My final post of 2017! 2017 was a memorable year, for many different reasons! As we bid farewell to 2017 and look excitedly onwards towards the clean slate and fresh start that a New Year brings, this final blog post outlines 10 self-care rituals (that don't break the bank!) that I CANNOT DO WITHOUT!
Making time for self-care is so critical with the pace of daily life these days. Time for self-care instills life balance, a more stable sense of being and is a proactive strategy for longevity, with regards to health and wellness.
While these 10 tips are not unheard of (they've probably come up time and time again), I can't stress them enough! They certainly help me out from day-to-day and I hope something in this post will strike a chord with you moving forward!
In no particular order, HERE WE GO!!!
1. EPSOM SALT BATHS
Epsom salt, in actuality, is magnesiumsulfate; a pure, time-tested mineral compound[i].
The critical importance of the mineral magnesium, the “anti-stress” mineral in the body, cannot be underestimated! It performs numerous functions in the body, working largely in conjunction with the mineral calcium.
The functions of magnesium include:
Acting as a natural tranquilizer in the body, stimulating the relaxation of skeletal muscles, as well as the smooth muscles found in our blood vessels and gastrointestinal tract (calcium stimulates their contraction and magnesium stimulates their relaxation)
Activation of enzymes important for the metabolism of protein and carbohydrate nutrients
DNA production and function
Regulation of electrical potential across body cell membranes, so as to allow nutrients to pass back and forth amongst body cells[ii]
Sulfate enhances absorption of nutrients, helps flush toxins from the body and contributes to relief from migraine headaches[iii].
Therefore, an Epsom salt bath is highly relaxing! I ensure I soak in this type of bath on a few different occasions:
Following a massage therapy session (to continue and maximize the detoxification process that massage therapy yields). If I have a deep tissue massage and may experience bruising following the massage (those darn muscle knots!), then I typically delay the bath until the next day, so as to not draw additional heat to the area and to allow time to confirm whether bruising will occur.
Following a vigorous bout of exercise. Sometimes I will have the bath the day afterwards instead, when the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) REALLY kicks in (~24-72 hours after the bout of exercise)!
On any evening where I’ve had an intense day and would benefit from the heat and relaxation, so as to relax both my body and mind and induce a more restful sleep!
At approximately $8.00 for a 4 kg container (in my neck of the woods, anyways!), this is a great return on investment! Don’t make the mistake I sometimes do and forget to replenish the jug soon after it becomes empty! It’s always a disappointment to run a bath and then go searching for salts that AREN’T THERE!
2. DRY SKIN BRUSHING
Dry skin brushing also supports the detoxification process, in support of the Lymphatic System. Several months ago, I wrote a blog post outlining how to go about this process and why it is of great benefit! You may view the blog post here!
The price point of my dry skin brush was approximately $15.00. Again, a minimal investment for DAILY, safe detoxification!
3. QUALITY HYDRATION
The adult body is approximately 60% water! Like we always hear, proper hydration IS SO IMPORTANT!
A high-quality water source is required for numerous, VITAL functions in the body.
Did you know?
Is the UNIVERSAL SOLVENT for all soluble ingredients in the blood and body's cells
Composes the LARGEST percentage of the body’s volume (~60% of an adult and ~75% of a newborn)
Is the medium in which ALL other nutrients in the body are found
Is the main component of ALL body fluids (i.e. blood, lymph, urine, sweat, tears and digestive juices)
Is involved in ALL body functions (i.e. digestion, absorption, elimination and circulation)
Is LOST DAILY via perspiration, sleep and urination
Carries ELECTROLYTES (i.e. calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium) and is positively charged, contributing to brain cell communication by conducting electricity across heart muscle[iv]
Climate, activity level and diet influence our personal requirements[vi]. We require approximately 12 cups a day (6-8 glasses)[v]. If you consume coffee, ADD 2-3 cups for each cup of coffee consumed, to counter its dehydrating effects[vi]! Please note that DIURETICS (i.e. coffee, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and caffeinated tea) FLUSH the body of vitamins and minerals[vii]. Therefore, consume with mindfulness.
When I refer to water as being “high quality”, I mean the cleanest, purest source available to and feasible for you! In my household, this entails filtering tap water through my Santeviaalkalizing water pitcher and then pouring it into an uncovered, glass water jug. By letting it sit exposed to open air, the chlorine in the water will dissipate in approximately 30 minutes wait time. You can amp up your glass of water even more by adding 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice to it! To learn more about the benefits of fresh lemon water (a full glass when you wake up, at least 30 minutes prior to consuming any food in the morning), you may visit my past blog post about it, here!
