7 Easy Ways to Take Care of Yourself 2021

It’s funny how people, in our quest to improve, and care for our quality of life, have taken for granted life itself, yeah?

Society made us think a good life means a fine house, a nice car, the ability to travel abroad, and fancy personal stuff. And so we chase good-paying jobs. Make-do with working 60 hours a week, answering emails first thing in the morning, sometimes even skipping breakfast. You’re busy reaching your goals, I get that! But wait, isn’t your ultimate goal living a good life? So I guess, zero in on that question first.

When we start with the thinking that the road to a full and well-lived life for yourself and for the people you love should always be back-breakingly hard, then taking care of yourself along the way would really seem inexcusable, unaffordable luxury, and even selfish. But you don’t realize that if you don’t, it won’t be long before you’re battered from exhaustion and operating in a brain fog where it’s hard to care about anything or anyone anymore. 


Self-care is an actionable expression of self-love. Taking care of oneself is a duty but one that usually gives you a feeling of enjoyment. ALWAYS CHOOSE THE BEST FEELING PATH. And as I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, self-care isn’t just about a one-time trip to the massage therapist or vacation—like another chore to tick off from your list. Rather, it must consistently build on small habits and steps to create a sturdier, happier version of yourself.

Care

Remember, start small. But start decisively. 

So here’s a guide for a 7-Day Self-Care Challenge that I urge you to embark on:

  • Find what makes you feel centered. 

Close your eyes and imagine all the things that bring you joy, comfort, and spark. Write them down. List down as many things as you can think of, whether it’s the soft, silky texture, the color turquoise, feeling of a back rub, blooming flowers, a fruit shake, or certain smells.

  • Brainstorm how you can incorporate those things into your daily life.

Self-care practices can be done in the background (such as splurging in that scent of essential oil that you like) or could take up a more prominent space in your daily routine (like trying out my winter yoga flow). Starting small will make the habit easier to get into.

If you haven’t established a routine, better to draw one for yourself (read more about this in my previous blog). Routines are a great deal of help in making sure you are able to watch out for your own wellbeing. Pick a small habit/practice to add to your morning and evening routines. Add in a new one every day or every other day. Then pick two bigger habits to add for the following week.

  • Feel what you’re feeling. Write down what you feel after adding each new stuff to your routine. Small notes will do. Ask yourself, does my body feel better? Am I able to forget my pending job tasks for at least 15 minutes? Did I find myself smiling after doing something for myself today?
  • After seven days, evaluate. At the end of the week, reflect on how you’re feeling and note any positive benefits.
  • Adjust and tweak your Self-Care Routine as you go.

Do more of those that make you feel good, rejuvenated, and peaceful. Don’t give up at once those that feel a bit off. Try again. If it doesn’t really work out, tweak it a bit. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula here. And a habit that makes you feel good now may not make you feel the same at another time.

You can add the following nuggets of self-care ideas to your routine—

DAY 1 —  Small: Take a 10-minute walk outside every after an hour or two in front of the computer. Omit caffeine from your afternoon snack.

DAY 2 — Big: Try a 15-minute sun salutation flow in the morning. Small: Make one small change to your diet for the week (add one more green or fruit to your plate). Spruce your bedroom with mint and lavender scents (or anything that soothes you).

DAY 3 — Small: This time, when you take a walk outside, sit on the grass and go cloud-watching for a couple of minutes. Punctuate your day with a mini-meditation or a gratitude minute.

DAY 4 — Big: Edit your social media feeds, and ‘mute’ negative people. Small: Put your gadgets somewhere you are not able to reach when you’re lying in bed. Make a small connection—say hi or ask your neighbor or the grocery cashier how they are.

DAY 5 — Small: Lie in bed 30 minutes earlier than your usual sleeping time. Read a book to your toddler (or a couple of pages to yourself with a scent on and be surprised to find yourself dozing off!).

DAY 6 — Small: Activate your self-soothing system (stroke your own arm or comb your hair longer than usual). Replace a portion of your carbs with more vegetables or fruits

DAY 7 — Big: Extend your Sun Salutations to a 30-minute flow. Take a home spa—have a long bath or shower, sit around in your bathrobe, and read something. Small: Call a friend or loved one and tell how your week has been.

