want to pick up that guitar that’s been sitting in your closet since you were a teenager? Go for it!
Make sure no one else is in the room (or not!). Put on your favorite music, and dance. Listen and let the music move you. Clear the space and close your eyes.
Take 10-30 minutes and jot down whatever is on your mind. This would be a stream of consciousness exercise. Mentally release those things as you write and don’t judge what’s coming out. If things are angry or depressing, let it all out. If things are funny or whimsical, now’s your chance. Don’t go back to fix any spelling or grammar mistakes (there will be lots!): this is easier and more impactful when writing with pen on paper as opposed to the computer.
Hang out with someone who you love for no reason. Love doesn’t need a reason. If they’re far away, give them a phone call or a facetime call.
The spirit of the season may lead you to give a furry friend a home. If you’re an animal lover, now may be the time to bring one in from the cold. Maybe you have kids who are begging for a cat or a dog. If a four-legged, free roaming friend isn’t possible for your home, opt for other animals. Nurturing another living thing is a form of self-nurture. Even a betta fish in a good size bowl or tank can create a relaxing, zen-like atmosphere for a room.
Choose a category – your email inbox, your desk, a closet, your car – and get rid of the excess, spam, and junk. Nostalgia is not your friend here, if it isn’t practical or doesn’t bring you joy, release it!
Explore your area at a leisurely pace and look around, take it in fully. You may be surprised to find how much you didn’t know about the areas closest to you.
Open that novel that’s been sitting in the corner, or take one of the many eBooks that’s been hiding in the reader and start reading.
Have you ever found an interesting recipe on the Internet, bookmarked it and just forgot? Or maybe you have a friend who urged you to try a recipe but never remember where you put it. Now’s the time to go look! Even if you don’t normally cook, now’s the time to try!
Sitting on the couch is seen as a no-no for one with a healthy lifestyle, but there are times you may just need to binge out (and you know this), especially if movies and TV watching are more of a treat for you.
Probably the most important thing on the list! Take a nap, go to bed earlier, give your body some extra rest.
This list is not an exhaustive list by any means. You may have so many other things in mind, so go out and do them!
It’s common to read lists such as this and feel inadequate. Maybe you really can’t paint or cook. Maybe you tried learning the guitar in the past but quit in frustration. Maybe you just don’t like reading fiction because it feels like a long-term commitment and you fear you may not even understand what’s going on (queue flashbacks of stuffy English lit class). Maybe you dislike animals and worry that others may see you as a cold-hearted person if they found out.
These are just self-judgments, which is in some ways, the opposite of self-care. For some reason, so many have learned that in order to start anything, it needs to be done well or be better than others. Competitiveness and ambition seem to be the required attitudes, especially when starting a project that may require some investment of time or money. However, there’s no reason to be like this when starting a new hobby or activity. We’ve made self-judgment a habit that needs to be broken. Ironically, by doing things that are nurturing and enjoyable, we can break out of the habit of self-judgment.
Making the best of the hand we’re dealt with, turning something beautiful from limited resources is an art form. No one would really care that much if the painting of that happy little tree looks more like a pipe cleaner, or if that recipe turned out so bad that even your newly adopted dog would refuse it. Just laugh to yourself and know that the real reward is the process, the journey, the doing.
Remember that the present moment is the only reality and self-nurture will help take us there.
This post was part of our Monthly Intentions program throughout the year. Each month at Evolutions we focus on one intention to guide our practice, our wellness and our attention – inside and outside the club. Join us on this journey through Facebook and Instagram @EvolutionsAnnapolis #monthlyintentions #evolutionsannapolis.