Self Care Series : Emotional and Spritiual
Emotional health is just as important as your physical health, and I believe they are closely linked. When You’re not doing well emotionally, like many people you may tend to eat junk food, or maybe you’ re like me I outright want carbs, carbs, and more carbs—with a side of sugar please!
I don’t consider myself an overly spiritual person, but I find many spiritual practices really help me center myself. The number one thing that helps me is mindfulness: being present. The biggest thief of my happiness is anxiety over all the things I feel I need to do. It helps a lot to be aware of what I am feeling in my body when situations come up, realizing what is actually happening in the real world and what stories I am telling myself. I’ve also found it amazing to take a moment before agreeing to help someone, to look at my calendar, and ask myself: is this something I really want to do?
Here are some strategies I have used and still use to help me stay sane:
Friends and Family
A good friend can listen when you are upset, and gently nudge you in the right direction when you need it. You don’t want just a “yes” friend, though! You need a friend who says, “Alright, you’ve grieved; now what are we going to do about it?” And funnily enough, when you are feeling down in the dumps one of the best ways to bring yourself up is to help a friend out. It’s probably for two reasons one, it gets your mind off your own problems and two, it will raise your endorphins levels when someone appreciates what you have done. Nothing like a good hug to make you feel seen, heard and valued.
If you are struggling to find or develop meaningful friendships check out my post a couple of weeks ago on cultivating meaningful relationships. There are some tips for where to look to find new friends and how to maintain a good relationship with your spouse.
How do I find time for friends? It’s about making it a priority. Here are a couple of ways you can keep in touch without sacrificing a lot of time or other activities:
- Double up: exercise or grocery shop with a friend
- Sit with another parent at your kids game or practice
- My favorite “ I am thinking of you texts .“ Every morning I get up and I send three to five friends a short text with a note of gratitude for their friendship or a silly emoji to make them laugh
- Call them on your drive home! You are stuck in traffic any way.
- Facebook messages or short phone calls on your lunch break even if you get their machine
- Regular phone calls with friends who live in other cities,provinces, and countries
- Snail mail cards and letters
- Send them helpful articles or quotes, Facebook posts they might find interesting
- Invite them along to events you are planning on attending
Friendships are definitely a two way street. It takes effort and understanding on both sides for a friendship to become a strong one. For example I have a ton of dancing friends, and kickboxing friends but I only see them on the dance floor or the mat. Yes, we have some funny conversations but none of them will be coming to my rescue at three am if I am in trouble. So how are you going to know which friendships to pursue or hold on to and which ones you may need to let go of?
- Do they support you as much as you do them?
- Is your gut reaction “ Ohh no, not again” or “Do I have to?” when they invite you to hang out or ask you a favor? That is a good sign something isn’t right
- Do they reach out to you, or are you always reaching out to them?
- Do you generally have a good time together?
- Do they keep their word?
- Do they lift you up when you are down? Or do they pull you down farther?
I always remind myself that I become the five people I spend the most time with so I choose to spend my time with positive, healthy, vibrant, active people who take control of their life.If they don’t like something in their life they take steps to change it for the better.
Journaling can help you organize your thoughts, both for things you have to do or want to do and for dealing with your emotions. Moms especially tend to have an extra large mental load, meaning that they carry a lot on their minds. You’re keeping track of pick-ups and drop-offs for kids, grocery lists, mail, banking, and appointments—the list goes on. The best part about journaling is that it gets whatever is in your head out and onto the paper, so you can fill your brain with the important stuff that is right in front of you.
There are a few different styles of journaling you can use. Personally I use different styles for different situations.
Free Script – Freely writing whatever comes to you. Sometimes when I write this way it looks like a brainstorming web other times it is a series of sentences or thoughts in no particular order and other times it is super well laid out and very coherent.
Lists – This is one I use all the time, grocery lists, and to-do lists for today, this week, and this month I like to use Asana for long term lists.
Gratitude journal – All the things that went right today that you are thankful for. It is so easy to get caught up in all the things that went wrong, or the one thing that did not go well and forget about the rest of the great stuff. When you look at what went right you automatically relax just a little.
There are so many studies showing that meditation decreases stress, increases focus and a whole whack of other benefits.
- Can reduce pain
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower heart rate
- Allows the body to heal faster
- Is an anti inflammatory
- Helps digest food
- Supports your immune system
- Aids in better sleep
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Helps regulate mood disorders
- Improves self esteem
- Can help treat addiction
- Increases creativity
- Increases self awareness
- Reduces anger
- Improves working memory
- Helps one work under stress
- Improves one’s ability to solve problems
- Improves decision making skills
- Visual spatial processing
I know what you are going to say—who has time for that? Believe me, you can find time, even if it is only 3 minutes and it is so helpful. There are different ways to meditate and not all involve sitting on the floor.