You can try these in a cumulative manner and you’ll be surprised to realize that self-care doesn’t have to be a burden. It should actually make you feel that ‘it’s the most natural thing to do’!

Soon enough, your well-being becomes reintegrated into your ‘living’. Self-caring becomes part of YOU. Because more self-care equals more self-awareness, which equals more self-love. And this love will ripple out onto others you interact with every day in the form of compassion, gratitude, and deeper kindness.

Ayurvedic Self-Massage: Your Ultimate Self-Care Practice

Self-Massage and Ayurveda

Massage has been proven to offer so many benefits. But self-massage has one more uniquely important thing to offer: a moment to deeply connect to the self.

Self-massage is deeply healing. But by adding up a breathing practice and use of medicinal oils, we take the benefits of this ancient practice to the next level. This practice of self-massage is based on the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga.

The Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” In Ayurveda, the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is experiencing love, giving the self a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Something so important in times of being alone, in isolation, or when you are on a journey of self-discovery.

Rubbing oil all over your body brings you on a journey around and towards yourself. You become more familiar with your every curve and crevice creating a feeling of grounding and settling. And the more you do it regularly, the more cohesive and synced you become with all the layers of yourself.

Getting the Best out of Self-Massage

According to Ayurveda, Abhyanga should be an integral part of our daily routine to promote overall health and well-being. This unique practice uses medicated oils for the whole body to help remove accumulated stress and toxins in the mind and body, increase circulation to the nerve endings and energize your body, mind, and spirit to get through a busy day. It increases mental alertness, tones muscles, and lubricates the joints.

But probably the most important benefit from Abhyanga is the stimulation of the lymphatic system. As we know, lymph helps develop antibodies that are important for the immune system. By rubbing the joints in a circular motion, circulation is enhanced prompting the secretion of fluid from the lymph nodes. This causes more protein, glucose, minerals, oxygen, and antibodies involved with the lymphatic system, to circulate in the blood.

Self-Massage
Self-Massage

Other benefits of self-massage in Ayurveda include:

  1. Assists in the elimination of impurities from the body
  2. Stimulates the internal organs of the body
  3. Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  4. Nourishes the entire body and decreasing the effects of aging
  5. Calms the nerves
  6. Lubricates the joints
  7. Enhances vision
  8. Benefits sleep—better, deeper sleep
  9. Promote healthy hair (scalp) growth
  10. Softens and smoothes the skin
  11. Increases stamina
  12. Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha.

At Your Own Pace and Space

What’s even more encouraging with Ayurvedic self-massage is its convenience. Imagine getting all those benefits at your whim and at the comfort of your own home. It’s quick and easy to do. You can decide to start out at once a week, twice a week until you can do it more frequently, even every day!

A daily Abyanga practice restores the balance of the doshas and enhances well-being and longevity.

With Ayurvedic self-massage, you’ll literally have your ultimate self-care, self-love tool right at your fingertips!

What does it mean to practice self-care?

Adulthood is overrated. The length of effects and stress brought about by the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of adulthood is underestimated. Workload, deadlines, work at home, family relationship, financial responsibilities—the list could go on and on. When you factor in social activities and what social media tells you to consume, you will relish the opportunity to trade places with that baby who has nothing to worry about. But that’s next to impossible. 

Especially these days. We wake up each day not knowing exactly what to expect. There’s good news and bad news and we are all on an emotional roller coaster ride. Our bodies and brains are adversely affected by stress, fear, and anxiety. And chronic stress can create long-term health issues.

But of course, there’s a way to be at peace with yourself and the world we are in—embrace the numerous responsibilities but focus on what is essential. And this includes self-care. Yes, self-care, believe it or not!

 

So, what really is self-care?

More formally, self-care is “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” It is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that we can’t eliminate.

Self-care is a general term that describes everything you do deliberately for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. By that, many of us overlook this very important ‘responsibility’. And this is why ‘deliberately’ is one of the most important words in the definition. We need to be conscious of our well-being before we can achieve true self-care.

It can start from very simple acts or habits, like not checking emails at night when you know it would affect your sleep or bigger things like going for a vacation or booking a massage.

self-care
self-care


And why is it important?

