Ladies and gentleman, in case of emergency, an oxygen mask will drop from the compartment above your head. Pull down firmly on the mask to begin the flow of oxygen and be sure to put on your own mask before assisting children or other passengers.
After pulling another all-nighter, I woke up this afternoon to a message from a friend asking what time I was coming over. Actually, there were three messages from her, spread across the day.
Huh? There must be some confusion? I said next Wednesday. I know that because I’d worked out that I’d double-booked myself next Wednesday and had to see if I could meet the other person another day. Why would I have said this week? I’m promoting a movie screening like crazy and the deadline is so close and my youngest has been sick and it’s her birthday in two days and I have to organize food and a gift and I need to work out what my teenager can do so she’s not just sitting at a computer all day and all those dishes need washing before I can cook anything and aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!
As it turns out, I had said this Wednesday, but my brain had filed it against the wrong date.
Crap! I messed up. I let someone down. I hate being that person who doesn’t show when you’re expecting them to. What the hell happened to my memory? Why did my brain have to rewire during pregnancy to favour fast reflexes instead of the great memory I once had?
Sound familiar? As women trying to balance ALL the things – work, family, friends, household, ourselves – it’s often that last thing that falls to the bottom of the priority list. We’re so busy & so tired that we get by on the fumes of the coffee or tea that goes cold before we get to drink it or that snack that we packed in our bag for the kids the other day that they didn’t want or maybe that whole block of dark chocolate we stashed away where hopefully the kids wouldn’t find it. Ya feelin’ me? The great irony being that if we DO prioritise self-care more, we’re better able to manage everything else.
The thing is, I know this. I reckon you know it. We all do, but it’s easy to forget or justify why we don’t have time to nurture ourselves. It’s what landed me in hospital with sudden-onset convulsions two years ago, imagining the worst & wondering if I’d see my kids grow up. Broken sleep, poor appetite, hormonal imbalance, breastfeeding, underlying genetic issues, financial strain; all these things were causing stress to my body. I wasn’t feeling it psychologically because my brain was protecting itself, instead creating somatic symptoms as a sort of release valve. It was a huge wake-up call at the time and these days, I try to be more aware of the whispers before my body has to scream at me again. It’s time to go back to those things that will create a better sense of balance and calm. I wanted to share some tried & true tips for self-care that are as much a reminder to myself as they are my way of trying to help you so you don’t find yourself sick and burnt out.
When putting this post together, it kept getting longer and longer as I went over all the things I know are important and effective, and saw the irony as the clock marched on into the wee hours and I was nowhere near finishing. I also thought those of you who will benefit the most from the info are those of you with the least time to sit down and read a lengthy post, so I will post it in 2 parts, each with five tips.
1) Create a nurturing routine
In a case of perfect timing, a parcel arrived for me today that I’d been eagerly awaiting. A beautiful limited edition blend of organic essential oils called Nurture Me. As I looked at the bottle, I was reminded of Alice in Wonderland where she found the bottle on the table that said ‘Drink Me’. The temptation to do what the label said was overwhelming (not chug down the whole bottle, just the Nurture Me part). I opened the bottle and experienced an aroma that felt like a warm hug. Earthy, spicy, grounding.
When possible, set some time aside for a warm bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of your favourite essential oil mixed into a carrier, but when time is short, do what I did & have a hot shower to relax tight muscles in the shoulders, neck & back. After drying off gently with a towel, mix a few drops of Nurture Me into a carrier oil (I used jojoba) and rub that stuff all over yourself (except sensitive areas, because no one needs that sort of stress)! Imagine you are massaging a loved one, or they are massaging you. Tell each body part how much you appreciate it for everything it does for you. It might sound strange at first, but trust me, your body is listening to how you talk to it and will respond in kind. It only takes an extra minute, but is so worth it.
If you don’t already have one, get an ultrasonic oil diffuser and have some oil diffusing in the space you spend the most time, or in a quiet room where you can grab a bit of time to sit and breathe/meditate. You can even get plug-in diffusers for your car, or diffuser pads that clip onto the air vent. Just make sure the oil you use does not make you feel TOO relaxed whilst driving!
2) Fast Nourishment
When you’re running around, forgetting meals, getting by on insufficient sleep, it’s so much more tempting to reach for the coffee, energy drinks or fast food (or rather, food-like substances). On days like that, I like to make a drink with coconut water, superfood powder & some medicinal herbs. Coconut water contains electrolytes to hydrate the body, SunLove is a Naturopathic blend of 36 superfoods to boost energy, reduce oxidative stress and support adrenal function and Cosmic Calm is a blend of three adaptogenic herbs to again support adrenal function and help the body adapt to stress. I put the coconut water and the 2 powders in a shaker cup, screw the lid on, give it a shake & drink up. Just as quick as any of the aforementioned pick-me-ups without the resulting crash. If I feel like an extra boost, I’ll add in some other green powder, colloidal minerals, some probiotics and maybe a little more moringa. Being in liquid form, the nutrients are absorbed & utilised faster than they would be if you had to chew & breakdown the food first. It won’t replace a balanced diet, but it will give you a good hit of nutrients to help you through those times your diet is lacking.