Stillness — This is my savior between clients! I get in the car take a couple of deep breaths and close my eyes before driving. This allows me to let go of the last client’s needs, and focus on the next client and what I have planned for the session. The easiest way I practice a stillness meditation is to focus on my breath in and out, in and out, on my chest rising and falling.
Mindfulness — I encourage you to practice mindfulness everywhere, all the time, as much as you can. Staying present in your world and being aware of all the amazing things that happen. When you are mindful you will find patterns everywhere in your life. I teach kids mindfulness through their senses. What do you see? How does it look? What does it make you think of? What color is it? Is it deep or light color? How does it feel ? Soft? Hard? Bumpy? Prickly, squishy? Does it have a smell ? if so what does it smell like? Sweet ? fruity? Like a cow patty? Dirty? Stinky? If it is safe to taste, what does it taste like ? sweet? Sour? Like something you have tasted before? How does if feel on your tongue? Is it crunchy or soft? Does it melt in your mouth? Here is an example of eating a raisin mindfully. https://youtu.be/z2Eo56BLMjM
Guided – I use these mostly when my “monkey brain” (when my brain is going in a million directions, or in circles about something I can not do anything about at this moment) is running way too wild and I can’t just breathe my way out of the craziness. This is usually when there are strong emotions involved. My favorite guided meditations come from a free app called Insight timer.
Flowdreaming – Is something I just discovered it is a guided meditation that is to simulating music. I am not sure how to explain it much more than that but it works great. This too is found in the app store also.
Yoga – Lots of people get lost in the movement when they do yoga. I for one can’t think about anything besides not falling over! Never mind the endorphins that run through your body and lift your mood, or the strength and flexibility you can gain from yoga. You may even be able to meet up with a friend and get some visiting time in before or after if attending a class.
Finding time to be in nature every day can make a huge difference in a person’s well being. Being in nature has been proven to :
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce stress
- Improve mood
- Increase energy levels
- Improve sleep
- Lower blood pressure
How to fit it in ? They latest book I am reading Nature Based Therapy suggests that 2 hours a week is beneficial but of course more is better and that it does not have to be in long increments. Here are a couple of suggestions in how to fit Nature into your day:
- Family walks in a local park or beach
- Work out outside instead of the gym
- Take your coffee date for a walk instead of sitting in Starbucks
- Take a walk or your book to the park on your lunch break and eat there
- Have kids earn their screen time by spending time outside
- Camping trips
- Picnics at the beach or park with other families
The last thing I would like to touch on is that sleep directly affects my emotional state. When I am tired I do not cope with the world around me well, especially when it throws a curve ball at me. Making sure you get enough sleep is crucial to your well being.
There are several things to consider when trying to get a good night’s sleep:
- Having a dark room, black out blinds
- Cutting out the screen time and blue lights that stimulate your brain an hour or two before bed. Pick up a book after dinner instead of watching TV, or working on your computer.
- Having regular times that you go to bed and get up in the morning. Your body does better when it has a routine.
- Watch what you are eating and drinking before bed. Does caffeine keep you up? Maybe cut that out after 3 pm? Eating a large meal too close to bedtime always keeps me up.
- Making sure I get at least an hour of exercise a day also helps me sleep at night.
- When I am really worried about something I use guided meditations to help me relax
Gut Brain Connection
In a great book called Wits/Guts/Grit talks about the link between the flora in your gut and your ability to persevere, stay calm, and be in a better mood. She also discusses so many other benefits to having a more diverse gut flora.
So how does one do that?
- Eat a diverse range of foods
- Eat lots of veggies, legumes, beans and fruit
- Eat fermented foods like yogurt, Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Eat or drink prebiotic foods that promote the growth of good microbes in your gut. ( This was a game changer for me) Aloe, bananas, asparagus, garlic, berries are examples of prebiotics.
- Eat whole grains
- Eat foods high in polyphenols which lower blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol levels and oxidative stress. Good sources of polyphenols are cocoa or dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, blueberries, and broccoli
- Take probiotic supplements, my favorite AloeDophilus
In conclusion you need to find what works for you. I don’t use all of these techniques on a daily basis, but have used them all at some point in my life. The three things that I use consistently are sleep, friends and mindfulness.
Here are two of the most mindful and spiritual teachers I know. They serve the Greater Victoria area.
Anna Marie Ghatt — Ashtanga Yoga, Pranayama breathwork, chair yoga
Samantha Barrow — Yoga instructor, Mindfulness master, Reflexology
Email : Samanthabarrow444@hotmail.com