Is it true that self-care borders to being selfish? Hmmm, well what’s so wrong about pleasing yourself (as long as you don’t undermine anyone in the process)? So, that’s a big NO. This is not about doing something at the expense of the other. But in fact, it is about doing something to enable you to actually do more of the other. When we pay attention to our well-being, we are not considering our needs alone. We are reinvigorating ourselves so that we can be the best version of ourselves for the people around us. Like a mother finding the time to rest the body and mind or do an evening self-care routine so she will have a richer self to take care of her child.

Self-care encourages us to maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves so that we can transmit the positive energy created on to others. 

How to practice it?

But self-care isn’t just about a one-time trip to the massage therapist or vacation. It is best practiced with consistency. Like a small evening routine to make you feel rested when you wake up and face another day. You can also add a few bigger steps during the weekend or every other week or so. The key here is not waiting for yourself to reach body and mind fatigue before doing something but regularly and consistently unloading the negatives to make space for the positive. To consistently build on small habits and steps to create a sturdier, happier version of yourself.

 

What’s the best way to do that?

There is a lot of stuff online that could give you ideas. And it’s always more fun to find someone or a buddy to do those things together. But always choose the best feeling path. What motivates you and inspires you is different than the person next door. So look for the things that make you feel alive.

At the end of it all, every creature on Earth, including us, human beings, have limitations. And self-care is simply about reminding us to recognize and respect those boundaries while living our best lives.

 

COVID, Science and Sleep

Ana Rakovac, a friend, colleague, and student of Alex is a medical doctor herself who worked in paramedics and emergency medicine, in ICU, and a lot of other different fields within. Her professional journey brought her to study, do research and specialize in internal medicine and endocrinology, and chemical pathology. A lot of the turns throughout her career were brought by circumstances but also by her understanding that diseases have to be approached holistically. To Ana, medicine is about the whole picture.

And this podcast is all about that.

Coming from a respectable and deep scientific background herself, Ana opens up with Alexandra an important conversation about complementing and supporting efforts of different sciences or frames in looking at our health. Especially in this era welcomed by a pandemic.

Here, Ana looks back at her first dive into Alexandra’s ‘world’ of yoga and Ayurveda. Again, it was circumstantial: struggling to keep an ‘eat less, move more’ lifestyle amid the lockdowns and limitations brought by Covid.

The pandemic has affected work completely, especially those like Ana. But to her, it was momentous as the medical community is witnessing something unique; something so huge unfolding for the first time. Scientifically, it was exciting but also very scary. Until she ended up contracting it and got an inner view.

And this moment made her realize and appreciate more the habits Ayurveda has brought in and how one science supports the others. What she learned in the language and lens of Ayurveda are very much the same in her practice, say in endocrinology, which is about balance and finding out which are inappropriately normal. Ana’s medicine and Ayurveda are not enemies.

She realized that what Alex and Ayurveda are teaching her are observational lifestyle interventions that were 5000 years old and are aligned with what she teaches to her patients in her diabetes clinic. It’s all about concepts. And the small things, like rest or sleep, that actually matter and completes the picture

To Ana, it’s high time we wake up to the necessity of observing and respecting the interplay between our own rhythms and the rhythms of the planet and keep being healthy for as long as we can. It’s been so much that we keep healthy in order to be pretty, to be productive, or achieve some other goal. But how about learning to keep healthy to be happy?

Links mention in the podcast

Reawaken your body

Podcast Highlights

  • The Ujjayi breathing exercise I learned from Alex was really instrumental at the peak of my disease. Yoga and anatomy taught us that most of the lung is towards our back. So when you’re on your belly, you use more of your lungs and in Ujjayi breathing, you learn to breathe with your diaphragm. – Ana Rakovac
  • Ayurveda is an observational medicine. Same as the medicine that I practice. It is how we interpret what is causing these observations that differs. – Ana Rakovac
  • What we do not get taught in med school is habit formation. There is this overemphasis on knowledge and not enough emphasis on how to bring the knowledge into practice. – Ana Rakovac
  • This whole one-track thinking of productivity and efficiency being above everything disregards the cyclical way that humans are. We need rest. We need to sleep.  – Ana Rakovac
  • We have to stop fighting each other or pointing fingers, but join hands to teach people how to be healthy. – Alexandra Kreis

Ana RakovacGuest Bio

Ana Rakovac is a medical doctor who worked in paramedics and emergency medicine in the field during the Serbia and Croatia conflict, worked in ICU, and a lot of other different fields in medicine. Her professional journey brought her to study, do research and specialize in internal medicine and endocrinology, and chemical pathology. She runs a laboratory for diagnosis and research and a diabetes clinic.

