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The Art of Self Care

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

What does it really mean to “care for oneself”? How do you go about developing a good routine of “self care”?

Self care is a daily discipline of abundantly caring for yourself. Each day… every day… You commit and adhere to rituals that are good for you and that nourish and strengthen your body, mind, and spirit.

Self care is not the “exception”. It is not the “treat”. It is not buying an expensive shampoo. It is not making the appointment for an indulgent spa day. It is not completing a particularly tough gym workout. Those things may be gratifying, fun and enjoyable, but they are not part of a self care practice.

What is your current morning routine? Nightly bedtime routine? Are you willing to make adjustments to your morning and evening, creating rituals to stay healthy and maintain balance? This article outlines some suggested rituals that you may choose to integrate into your daily routine. Bottomline, find a routine and series of self care rituals that work for you in your daily life. Integrate rituals that you find to be realistic and approachable for you.

Morning Rituals

Wake before the sun. The first suggested morning ritual is to adjust your wake-up time to just before the sun – between 6 and 6:30am. If you went to bed the night before and were asleep by 10pm, your body will naturally begin to awaken just before the sun rises. If not, you may begin to change your nightly routine so your morning routine can begin with a pre-sunrise awakening.

Can you awaken without an alarm? Once you have ingrained self care practices you may find it very easy to eliminate the alarm clock and enjoy the feeling of natural awakening.

Once awake, luxuriate in those few minutes between sleep and full awareness. Before you actually “get up” and arise from bed, add two rituals:

1) Become aware of your first breath of the morning. Feel the inhalation, the pause, the exhalation and the pause.

2) Stretch in bed. Extend your legs. Flex and point your feet. Circle your ankles. Extend your arms overhead. Stretch like a banana to the left and right.

Oil Pulling. Ayurvedic oil pulling is known as “kavala” or “gundusha” in ancient texts. Oil pulling supports oral hygiene – healthy teach and gums - by removing bacteria from the mouth. Our mouths have over 600 bacteria in the teeth, tongue, and cheeks, some of which are healthy and some of which cause problems such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and strep throat. When practicing oil pulling, the bacteria are attracted to the oil, and pulled from the oral tissue by adhering to the fat molecules of the oil. The bacteria is removed when you spit out the oil.

How to do Oil Pulling. Oil pulling should be performed in the morning, upon rising, on an empty stomach.

1) Place 1 tablespoon of oil in the mouth (sesame oil or coconut oil are most frequently recommended)

2) Swish the oil in the mouth, moving it around both sides, in front of and through the teeth. Continue swishing for about 10-15 minutes. When you first start, you may only be able to swish for 1-2 minutes. Progress in duration as you feel comfortable and become used to the oil pulling ritual. Do not swallow the oil.

3) When you are finished, spit the oil out into a paper towel or tissue and dispose of in the trash. (Do not spit into a sink or toilet – it can cause clogs).

4) When you spit the oil out, you will see it has become thin and whitish in color.

5) Finally, rinse the mouth with warm water.

Neti and Nasya. Neti is the practice of irrigating your nasal passages with warm salt water. Always make sure you use water that has been boiled and then cooled so you do not scald your nasal passages. I test the temperature by pouring a bit of the water on the inside of my wrist. When it is a comfortable temperature on the inside of your wrist, it is a safe temperature for the nostril.

After you complete Neti, perform Nasya by dipping a QTip, or your pinky finger, in warm sesame oil and swirl it inside both nostrils.

The First Sip. Adjust your morning routine so your first beverage is a cup of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice. It alkalizes the stomach and helps with elimination. If you are a coffee drinker, delay that first cup of coffee and enjoy it with breakfast.

Abhyanga Self Massage and Bathing. Abhyanga or daily oil massage helps to balance the nervous system, decongest the lymphatic system and promotes flexibility in the tissues and joints. Your skin is the largest organ of the body, daily oil massage helps with hydration and softness of the skin. The ideal oil to use is Sesame Oil. There are a few different ways to perform Abhyanga. I have two different approaches, depending upon how much time I have in the morning.

Plan A

1) Massage the head. Apply oil to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Massage the scalp vigorously, using the open part of your hand rather than the fingertips.

2) Face and ears. Massage the outer part of your ears, particularly the ear lobes. For the face, massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws – always moving in an upward movement. Depending on your skin care regime you may not feel comfortable putting sesame oil on your face. If so, still do the massage, just do not have oil on your hands when you do so.

3) Neck. Massage both the front and back of the neck and upper part of the spine.

4) For the arms and legs, use long strokes in the direction of the heart. For the elbows and knees, use a circular stroke.

5) Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine, moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across then down on the left side.

6) Back and spine. Massage the back and spine as best you can.

7) Feet. Finish by massaging your feet. Use the open part of your hand to massage vigorously back and forth over the soles of the feet.

8) While the oil is absorbing, complete your morning movement routine (Yoga, walking, running, in my case I walk the dog)

9) Shower after your morning movement routine. When showering, only use a mild soap on the "strategic" areas. Do not vigorously soap and rub the body. For your hair, consider eliminating the every day application of shampoo. I only add shampoo to my hair every third day.

10) When you get out of the bath towel dry gently or air dry the body.

Plan B

1) Shower first: use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas. I use a sea salt scrub on my limbs, and only shampoo the hair every third day.

2) When finished showering, and skin is still wet. Apply oil to body, starting at the feet and working up to the head. I usually will not oil my scalp on these days.

2) Air dry the body and allow oil to absorb.

Make your bed. One of the easiest “success habits” is that of making your bed in the morning. Many people have written on this topic, so there is no need to belabor the point. I would only add – one reason I like making the bed is because it makes going to bed the following night much more pleasant. Who does not love tucking into a neat bed with crisp, smooth sheets and fluffed pillows? Enough said. Make the bed.

Breakfast. Enjoy the breakfast of your choice, whether that is a smoothie, eggs, toast, oatmeal. The self care ritual that should be added is eating mindfully. What does “eating mindfully” mean? Focus on your food. Do not eat while reading your email or watching the news. Slow down your eating. Savor each bite. Chew each bite 35 times. Enjoy the flavors and nuances of the meal and the nourishment you are giving your body.

During the Day

Set aside time for yourself. Find 30 minutes during the day to nap or meditate. Find 30 minutes to move and exercise. Walk, run, do yoga.

Be conscious of your mental outlook. Negative thoughts, negative self-talk and personal criticism are all draining. Be aware of those thoughts and feelings if they surface during the day. Acknowledge they have entered your consciousness. Make a choice to let them go. Do not dwell on them, do not give them more time than they are worth. Replace them with a positive thought, positive movement, or even a change your immediate physical situation. Go for walk. Go outside. Prepare a cup of warm water with lemon. Oil your hands and massage your fingers and cuticles. Bottomline, be mindful. Chose a new activity that is soothing, relaxing, and fortifying to support your effort to redirect your mental outlook.

Hold the Ice! Cold beverages extinguish or work against your digestive fire. Consider eliminating all iced and cold beverages from your diet. Consume only warm or room temperature beverages throughout the day.

Bedtime Rituals

Personal care. Wash your face, remove makeup. Complete oral care.

Put your phone to bed. If your phone, iPad, or laptop chargers are located in your bedroom, move them to another room in the house. Before bed, say good night to your electronics. Plug them into their respective chargers and leave them until morning.

Bed props. Keep those things you require for sleep near the bed. Sleep mask. Ear plugs. Bolster for under the knees. Have everything ready.

Tuck in. Darken the room and tuck in so you are asleep by 10 pm.

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