Summer Self Care
“We teach best what we most need to learn.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
In a recent interview I was asked: “What do you believe people are missing most when it comes to a healthy lifestyle?” My response was: “Self-care and rest. Downtime. Doing things that make us feel good. Doing things that are restorative, recharge our batteries, and hit our reset buttons.”
Guess who needs to be reminded of this more than anyone else she knows? If you guessed ME, you were right. My work has always been about inspiring others to live better, happier lives in body, mind, and spirit. I can do that best by embodying and reflecting the principles I teach.
Every year for the past 4 years I’ve gone on a yoga retreat as a way to practice self-care. I joke that “my mom forces me,” which is my tongue-in-cheek way of saying that she is the one who first encouraged me to do it. And it is my mom who reminds me every year how important it is for me to plan another retreat. Of course, she’s right. The word retreat implies stepping back, going inwards, permitting ourselves to accept the gift of time out. I eagerly accept this essential gift as I aim to “hit the reset button,” recharge my spirit, learn and be inspired, connect with a like-minded community, and leave feeling refreshed, renewed, and rested. Most retreats encourage us to leave the outside world behind (as much as we can), step away from the stresses that drain our time and energy - to focus on doing less and being more.
This past July, I went to Maui – my particularly happy place – for a yoga retreat at a stunningly beautiful and lush retreat center on Maui’s North Shore. I was practicing yoga and meditation twice a day – both challenging and restorative – with a gifted and generous teacher whom I’ve known for many years. I met a group of like-minded women who were brilliant and accomplished, and we quickly bonded. I ate fresh, delicious, organic, and lovingly prepared food. I swam in the ocean and a salt-water pool.
And, let’s face it: I was in Maui. Sounds like an optimal environment to rest and recharge doesn’t it? It surely is. However, going away once a year for a short time and diving right back into a full workload the moment I return, diminishes my ability to utilize the full depth of benefits the retreat offered. Fortunately, I recognized this dilemma, questioned it, and was able to gain clarity and an answer: I need to follow my own guidance and practice more self-care. I also understand now that it takes time to synthesize and fully integrate the lessons and teachings, and benefit from the relaxation.
Such a meaningful experience takes time to seep into your consciousness and your senses. For me it was a wonderful and satisfying realization. In the future, I plan to go for a longer time and/or stay a few days following the retreat, on my own. Perhaps I will even go twice a year.
Being a passionate professional, business owner, and teacher (and workaholic), I take on enormous amounts of responsibility in an effort to grow personally and professionally. On occasions I struggle with getting enough rest, and resist being away from my devices. I often forgo enjoying some down time – or even a little pampering. And while I have a very rich and rewarding life with so many things to do, self-care can be neglected, as if it is an indulgence. Self-care is certainly not self-indulgent. The accepted mantra is that self-care is healthcare, which means nourishment for the body, mind, and spirit. We must actively participate in enhancing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and our overall quality of life.
How to do it? While self-care looks different for everyone, it can most often be quite simple. It may mean taking a walk outside, calling a friend, pausing to practice mindful breathing, going to a yoga class or even reading a book. For some getting up early for a workout is an act of self-care, and for others it’s taking a day of rest. The key: find practices that you genuinely enjoy and that fit with your life and values. Anything is good if it brings you a sense of well-being!
On my website, regarding my philosophy on wellness, I write: “I urge you to take time each day to engage in what I refer to as ‘The three R’s’: Restore, Reset, Recharge.” I explain that restful sleep restores vital energy, and that practicing mindfulness hits the reset button, bringing the mind and body to a state of calm. In order to recharge, we must recognize that we are social beings who need to establish community, cultivate relationships, and spend time with loved ones. Finally, I urge you to do things that you enjoy, that make you smile, laugh, and feel relaxed. In doing so, you can discover your optimal state of balance and well being.
Thus, I write these thoughts to fulfill my mission to help you experience the power of true health. I hope you will appreciate what I have learned – that we must practice self-care on a regular basis. That by doing too much for too long, physical energy and stamina suffer, and focus and mental acumen are diluted. We should remind ourselves that the goal of deepening the Body-Mind-Spirit connection is essential to achieving wellness for optimal functioning. Now, I am more motivated to focus better on self-care. In doing this for myself, I will be refilling my cup, and will have so much more to give back to those around me. For me, this means recharging my spirit by scheduling more outdoor walks, time with friends, more time for mediation, and yes, another yoga retreat. Maybe even two!