Written by Sharon Lee
Self care rituals. It sounds so self indulgent, a little selfish and even a frivolous way to spend your time. If you're a parent you're probably already either snickering or thinking, "yeah right" while simultaneously meal planning and thinking of your kid's school activities. But despite your busy schedules, and rather, the busier your schedule, the more the need to consider implementing a self care ritual in your day.
Why the need for self care and what exactly is a ritual? “Rituals are intentions that you turn into actions,” says Lavinia Errico, founder of Equinox (yes, the gym) and chief wellness officer at natural skin-care line Sonäge. “At the core of adopting rituals is an intent to experience the moment.” When we make something a ritual, even if it's a 5 minute one, we are telling ourselves that we are dedicating that time to stop, listen, and tell our mind, body and soul that they matter. For me, I see it as a moment to be self aware - that my mind, body and soul are connected and what I project to the world is connected to the health of my own awareness. Not surprisingly, self care is something that is often neglected and set aside because other people and things demand our attention. I realized much too late in time that I'm not invincible, that despite my ability to perform well and function throughout the day these were not signs that everything was fine. In fact, I used my daily performance as a meter of how healthy I was and used it to cover up chronic ailments that were painful, yes, but didn't prevent me from constantly performing. My husband, a psychotherapist who worked for a long time in the mental health/non-profit and social work world has repeatedly heard that self care is important and in fact, often comes up in interviews - "how do you practice self care?" Why is this important enough to be an interview question? Because without it you will eventually find that you desperately need it, often at inopportune times.
I've come to really love the idea of practicing small self care rituals throughout the day because instead of focusing so much on my output and performance, I know that every time I do one of these little things that I've taken the time to check in with myself and feed myself positive energy, love and wellness. I've given myself a mini re-set and I leave feeling a shift in my presence. Here are some of my rituals that I try to practice regularly:
1. Quiet time of prayer and meditation. Every morning when I wake up and every night as I'm about to fall asleep, I thank God for the overflow of blessings He has given me. Even when I feel crummy. This brings me back to the anchors in my life. I thank God for my husband, for my family and friends, for the opportunities I've had and for the openness to see opportunities before me. Sometimes I'll say to God at the beginning of my day, a thought from Gabby Bernstein - what will you have me do, what will you have me say, and to whom? I love this in my morning conversation with God because it opens me up right away to the day and gives the day a bit of purpose and intention. Whether you believe in God, the universe, or even that your intentions can affect how you approach the day, heart opening thoughts and gratitude have been shown to shift your mindset for the day.
2. Hydration. Seems small and obvious, but is a challenge for me. I'm very bad at drinking water throughout the day and I've been told by doctors that I need to be drinking at least half my body weight in ounces in water, and for every caffeinated drink, another 8 oz. So after I get out of bed I pour myself a glass of water with a teaspoon of Bragg's apple cider vinegar and sip on this as I get ready for the day. When I drink my water I know that I'm doing something good for my body and my mind, even when it's so hard for me to do.
3. Deep breaths, muscle relaxation and stretches. This is a big one for me. I suffer from chronic tension headaches - all day errday. For the last 6.5 years and it's maddening. I've tried everything from acupuncture, to chiropractic adjustments, to yoga, to massages to mediation. I've even tried prescription medication. What I've found is that my headaches come from bad habits that I've developed such as bad posture while sitting at my desk for long periods of time, hunching my shoulders and tensing the muscles in my head, neck and shoulders. So a combination of all of the remedies above has provided me with some relief (especially head massages) but what I absolutely love to do is to take a few really deep breaths during the day. Inhale through my nose and hold for 3 seconds and slowly let it out through my mouth. I also do a few shoulder rolls (instant relaxer), relax my jaws and try to release any head muscle strain. Lastly, I hug my shoulders and stretch my arms way out, and I'm good to go!
4. Tea, tea, tea! I love tea and drink it almost daily. It hasn't replaced my beloved coffee, but I feel myself starting to go in that direction. Right now my favorite is creamy Earl Grey tea from The Secret Garden in Vancouver, Canada. I generally love black teas with a bit of almond milk but I also enjoy a clean green tea with toasted brown rice and Paromi's Lavender and Chamomile Rooibos tea. Once a week (used to be everyday but I've slowed down) I drink my herbal tea mixture to support my reproductive system. This small act literally and figuratively makes me warm inside and makes me feel comforted and grounded.
5. Walking. This is generally one that I do with my husband, as often as we can. My husband knows especially that if I'm ever having a stressful day or in need of a break, that it's time for a walk. Walking just makes me feel better. It gets my mind going at a slower, more thoughtful pace and it calms me. This is probably the thing I delight in the most because it feels effortless yet fruitful, inspiring yet meditative. This is one ritual that I cherish dearly and hope that we keep doing this into our old age.
Self care rituals to me are about honoring the time to ground myself, be in the present, connect and align. A self care ritual can be short, spread out throughout the day and done through anything - a thought, an act, anything!
What are your self care rituals? I love hearing about what other people do to re-set. Here are some great articles that I found to be inspiring and beautiful on the topic of self care (some of which I've quoted from): Well + Good has a great article where I took the quotes from Lavinia Errico. Confetti Mag also has a beautiful post as does Goop on The Power of Rituals.