There is a lot going on every day. Attention is often fragmented and there is a lot to track and take care of. It's important to take care of yourself in the midst of all that's happening in your life and the greater world. I don't mean in a massage/day spa sort of idea of self-care. This is not indulgence. This is essential. These foundational aspects of self-care are crucial for well-being. They include sleep, nutrition, movement, and contemplation.
Over the next weeks, I'll write more about each one of them.
For the time being, whenever you feel "off," I invite you to check in with yourself about your sleep habits/quality of sleep, nutrition patterns, movement/exercise habits, and contemplation time (meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation practices).
Whether you’re working from home, it’s likely you’ve increased the amount of time you are spending in front of screens over the last year. It’s work access, social and family connection, political and civic engagement, and entertainment. It’s also very exhausting for the mind and the body.
Whenever possible, I invite you to take a short break from looking at a screen. When you do, try one (or more) of these to give your mind and body some rest and restoration:
Recently, I was interviewed for a video series on tips for parents of teens. I think anyone can benefit from these though. Check out the video:
So much of how we operate as human beings is habitual. There are habits of how you get ready in the morning, of your movement, of how and what you eat, of how you spend your free time, etc. You even have habits of thinking! Typically, you operate from these places of habit on autopilot, without much awareness.
Most people try to change their habits at one time or another. It goes something like this for many… At some point, it becomes apparent to you that a habit is not working anymore, or it's not aligned with how you want to live, or it’s getting in the way of you functioning well. You decide to change it. You try to eliminate it, and after a few days or a week, you discover that it’s quite challenging. Maybe you do okay for a day or two and then slip back into that familiar way of being. You feel frustrated and maybe even give up…. If this has been your experience, you’re not alone. It is often the case that when you want to change a habit, there is a sense of urgency, often followed by disappointment and frustration when things don’t go the way you want quickly.
When you set out to change a habit, it may be the case that you’ve taken on too big of a task at once. It can be quite helpful to create small (tiny, even) concrete steps to focus on as you move toward changing a behavior or a habit. Commit to each step for a month, maybe even two, or three. For changes to integrate and be sustainable, the brain and nervous system need a lot of practice and repetition. A lot. Once a step feels like it is integrated and close to autopilot, it may be time to move on to the next step, and so on. Tread lightly and patiently.
While you’re in the process of changing an unwanted habit, challenging feelings will likely come up. It is important to recognize these feelings when they arise and name them. Naming how we feel lessens the intensity of the feeling. You may also choose to take some full, deep breaths and feel your feet on the ground as you practice being with your feelings. Remember to be gentle with yourself. This habit had served a purpose.
Another aspect of habit change that’s important is to choose a wholesome habit to cultivate as you decrease an unwholesome/unwanted one. It’s valuable to add a habit that feels joyful, meaningful or helps you thrive. In the same spirit as changing an unwanted habit, when you choose a wholesome habit to develop, create small, concrete steps to follow. Take one step at a time and be patient.
Changing a habit on your own can feel challenging and overwhelming. I invite you to contact me for support. You don’t have to do this alone.
I had the pleasure and honor of being on my good friend's radio show, Radical Advice this week. The show is live on Tuesdays from 10:00a-12:00p on www.bff.fm and each episode is archived into the iTunes podcast app. Check out the episode, during which we practiced and talked about mindfulness, listened to some music and answered listeners' questions. Find this episode in the October 2017 archives in Itunes.
These days, all of us are communicating in various ways, all the time, with many different people. It may be face to face, on the phone, via email or text, or through social media.
When you feel negatively affected by what someone communicates to you, your emotions come to the forefront to protect you. As a side effect, your response may be less skillful and affect the other person negatively. This can lead to an escalation and prolong the negative feelings cycle.
Below is an acronym that can be useful to practice whenever you are communicating with anyone, via any medium. It can help you be more kind, clear, considerate and respectful in your message. It is often helpful to pause, take a breath and check in with yourself prior to your actions.
Before you speak, text, type and/or post, consider:
T. Is what you’re communicating true? Are you stating a fact or more your opinion or feeling about something? Check in with yourself and be clear.
H. Is what you’re communicating helpful? Are you helping the other person, yourself or the situation?
I. Is what you’re communicating important? How important is it and to whom? Is this something that can wait?
N. Is it necessary? Check out whether whatever you want to communicate is better left unsaid, or maybe you could benefit from giving yourself some space before you communicate this thing.
K. Is it kind? Check in about why you’re communicating. What’s your intention and purpose for this communication at this time? Will it be of benefit to you, the other person, the relationship? Is what you’re about to say skillful, respectful and thoughtful?
T.H.I.N.K. is based on a concept originally presented in the 1930s by Herbert J. Taylor
Take a moment to breathe in deeply and breathe out fully. Most people don’t pay much attention to this essential component of living. Yet, the breath is perpetually with us, providing information to the brain and the body.
The breath interacts with the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates the body; it is sometimes referred to as the “fight, flight, freeze” system. When the brain registers danger, whether real or perceived, it sends messages to the sympathetic nervous system to prepare for action: increase heart rate, breathe shallower, etc. Alternatively, when someone is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated; sometimes called the “rest and digest” system. When the brain registers absence of danger, it sends messages to the body to slow down the heart rate, deepen breathing, etc.
Since the breath is a function we can regulate, there is a simple technique that can be used to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and help the brain and body calm down. This can be especially useful if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. The instructions are written below. You may want to read through the text before trying it out or practice as your read.