It has been an exhausting one-and- a-half years for many of us around the globe. ‘Pandemic fatigue’ is real and so is grief, anxiety, stress. This, coupled with all the restrictions of not being able to travel, meet family, celebrate happy times and simply get back to our ‘normal’ lives, can leave us feeling completely out of sorts, and disconnected with our community, our purpose and with ourselves. No wonder then, more and more people are turning to self-care practices like yoga, fitness, and meditation to stay afloat.
So why has self-care become so important in these challenging times? Think of this — during a flight, we are always instructed to comply with our own safety protocols before we can assist another, because in case of an emergency, if you start assisting someone without having your oxygen mask on, you aren’t going to make it for very long. A bit grim, but it illustrates the logic simply and perfectly. We must look after ourselves first.
While we can’t do much about external circumstances, what we can do is manage how we show up in the world. And a little bit of self-care goes a long way in showing us how. Self-care is nothing but the gentle process of caring for ourselves so that we feel better, and can hence manage our stress better. Only when we nurture ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally, can we become better equipped to handle life, lift the gloom, chase our dreams, turn obstacles into opportunities, spread joy and make a difference in the world. In that sense, self-care is the most selfless thing you can ever do.
SELF-CARE TIPS TO HELP YOU LIFT THE GLOOM
Self-care looks different to everyone. What’s calming for one person could be triggering to another. While someone would find a solo walk on the beach rejuvenating, another may find it extremely lonely and depressing, so you can’t really paint with one brush. This is a process best explored yourself. It’s nice to know the available options, but eventually your body knows best what it needs.
A few suggestions to help you lift the gloom and bring in some cheer:
Make sure your schedule includes a few minutes for yourself every single day. Start with a simple 5 minutes each morning, and alter it as per your lifestyle.
2. Make time to breathe
Breathing, in Sanskrit, is called pranayama. Prana means life energy and yama means controlling it. So by conscious breathing, we are actually controlling the flow of our life energy. Research shows that quick and shallow breathing, which happens from the upper lobes of our lungs, may contribute to a host of problems, including anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. Breathing from the lower lobes of our lungs gives us greater control over our lungs and is likely to bring rest and rejuvenation to our mind and body.
If you are new to the practice of breathing/pranayama, here’s how to start your breathing practice:
Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take slow, deep belly breaths. As you inhale, feel your belly rise. Exhale fully and the belly contracts. Notice how it feels to simply observe the passage of breath through your nostrils. Start with 2-5 minutes and increase as you go along.
3. Stretch your body
If not a full workout, you can even spend just a few minutes stretching your arms and legs, or twisting your spine for that delicious side stretch. Lie down on your back, spread your arms at shoulder level, put your knees up and feet on the floor as close to your body as possible, and then drop your knees to one side. Stay there for a few moments and then repeat on the other. The Internet is filled with simple yoga stretches. Go slow and find what feels good.
4. Beauty sleep
In her book The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington illustrates how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and decision-making and undermines our professional as well as personal lives. She shows that sleep is not just vital for our health, but also critical to helping us achieve our goals, and from there comes her famous quote “sleep your way to success”.
Start by creating a perfect ambience for your bedtime. Escort your gadgets out of the bedroom half an hour prior to bedtime, use soft bedsheets that feel good, colours and fabrics that you love. Lighting up a scented candle is an instant way of enhancing your mood and delighting your senses. A warm shower, light music and sipping a cup of chamomile tea go a long way in prepping you for a relaxed night.
5. Turn to natural ingredients
Don’t underestimate the power of a relaxing long bath. Incorporate your most-loved body scrubs, bath oils or try to use natural ingredients instead of soap. Grind some dry green gram lentils, make a paste and wash your skin with it. The scent will leave you feeling so grounded and refreshed. Or you can try a coffee scrub using 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1/4 cup ground coffee, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp sea salt. It softens your skin and is great for cellulite.
6. Make the floor your friend
Here’s an emerging wellness trend that’s worth checking out, a practice that requires neither aspiration nor great motivation: lying on the ground. When you lie down on the floor, its firm, flat surface reflects the state of your posture. It helps you feel inconsistencies, imbalances and tightness in the musculoskeletal system. It gives you a better sense of what hurts and what doesn’t, and as you gradually adapt to the floor’s firm surface to find a comfortable, effortless position, you can release some of the tensions that are hard to detect when standing or seated.
Even when you walk on the floor barefoot, you can sense the ground better. Do it slowly and attentively, focus on how your feet contact the floor, and you will feel more grounded. This practised sensation of grounding not only promotes dynamic posture and balance as you age, but also has a calming effect. Tip: If you want to relieve a lower back ache, stand with your feet together, body in one line, butt tucked in, tummy in, chin, chest and shoulders relaxed. Now lift the two big toes off the ground and feel the sensation in your body and how the stress lifts off the back.
Writing on paper, with a pen is a forgotten art in today’s tech-savvy world. However, journaling exposes our mind to all the positivity and gratitude we have in us. So next time when you’re feeling blue, pull it all out on a journal and try penning down your thoughts.
8. Pick up a book
Author Jhumpa Lahiri said “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” A skill we so need in today’s times. There is truly magic attached to reading that can instantly transport you to a world of imaginations and fantasies.
9. Try cooking
Good food is the best and easiest mood-booster, but how about being a part of creating it? The idea is to direct your mind towards a fun process that results in the creation of something you can enjoy. The Internet has many amazing recipes and easy demos.
10. And lastly, be a dropout
You read that right, there are some things that are best left incomplete. Far too often, we are putting off things for “some day”. “I want to learn Spanish some day”, “I want to scuba dive some day”. Having a bucket list is great, but make sure this list is not adding to your anxiety. Identify those tasks that are no longer sparking joy for you, and bid them farewell gracefully. Don’t clutter your plate. Focus on what’s really bringing you joy.