This term we have been setting Intentions at the start of each class. My personal intention for some time now has been: "I am exercising self care." This means that during any yoga practice or when teaching, I take care of my body; I notice those moments when I am pushing beyond that edge of discomfort and I pull back. But since suffering from adrenal fatigue after the stress of my latest training, it has also meant that I am not pushing myself too far on a daily basis.
You may be wondering what adrenal fatigue is. Here's a brief overview but I will go into this more in next month's blog on Stress. When we are stressed, our body responds by sending a message to the adrenal glands to release stress hormones. The neurotransmitters adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine generate the stress response or 'fight and flight.' Corticosteroids such as cortisol control our sleep/wake cycle among other actions and it is these that remain in our bodies for a long time if we are consistently stressed, causing all manner of problems including difficulty sleeping. The adrenal glands also produce sex hormones and other hormones and neurotransmitters that play a vital role in homeostasis. After a period of chronic stress, the body runs out of the material to make these hormones and fatigue sets in. Sound familiar?
So unsurprisingly, I have not been sleeping well; my sleep is either interrupted or I just do not sleep for long enough. And my hormones have been awry. In spite of knowing that I wake most nights, I do not worry; instead I always get to bed around 10p.m. But now that I am exercising self care, I offer myself some sort of ritual. After teaching, I may take an Epsom Salt bath to relax my muscles. Whilst in the bath I may practice deep breathing or listen to a Radio 4 Drama (I have become an addict)! If I don't need to take a bath, I might soak my feet in Epsom Salts with a drop of Lavender Oil and follow this with a foot massage. Turmeric Latte is often a warming, soothing treat an hour before bed.
If I wake up dreadfully tired (and it's always worst when premenstrual), then I write off any plans I may have made for that day and go with the flow. I no longer beat myself up if I have an nonconstructive day; I tell myself that it is okay; I can only do what I have the energy to do on any given day. On particularly bad days, I may offer myself a little treat. This might be that I light my favorite scented candle and relax in the bath or with a magazine. I may take myself out for a cup of tea somewhere quiet. I often practice a very gentle, restorative yoga session or an energising one depending on my needs. Mostly, I slow right down and try to take pleasure in what I am doing. I practice mindfulness when hanging out the washing for example or tidying; simply noticing the process and just how often my mind switches off or when I go into a vacant stare!
Over the past two months, I have noticed considerable change. Mostly that I no longer feel guilty if I don't get jobs done. I am no longer a martyr; I ask for assistance. I am so much more relaxed and positive about life in general and lately, my energy levels have increased as has my productivity.
I have become painfully aware of just how many people do not exercise self care but rather keep on pushing until they get ill or burn out. This is not good. It is not good for ourselves, it is not good for our families or for those we work with and it is not good for the NHS! Taking care of ourselves should be the first intention of every day shouldn't it? After all, if none of us is taking care of ourselves, who is going to be there to take care of us when we really need it? Who is going to take care of the work we must do?
We mustn't leave it until it is too late. Act now! Why not try starting each day by silently stating your intention in the present tense; as if it is already happening: "I am exercising self care." If you do not feel worthy of self care, make this your intention and work with it for a while. "I am worthy of self care." When we repeat positive affirmations to ourselves often enough, we believe them. By setting the intention in the present tense, we make it appear that it is already happening rather than that we might think about it or that we intend to make it happen in the future. Affirmation is really a better word than intention I think!
It might help to write down the things that you do to harm yourself such as overworking, always saying yes, not exercising, overeating or eating the wrong kinds of food, drinking too much, being in a rush, driving dangerously, staying up late. This may be alarming but it is most important that you do not feel guilty. Think of this as an exercise in recognising and then be positive about change and you will experience change.
Write a list of things you would like to do such as read a book, meet a friend for a coffee (or better still, a herbal tea), have a massage or simple things like taking a long bath and the most important one of all; saying NO! Taking a walk in nature can do wonders for the mind; see my post Invest in Nature; Invest in Yourself
Set your daily intention of self care. Write it down, stick it on your fridge, in your car, on your computer. Don't expect immediate results; it takes time and effort. You will be rewarded by better health, wellbeing and perhaps even the kindness of others.
"I Am Exercising Self Care."
A good place to start may be with the Yoga Therapy for the Mind course which commences on Tuesday 23rd May from 10.00- 12.00. Some bosses accept that investing in the wellbeing of their staff may mean greater productivity in the long run. So ask for the time off; you never know, your boss might say YES!
And let me know how you get on. I wish you well.