We all experience stress in life. It is a fast pace world and it often feels like daily crises are occurring at any moment. So, how do we manage our busy lives and avoid burnout, emotional fatigue, or becoming generally unwell?
We often believe that self-care will require too much effort, too much time, or too much energy to put to practice. We become determined to plow through without the interruptions of self-care practices. However, finding caring and replenishing ways to ‘interrupt’ our stress filled days is exactly what we all need, and it only has to take a few minutes!
Two great tools for fostering self-care into our daily lives include yoga and essential oils. Many forms of yoga allow us to ground, center, and relax our bodies and mind; while essential oils can foster balance and rejuvenation mentally and physically.
There are many kinds of yoga and yoga does not need to be an impossible or all consuming practice. The yoga I practice and teach is called Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini yoga is a meditative, restorative, and transformative form of yoga. Through such restorative practices you can transform stress into peace, tension into ease, and hardships into strength. As we are learning more and more, about the mind-body connection we are coming to understand just how influential our physical health is on our mental health, and just how much our mental health can influence our physical health. Yoga offers tools to rebalance both the body and mind through breathing, movement, and meditation. Here is how breathing, movement, and meditation can help you with daily self-care!
- Breathing – Forward Breathing
Many people are what is often referred to as ‘backwards breathers.’ This means when they breathe-in they suck their bellies in and when they breathe-out they poke their bellies out. To breath properly we are meant to deeply breathe into the belly, letting the belly expand with air (like a balloon filling with oxygen), and then breathe-out, letting our belly buttons come in towards the spine (as we allow the muscles to push the air out). To practice this spend 3 minutes breathing in for a count of 5 (with your hand placed on your stomach, your hand should move forward as the stomach expands with air), hold your breath in for a count of 5, breathe-out for a count of 5 (allowing your hand to move in towards the spine as the air is pushed out of the body), then hold the air out for another count of 5, and repeat.
Breathing in this manner allows your heart rate to lower and synchronize, calms the nervous system, brings oxygen into the brain, can lower blood pressure and sugar levels, and it can foster a feeling of calm and focus.
- Movement – Stretching and Flexing the Spine
Many have said that a healthy and flexible spine is central to our youthfulness and vitality. The movements in yoga help to stimulate specific muscles of the body, increase circulation, and helps to remove mental and physical blocks. A stretch that is great for keeping the spine flexible, the muscles around the spine loosened, and circulation going is a stretch called ‘cat cow.’ This can be done sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting on your heels, sitting in a chair, and/or resting on your hands and knees. If seated you can hold your ankles, shins, or knees as you flex the spine forward and back (bringing the heart forward and up, and then letting the heart roll towards the space behind you; while keeping your base planted firmly to the ground and letting the shoulders straighten and roll forward). These different variations can stretch various areas of the back, so feel free to practice 3 or more variations at one sitting. Each exercise can be practiced for 1-3 minutes at a time. This is a great way to get some movement going in the back, spine, chest, and shoulders. These areas are often tight due to posture and lifestyle. They will greatly benefit from regular breaks and movement.
Through meditation one is able to foster new and healthy patterns, develop a clear and neutral mind, and develop a deeper intuition. It often feels very challenging to begin a meditation practice but a great way to begin is to tune in to the rhythm of our own heartbeats. To start find a comfortable seat and then either place two fingers on your left wrist or on your neck, finding your pulse. With each heartbeat you can mentally repeat the word ‘Sat’ ‘Nam’ (yogic words meaning true self), ‘True’ ‘Self,’ or feel free to choose your own two words. Close your eyes if you are comfortable and for 3 minutes simply feel your heartbeat and repeat your two words to the rhythm of your heartbeat. Often a practice such as this can help us become more present, foster a connection within ourselves and to the world at large, and allows us to observe and respond to our experiences, rather than becoming reactive.
picture credit: Becky Jacobson
As for essential oils, these are the oils found in the bark, stems, fruit, or leaves of plants. These oils help to sustain the plants’ health and longevity and, when extracted correctly, these oils can provide the same healing properties to people. Additionally, smell is the one sent directly linked to the olfactory system (where emotions and memories are stored and produced) and so essential oils can have positive effects on our mood when used aromatically. In using essential oils, not all oils are created equally and so I stick to using doTERRA therapeutic grade essential oils, to ensure I (and my clients) receive the most effective results from using the oils. There are three ways to use doTERRA essential oils: topically, aromatically, and internally (this is unique to the oils produced by doTERRA). Here is more information on how oils can help with our daily self-care!
- Topically – Lavender
When used topically oils are placed directly on the skin. This may include the bottom of the feet (where oils are quickly absorbed into the blood stream), the temples, or directly on areas needing remedy. For some oils it is recommended to dilute the essential oil using fractionated coconut oil or almond oil, particularly if you have sensitive skin. To learn more about this please feel free to email. Lavender essential oil is an oil that many apply directly on the skin. As well as an emotionally soothing effect, lavender also has a soothing effect for the skin. When placed on areas effected by a burn, bug bite, or cut lavender has shown to help the body soothed and heal itself. Lavender can also be placed on the temples to help us to feel more calm and relaxed. Lavender is a great oil to carry with you for times when you may need to relax the mind or soothe the skin.
- Aromatically – Wild Orange
To enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils you can us an oil diffuser or place a few drops in your hand and cup your hands over your nose as you inhale and exhale. For both an uplifting and relaxing effect many turn to the oil wild orange. Wild orange essential oil can help the mind return to a state of equilibrium, if stressed the oils will relax the mind or if fatigued wild orange brighten the mood. Wild orange is a great mood booster to have on hand throughout a busy day.
- Internally – Peppermint
Using essential oils internally is unique the essential oils produced by doTERRA, as they have ensured that these oils are up to the food grade standards. Putting peppermint in your water bottle, preferably a glace water bottle, can add freshness to your water (helping you enjoy staying hydrated throughout your day), it can help with nausea or an upset stomach, it can give you a mid-day energy boost, and it can bring some coolness on a hot summer’s day. One drop of peppermint oil is equivalent in potency to 26 cups of peppermint tea!
No matter what you decide works best for you there are many ways to take ‘mini-self-care’ breaks throughout your day. Whether you stop for a moment to practice deep breathing or meditation, or to inhale some calming or energizing essential oils these mini-breaks can make the difference between thriving and surviving. May you enjoy your self-care daily interruptions!
Becky is presenting today at the THE HEART IS A MUSCLE: TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACHES TO SEXUAL & INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE MAY 4-5, 2016 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. For Information on upcoming training, check our Training Institute for what is coming up next.
Becky Jacobson graduated from The George Washington University, with a Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling. She has experience working with adults, teens, and children. She has provided art therapy to hospice patients and their families; provided bereavement support; worked within several behavioral health programs; and worked with at risk youth. She offers individual, family, and group art therapy at Mind-Body Art Essentials, LLC, and provides art therapy based workshops throughout Richmond, VA. Becky truly believes in the power of art therapy, and in the innate power of creative expression and healing. You can contact Becky via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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