We all know it’s important to take care of ourselves, but how many of us do it? Working long hours, taking care of a family, and just living life can take a toll on your body and mind. It’s hard to take care of yourself with a schedule that leaves you in total exhaustion at the end of the day. Besides, shouldn’t men be able to handle a full workload without pampering themselves like women?
Self-care is not just for women. The point is to keep yourself in shape physically and emotionally however that works for you. For many, self-care includes hot tubs, saunas, and massages. For others, it’s yoga and meditation. Whatever your ideal self-care routine is, it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Maybe you’ve walked by the local yoga studio and saw people in poses that would make a pretzel jealous. Perhaps you’ve read articles online that suggest eating birdseed to maintain a healthy weight. If that’s what it takes to stay healthy, forget it!
While complex yoga poses do have benefits, you have other options. You don’t need to starve yourself, either. Simplicity is the key. Here’s how I did it:
I started breathing deeply and fully.
I never realized how bad my breathing habits were until I learned deep breathing. Breathing deeply from the bottom of my abdomen, rather than the chest, brings waves of relaxation over me in just a few minutes. When I do this before bed, I fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply. The stress I’ve collected from the day just melts away.
It sounds too simple to get high levels of relaxation from breathing, but there’s more than meets the eye. Abdominal breathing, as opposed to chest breathing, provides your lungs with more oxygen and slows your heart rate. It’s a tool you can use anytime and will work even in the midst of an anxiety attack. “Taking slow, deep breaths [sic] creates a “relaxation response” that calms the mind and body,” says Sarah Kinsinger, Ph.D. “Abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, is one of the easiest, most effective ways to reduce muscle tension and stop the fight-or-flight response.”
For many, that fight-or-flight response is constantly triggered, especially for those who suffer from PTSD or anxiety disorders.
I learned proper hand posture for breathing.
While searching YouTube for deep breathing techniques, including various forms of pranayama, I came across a man who suggested something simple, yet profound. First, he said to sit in a chair and place your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. Take a couple of slow, deep, abdominal breaths. Notice the depth of your breath. Next, he said to flip your hands over so your palms are facing down. Take a couple of slow, deep, abdominal breaths, and notice the depth of your breath. One position will give you a significantly deeper breath. Spoiler alert: it’s palms facing down.
I created a meditation routine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests meditation helps manage conditions like anxiety, asthma, chronic pain, depression, sleep problems, and even tension headaches.
When I began meditating, I didn’t have any physical conditions, but I was under extreme stress. As a result, I wasn’t sleeping well and experienced tension headaches from constantly clenching my shoulder muscles. I felt better after each session, but the best results were cumulative.
Don’t worry about meditating in a distraction-free environment.
The objective of meditation is to be present in the moment with whatever arises – including distractions. To isolate yourself in a quiet space feels good, but without external distractions, you won’t develop a deep ability to focus.
Say you’re meditating in your room and your roommate starts blasting their music. Don’t get up and tell them to turn off their music. Keep focusing inward, and the distracting music will eventually disappear. Soon, you’ll be able to meditate anywhere, anytime, regardless of your environment.
It takes practice to develop the ability to tune out your environment while meditating. It also takes practice to tune out your thoughts. You don’t accomplish either by resistance. You accomplish this ability by allowing distractions and thoughts to be as they are, and maintain your inward focus.
A quiet mind is the result of meditation.
You don’t quiet your mind to meditate. Meditation eventually quiets the mind. Part of meditating is observing distracting thoughts as they arise. Allow them to be. Watch them. Observe them. See them not as part of you, but as something happening that you’re observing. After a while, they’ll slow down and eventually stop.
It took me many months of daily practice to achieve a clear-minded state. Meditation is now my favorite aspect of my self-care routine.
What does self-care look like for you?
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