 

Self-care : The biggest secret

[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px”][vc_column_text]A new series on Netflix which shows the applied knowledge of Marie Kondo on clearing our living spaces is yet one more acknowledgement that our lives have become cluttered.  From smartphones to social media, to detox diets and beyond, many of us are drowning in a deluge of products and trends that compete for our attention.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px”][vc_column_text]It seems that we are under constant pressure to improve ourselves, our lives and the way we live through yet more and more wellness products. I recently read in an article in the NY Times about procrastination, “It’s almost like you have this moral imperative — if you’re not trying to improve, you’re failing at some level.”

So, how can we cut out the noise and instead, sink that one step deeper into our own innate wisdom, a step that will bring deep healing rather than simply racing to keep up with each and every new ‘wellness’ trend?

By taking care of ourselves and cultivating a healthier mind and body, we are better able to enjoy life more fully. Our relationships with others also benefit, we become clearer about the things that we love and our own personal ‘calling’ (dharma) is revealed.

Let me be clear: spirituality and wellness are not the same things. The promises described above can only result from following a spiritual path. Although tempting, a wellness path means to remove only the stalk from the root of the malaise. It can only provide some temporary relief.

Most of us are familiar with various ‘wellness’ treatments on the market, eg Ayurvedic massage, a gym-based yoga membership or perhaps an Ayurvedic bath with more chemicals than can be digested. Too often, these simply serve to alleviate the symptoms in the short-term but don’t provide any real substantial healing.

It is true that we all have to start somewhere. And certainly, those free yoga classes, easy gym memberships and other wellness products can be a first step in the right direction. At the same time, it is important to be wary of the whole marketing-led wellness industry. For more inspiration on this, see Dana G’s latest article ‘The self-care paradox‘. True healing asks us to cut out the noise for real.

My teacher would often say, ‘We tend to overrate the mind and intellect. While they have a place in our lives we give them far more credit then they deserve.’ In my own teaching, I often advise students to beware the monkey mind.

After more than 2 decades of practising Hatha yoga, I can confirm that it is a path that teaches one gently to turn inwards, with no short cuts or self-deception. It curtails over-dependence on the everyday mind and intellect by asking that we open to the wisdom of the body and all its layers /shadows.

What do I mean when I speak of those layers/shadows?

In both Yoga and Ayurveda, a person is viewed as having different layers through which we act.

There are five of these layers:

  • the physical body,
  • the energetic body,
  • the mental body (lower mind),
  • the intellectual/ intuitive body (higher mind)
  • and the bliss body.

In Sanskrit, these are known as the Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.

In the modern world, we have achieved much through psychology by becoming more willing to listen to the body and to the emotions.  However, this approach only just scratches the surface.

To access our intuition (Vijnanamaya Kosha), it is essential that we develop self-trust and -love and a way of quietening the mind so that we can hear the inner voice.

It is only when those five layers are balanced and can communicate with each other that our inner wisdom can be revealed. The answers that then come from deep within mean that we no longer feel the need to chase after the latest new wellness fad. This is true healing (to be ‘made whole’).

 

What practical steps can we take to embark on our path into wisdom?

 

  1. Spend time each day noticing what the eyes are seeing, the hands are feeling, the skin is touching. Our senses connect us to the world. To spend even a few moments each day being clear of what we are tasting, touching, hearing and smelling is a way of noticing how we perceive the world.
  2. When making a decision, step back for a moment out of the rational mind and take time to slow down, breathe or even better, practise some yoga and then ask yourself what solution is needed to move forward with ease.
  3. Notice the effects on relationships with other people after your practice – what kind of answers or actions are coming up.
  4. Be clear about where you want to go and establish a goal.

 

If you want to deepen and connect your sense of intuition, you can get a taste when immersing yourself in a retreat. Maybe you even feel like coming to Greece with me.

Have a look to find more about The Greek Escape Yoga Retreat and make yourself a gift.

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