What's in your toolbox?
I can hardly believe I’m writing a September newsletter because I feel like I just finished saying “Happy New Year” a few weeks ago. While much of this year has been uneventful for me, August was EPIC. On the first of August my son turned 26, and the following day we went full-speed into packing mode for our move to Arizona. On the 13th we arrived in our new apartment in Scottsdale (finally seeing the state and our new home for the first time), and that same evening our first monsoon greeted us with a vengeance. 48 hours later, my former husband passed away unexpectedly. The week after is a bit of a blur. Bouts of decorating and other settling-in activities were a welcome distraction amongst a lot of tears and emotional exhaustion. Where is the nearest grocery store? Where is the gas station? How do I let the Amazon driver in through the gate? Why can’t I find the three extra pairs of reading glasses I packed? Why is it more humid in the desert than it was living near the ocean? What are these BUGS?
Not surprisingly, many health studies rank three of life's most stressful events to be a death in the family, moving, and changing job responsibilities. But how about all three at once?
Luckily I’m not prone to anxiety, I enjoy change and exploring new places, and I have a “wellness toolbox” to help me manage stress. I have become acutely aware of just how resilient I have become over the past few years since finding yoga, and lately I have wondered many times if I could have handled all of this as well 10 years ago. My ability to cope is a result of daily habits I have adopted that down-regulate my nervous system, help me manage the quality of my thoughts and allow me to sleep well at night.
If big pieces of your life took a 180° turn tomorrow, whether by your choice or by fate, how equipped are you to cope? What resources could you draw from to support your emotional needs during really big changes? Would your physical health be working for you or against you (blood pressure, hormone balance including insulin, heart health, healthy bodyweight that is neither under- nor over-weight, etc.)? Who is in your support system?
My September challenge to you is to take a good look at your toolbox and add any pieces that you feel are missing.
Here are the practices that have given me the resiliency I have been able to rely on:
First thing every morning: drinking a full glass of filtered water. Dehydration (which often occurs overnight) impacts our ability to think clearly.
One cup of coffee. Caffeine isn’t for everyone but if it agrees with you, it’s great for mind focus.
Sunlight and fresh air early in the morning. Walking my dog is a good reason to keep this habit but even if you don’t have a dog to take out you can go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. If you’re tight on time in the morning open your windows or doors and take a few deep breaths of fresh air before you get ready for work.
Breath work and meditation. Breath work consists of a minute of conscious breathing, with my exhale slightly longer than my inhale (which is proven to reduce adrenaline response). Meditation is 5-15 minutes. On days when my mind is really busy I put in AirPods and listen to singing bowls on YouTube to help settle my mind and improve my vibrational frequency for meditation.
Energy check-in. I consciously notice if there are any places where I feel stuck energy in my body, either as a physical tightness or ‘ew’ feeling sitting inside me emotionally. Moving that energy can include more breath practice, more body movement, a good cry or journaling to get things moving again. Adding vibration (your voice or a vocal sound) and movement is how we offload emotions.
Somatic awareness (soma = body). I ask myself what kind of movement my body needs that day: a gentle stretch, an energetic yoga flow, a power walk or a weight training session. I listen to my body every time, even if it means ditching my pre-planned routine. Some days what I need is a nap instead of exercise and I honor that.
Nutrition. My goal is to have at least half of each meal be vegetables or fruits because they deliver more energy to our cells. Plants carry a measurable vibrational frequency of their own, which equals better physical health and better coping skills. Foods that are boxed, canned or frozen carry little to no energy.
Journaling. Always at the end of the day to remind myself of my successes from the day and keep me on-track with the vision I have written for my life, even when unplanned incidents show up.
Sleep and rest. I have been sleeping extra-long at night, some nights as much as 9.5 hours. Sleep is difficult to control - when we are stressed often our sleep cycle is the first thing to be disrupted because our body produces more adrenaline and cortisol as response to stress. I know that all of the other things I’m doing to support my emotional health have contributed to my being able to rest well right now because my mind is calm.
Other self-care habits that make me feel better, like wearing clothes I like and feel good in, and putting on makeup every day. When I feel good about my appearance I feel better mentally.
Staying connected to my family and friends who are remarkable sources of support and love.
There are days when our routines can seem unimportant or mundane - until something rocksour world and we realize that without all of these ingrained habits we could be headed for disaster. Think about these practices like you think about car insurance: you hope you never have to use it, but in a catastrophe you can’t imagine where you’d be without it.
None of us are guaranteed a stress-free or problem-free life but we can prepare ourselves for those challenges.There has never been a more important time to prioritize any and all habits that improve our physical, mental and emotional health in support of our immunity and coping skills.
Wishing you wellness and love,
In other news:
My book, Soul Fire - almost ready for publishing, turns out there was one last chapter to be added. Print and ebook options will be available. Watch for more updates.