self-care: a brief ode

Self-care (n.) : an activity one performs solely for one's own nourishment, pleasure, and overall well-being. This can be treating yourself to a day at the spa, dinner out with a loved one, or simply curling up with a book instead of tidying the house, taking 5 minutes to meditate before bed, or listening to a favorite album.

Self-care is one of the healthiest, most deeply nourishing things we can do for ourselves. For some--those compassionate souls who are always in service to others: teachers, parents, women, caregivers, volunteers, activists, etc.--it is the most challenging.

From a wonderful zine published post-election: 

"When we take care of ourselves, we can rebuild the strength we need to guide the changes we so passionately believe in."
a guide to SELF CARE in Uncertain Times by Maribeth Keane
 

New to self-care? Start by brainstorming a list of activities that came to mind while you were reading this. This exercise itself can be a wonderful self-care practice! (It's really fun to sit down and think of all the things that bring you pleasure, peace, and inspiration.) Your list can be posted on the wall, set as the desktop background of your computer, or kept in a frequented journal or book--anywhere you will see it regularly.

If you're having trouble coming up with your list or finding time to incorporate self-care into your life, please don't hesitate to reach out for ideas, advice and encouragement... I'm happy to help!

Love Your Lymph!

I believe a great part of tackling winter immunity is giving extra loving to your lymphatic system. This system helps our body get rid of waste, toxins, and transport white-blood cells (infection-fighting heroes!) throughout the body. (So, really important for building and maintaining good immunity!) Did you know that our lymph consists of a beautiful, system-wide network of vessels similar to those that carry around our blood? :

"Unlike blood circulation, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. Lymph is moved through its vessels slowly, sent along when it is squeezed by surrounding muscles--in other words, good old exercise! ...Pressure changes in the thorax during breathing also help to pump the lymph; here is another cleansing effect of deep breathing." (from Pip Waller's Holistic Anatomy, an engaging and awe-inspiring book on our miraculous bodies that I highly recommend to anyone who is intrigued!).

We often are more sedentary in the wintertime, which I believe contributes to lessened immunity and more sickness!

Some simple ways to encourage lymph movement:

  • massage (from a professional, partner/lover, or self-massage)
  • Yoga
  • dry skin brushing
  • exercise & movement
  • deep breathing
  • alternating hot + cold in the shower, bath, sauna, etc.

Simple Ways to Get Your "Spring" On

It's gray outside, windy, almost raining but not quite. I wouldn't call it warm, but the air doesn't have that biting chill that Winter always carries. I can see bits of fresh green hiding in plain sight, emerging from the earth, adorning the trees. 

Despite the gray, the not-so-cold, the gloomy looming rain, I feel ecstatic. It could be the memories (or real Vitamin D!) of the couple sunny & gloriously warm days we've had (65 in March?!). It could be the signs all around me that the earth is waking up after its Winter sleep. 

There’s something in the air in Springtime, a smell, a thickness to the air, a warmth, an energy that’s hard to describe. 

In America, we spend too much time talking about the weather. We use the weather as an avoidance tactic. "Hi, how are you?" "Good. Can you believe this weather?!" 

What are we avoiding? I think mostly we avoid feeling. Imagine a time when you felt particularly stressed, perhaps angry at someone, deeply sad... think of a specific event here. It could have been yesterday when you got home from work. Now what did you do? Many of us pour a glass of wine, or lose ourselves in the TV, or maybe have a meaningless argument with someone we live with. Maybe we go to sleep or waste time on social media. 

My point here is that we numb. We do whatever it is that will stop us from having to think, work through, and just feel what we're feeling. 

Because feeling and processing and growing... that's the harder path. 

In the spirit of Springtime, I'm going to share some practices to help cultivate mindfulness. Here some of are my favorite ways to welcome Spring in my body, food, mind, and spirit. 

PAY ATTENTION

Simply take note of what's going on. Notice the weather & changes from the season and how it's making you feel. I feel inspired by the crocuses popping up from the earth. I feel energized when it's sunny. If someone starts talking about the weather with you, bring it to the next level. "Man, this sun is really helping my productivity & mood!" 

Let nature & the weather be a tool for cultivating awareness & mindfulness. 

Take a walk in the park, observe openly while you wait for the bus rather than burying yourself in your phone, layer up & drink your coffee outside, get off the train a stop early & walk... there are many ways to welcome more nature (and thus mindfulness) in our lives.

HYDRATE

Imagine what a plant looks like when it's dehydrated. Wilted, dull, maybe yellowing. Now think of what happens when you just give it a little water: it stands up a little straighter, becomes green and vibrant once again. And that's just on the outside! We are the same. Drinking water is such a simple & free (for most of us--let's take a moment and be grateful that we can take safe water for granted) tool that is astoundingly effective! 

Feeling groggy in the afternoon? Drink a glass of water. Feeling overheated? Drink water. Are your muscles tense and sore? More water. 

Hydration is particularly important in the Spring as it assists our processes of elimination (aka aiding Spring-cleaning inside your body). 

EAT GREEN THINGS

Green things help the process of internal Spring-cleaning. Greens are also very cooling inside our bodies, which helps prepare us for the heat of the summer. 

In the Springtime, our bodies start to crave more raw, crunchy, bitter things. 

This is our digestion starting to wake up after the long Winter months of ultra-cooked soups, stews, casseroles, and other hot, mushy foods. 

Experiment with adding in more & more raw foods in the Springtime and notice how your body responds!