If you’re not entirely ready to kick the caffeine habit, still have a green drink like that, but try something like a mushroom coffee that gives you some extra nutrients with less of the jittery feelings.
The other thing I like to do is make a batch of bliss balls to keep in the fridge. It only takes a few minutes and you can pack so much into a batch using dates and coconut as a base, then adding nuts, seeds, coconut oil, raw cacao powder, cacao nibs, superfood powders, collagen or plant-based protein powder, etc to taste. Grab a bliss ball instead of something full of refined sugar. They also double as a great afternoon snack for the kids, or something to put in their lunchbox if you leave out nuts or other things not allowed in many schools these days.
3) Gut health
The health of our gut plays a significant role in not only our immune system & physical health, but also how we feel mentally & emotionally. Around 80% of the serotonin in our bodies, correlated with feelings of calm, relaxation & happiness is in our gut, so it makes sense to nurture our microbiome. Eating a wide range of fibre-rich vegetables does the same for our microbes that compost does for our garden; it feeds the microbes that increase availability of nutrients. The bacteria in our gut synthesise a number of B-group vitamins which help to calm our nervous system to reduce that “tired & wired” feeling. Eating a spoonful of fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi with each meal is a great way of combining probiotics with the fibre they need to thrive.
As mentioned, I’ll often use a food-based probiotic in my green drink, or you can use a synbiotic powder that combines probiotics with prebiotics, which are the ‘microbe fertiliser’, to recolonise your gut with good bacteria much faster than taking probiotics alone. You can also get a brew of Kefir, Jun or Kombucha on the go for an endless supply of probiotics. You can even get Hemp Kombucha kits with all the ingredients & instructions you need to get started.
I can hear my chiropractor every time I think about this subject……”how’s your water intake been?” he asks, knowing full-well what the answer is by the way I look and how locked up my body is.
I don’t think I’m telling you anything new when I say the human body is around 70% water and it’s recommended you drink 2-3 litres a day (more when exercising, breastfeeding, sick, in hot climates, etc). You can get an estimated daily water requirement HERE. Water flushes away the waste from normal cellular function, keeps our skin supple, lubricates our joints and reduces joint pain, prevents muscle cramps, maintains healthy kidney function, regulates blood pressure and keeps the contents of our bowels soft so we can pass stools easily.
If we look just at the brain for a moment, it is around 80% water. If not properly hydrated, grey matter in the brain begins to shrink and if we become chronically dehydrated, the brain can begin to age prematurely (*takes a big swig of water*). Water, as cerebrospinal fluid, circulates through the brain via the glymphatic system (no, that’s not a typo), to flush away toxic metabolites and proteins that accumulate between brain cells. The activity of the glymphatic system increases nearly 10x while we sleep, with the brain cells contracting by 60% to allow the fluid to flush through more easily. This flushing maintains healthy brain function and reduces the risk of neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. Almost every neurodegenerative disease is associated with an accumulation of cellular waste products, so one of the best things you can do to help your brain function during the day and reduce that foggy feeling is to be well-hydrated before going to sleep and start the day with a large glass of water. Filtered/purified water is best. Imagine washing yourself in a clear, sparkling stream versus a muddy pool of stagnant water. That’s kinda how I visualise what’s going on inside the body. If your water supply is fluoridated, you’d do well to get a filter that removes fluoride as it can compete for with iodine for receptor sites in the thyroid & reduce thyroid function, leading to more sluggishness and brain fog.
We’ve already seen how important well-hydrated sleep is for maintaining a healthy brain. Another thing the brain does in the sleep state is to produce support cells that go on to produce myelin that insulates our neurons to ensure the proper transmission of electrical signals in the body. Memory & learning is also consolidated during sleep, so if you keep losing your keys, have no idea what day it is or people start calling you ‘Dory’, you probably need to look at improving your sleep habits.
Ideally, you should aim for being asleep by 9pm as the three hours between 9pm and midnight are the most restorative. As a lifelong nightowl, I realise how early that sounds, especially when you factor in that it’s best to avoid electronic devices at least a couple of hours before bed. Throw in the need to have some quiet time when everyone else is sleeping and yeah….still working on that balance.
Sleep has a significant impact on other body systems, too. A study by the CDC shows that both too little sleep (<6 hours) and too much sleep (>10 hours) is associated with higher incidences of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity & anxiety when compared to people getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Even one night of insufficient sleep can move you into a pre-diabetic state, so next time you are pondering whether to sleep or get some extra work done (or write a blog post about the importance of sleep), sleep is always the better option. As a bonus, getting quality sleep makes your skin look better.
You can see on this Chinese Body Clock chart where the energy of our body is most concentrated at certain times of the day based on circadian rhythms:
If you can plan your activities to line up with these times, you will be following the natural flow of your body and will feel better for it. There is a similar clock in Ayurvedic medicine, also.
If you have difficulty stopping that chattering ‘Monkey Mind’ that keeps you awake, you may like to try a guided meditation or some amazing sound healing recordings to bypass the conscious mind & clear the subconscious clutter that you’re holding on to.
On that note, it’s wayyyyyy past my bedtime and I have to fill up my water bottle. If you’d like five more things you can do to nurture your body & soul so you can live a more peaceful life, you can read Part 2 here.
Comment below with the things that help you to relax and recentre