MOVE YOUR BODY

I think that we should make our New Year's Resolutions in the Springtime when our bodies are naturally gaining more energy & momentum with the energy of the season. 

As the weather starts to warm up, the sun frequents the skies more, and new life begins to emerge, why not take advantage of this contagious energy & move your body? 

Not only will this aid in Spring's natural process--detoxification--it will give you more energy, strength, and vitality. It took me a long time to realize that exercise doesn't have to be strenuous work. Find an exercise that you're drawn to be it Yoga, swimming, biking, running, or something as simple as walking. If time is a concern, here is a 7-minute workout that gets your heart pumping! 

Don't be crippled by the "shoulds": 

I should do something aerobic, I should sweat, I should go to the gym... Remember that something small is always better than nothing! Personally, running makes me feel like I'm going to die (I'm only being slightly dramatic here...), but I could swim laps 'til the end of time! 

This is my body giving me very valuable information, and I've learned to listen to it. 

If you feel similarly about a certain kind of exercise, know that maybe someday you'll get to a point where it feels energizing & healthy. But for the time being, if that day is not today, "find what feels good" (my favorite slogan & daily mantra--wish I came up with it!) and trust that your body knows best. 

EMBRACE SPRING CLEANING

There's a reason for our cultural phrase "Spring Cleaning." When I was growing up, I remember my parents opening up the windows in the Spring, airing out the house (bringing the air element into our homes, especially after stuffy, dry, cold Winter, can be very energizing), going through old dusty closets, donating clothes and furniture and items that were no longer serving us, and cleaning out the garage & cars. 

I'm sure you've experienced similar things. Let's embrace this oddly collective, intuitive societal cleaning energy. How many of you have noticed that whether or not you made your bed in the morning can effect your whole day? That when your tub is dirty, you don't feel clean when you bathe? That when your food is getting buried & lost in your fridge, you feel less inspired to cook (so you don't)? That when your house is untidy and messy and dusty, you can't be productive? 

There's a reason that in Zen monasteries, monks start out by cleaning. 

I totally believe that our physical living space is a representation of our mental living space. The next time you're doing your house chores, realize that you're also cleaning out the cobwebs of your mind. 

Don't be surprised to find yourself more energized, more clear-headed, and more productive once your space is clean. And if you find cleaning to be tedious and near-unbearable, throw on an inspiring Podcast, audiobook, or some groovin' tunes like this guy!

TAKE STOCK

Spring is a great time to take stock, evaluate & reevaluate aspects of our lives, and begin to implement change. Sound daunting? Here are some journal prompts to help. For those of you who aren’t in tune with the glorious, insightful (free!) tool of journaling, take a leap of faith and try the following exercise. Journaling works best when you use a pen & paper, but if that is a turn-off, typing is certainly better than nothing!

Releasing Winter

1.   What aspect of Winter (think lethargic, sit-by-the-fire-and-read, cozy, comfort-food energy) am I sorry to see go?

2.   What aspect of Winter am I ready to say “au revoir” to?

Taking Stock

1.   Where in my life do I currently feel “stuck”? (hint: write about the first thing that came to mind)

2.   What’s the most important goal I'd like to prioritize for this season? (Can be work-related, personal, diet, lifestyle... anything! Again: usually the first thing that comes to mind is your answer!)

Embracing Spring

1.   How can I use the energy of Spring to solve the problem/goal above?

2.   What aspect[s] of Spring am I welcoming with open arms/really looking forward to?

 

In the comments below, share your favorite way of welcoming Spring, simple ways you cultivate mindfulness, or something new you're going to try! 

It's Time

It's been feeling like Spring in New England… Maybe this [faux?] change-of-season has inspired me, or maybe it's the dreams of babies (more later & NO mom, I'm not pregnant). Maybe it's the talk from an inspirational speaker I just watched, or maybe the Universe is just nudging me and saying "Hi Savannah… It's time." I just wrote the first song I've ever written in my life. It happened in a burst of frenzied inspiration, all just spilling out at once as portrayed in the overly romanticized stereotype of the creative process. (Don't worry fellow creators, I'm not counting on this method for the future, this creation was 100% a message… from: the universe; to: me). Title? "It's Time." Hello, serendipitous synchronicity. Hello, Universe… You have my attention! I'm listening.

I've been having the most vivid dreams. Dreams of babies and small children in need of love and attention. In my dream, a child appears and I immediately know that I need to nurture it and that I am the only one who can provide this. I wake up feeling confused. I thought these dreams were evolution/my biological clock/my hormones talking (or screaming, rather) PROCREATE FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF YOUR SPECIES!!! But alas, not so. While I was steeping in a hot & glorious bath (my best Zen thinking space), I realized that these recurring babies who needed love & attention & nurturing represent my dreams and aspirations and desires and passions that I have been ignoring.

Just as young green leaves start to burst above ground and the birds start to sing and the Earth starts to crawl with life, I feel this Spring of my life, I feel myself expanding into a new season (era?). There's peace in Spring, something so soothing and satisfying knowing that the bounty and beauty and joy of Summer is to come. There's also rain and mud in the Spring, and much work to be done for a bountiful Summer. Planting seeds, nurturing them, protecting them from unexpected frosts… Spring is a time of work and hope. Of dreams and action. In Spring, everything starts to awaken.

It's time to wake up in our own lives and feed the babies that are our deepest hopes and dreams. Here's to you and to me and to new beginnings, no matter the season/age/time.