While we are unable to control the pH of our blood (the body tightly regulates this pH between 7.35 and 7.45 to keep us alive!), we CAN have an impact on the pH of our saliva and urine. Considering how much water we should be consuming, ideally, it should be alkaline! If you’re curious about the pH level of the water you’re drinking regularly, all you need to do is pick up a small box of pH strips (I typically find them at my local health food store) and run some of the water over the strip for quick results! Periodically, you can also urinate on a strip for some quick results regarding the pH of your urine! Your next science experiment!
4. SUPER SLEEP
Everyone functions on a different number of hours of sleep. Personally, I know I need 8 to function WELL, with the nature of my day-to-day! Whatever that number is for you, make it a priority for you! This is of course influenced by young children and other circumstances that impact WHEN sleep occurs (if it does!) and for HOW LONG at a time. If you are very much in control over your bedtime and wake time, make it a priority to get that “x” number of hours. You will never regret having enough sleep, that's for sure!
Delaying sleep and staying up beyond when you feel tired and needing to hit the sack does you NO FAVOURS. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is a steroid hormone (synthesized from cholesterol) secreted from the small adrenal glands that sit atop the kidneys. Cortisol has an ideal rhythm throughout the day. Its level is highest in the body in the morning, providing you the ability to tackle your day, and naturally falls in the evening. It is (ideally) the lowest during the deepest part of your sleep. The longer the body is pushed to stay awake beyond what is a reasonable time, means a rising cortisol level that then puts stress on the body, starting to suppress the Immune System. This helps to explain why we start to become sick when we allow ourselves to become too tired and worn out! The Immune System is not operating at full force and the bad bugs get IN!
Furthermore, turning technology off at least one hour prior to bedtime is worth considering, which is also a lifestyle tweak that may be challenging to do! Staring at a bright screen depletes melatonin production, a hormone our body secretes that induces sleep. The greater the impact of technology just prior to bedtime, the more compromised sleep can then become!
5. SEEK OUT GREEN!
Green foods are some of the most alkalizing foods out there! As mentioned above with alkalizing water and the power of FRESH lemon water, green foods further support an alkaline, internal body environment!
My favorite ways to get my greens daily are:
A green morning smoothie utilizing spinach, kale or mixed field greens, with the addition of a small scoop of greens powder, for added green powder!
A refreshing green juice, whether homemade or a cold-pressed version in support of a local business (i.e. spinach, kale, cucumber, parsley, lemon and ginger, with some pineapple or red apple for a tad of sweetness)
A green salad
Inflammation in the body cannot thrive in an alkaline environment (a pH of higher than 7 on the pH scale). Consuming alkalizing foods each and every day supports an optimal, internal body environment.
6. POSITIVE INTERACTIONS AND SELF-TALK
The people you choose to interact with on a daily basis have a HUGE impact on your mindset, beliefs, attitudes and overall health and well-being. In some cases, we are unable to choose who we come into contact with, such as in a workplace. When you DO have a choice, ensure those you are spending your time with are LIFTING YOU HIGHER! When you don’t have the choice, strategically ensure you’re minimizing the impact such individuals have on you.
EVERY thought you think affects your internal body environment; negative thoughts, particularly persistent ones, have the capability to contribute towards inflammation in the body. It’s true! It’s difficult at times to maintain positive thoughts when challenging life events occur. Having a positive network around you and a few positive affirmations you can tell yourself can only contribute to a positive self-concept and growth mindset. EVERY THOUGHT AND WORD COUNTS! Instilling a few different self-care rituals into your day-to-day life allows for the greater sense of life balance that elevates your spirit!
7. A HEALTH-PROMOTING HOBBY (OR TWO!)
That hobby or those hobbies that you constantly think about, that have been pushed to the back burner? Do them! Even if it's only in small proportion at a frequency that works for you! Allowing my hobbies (which largely involve physical activity!) to be placed on hold has happened to me time and time again. I always regret not making time for them a priority, because they so greatly aid with stress management. This is the case no longer and is ESPECIALLY important during the winter months! If you live in a cold, snowy land for several months of the year as I do, and love being in the Great Outdoors for daily exercise and a brain break but can be limited by how darn cold it is outside, this tip is more important than ever!
Return to two indoor physical activities I used to do but haven’t done in a while that will keep me moving and inspired for the continued winter months ahead!
The first being barre classes, for cardiovascular and strength training interval training in what was my second home growing up – the dance studio! I’m sure to be engulfed in a room of positivity and energy and work up a good sweat!
The second being warm yin yoga classes, for mindfulness, deep breathing and deep tissue stretching.
Today, I revisited a warm yin yoga class at my neighbourhood studio for the first time in MONTHS! My body soaked up the relaxation and deep stretching and I felt amazing afterwards. This 90 minutes of my day was certainly a highlight today! Incentive to get there weekly and give my body and mind what it needs!
To view my past blog post about the tremendous benefits of warm yin yoga, click here!
And, when the days are warm enough, you bet I’ll be doing a brisk nature walk, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing OUTSIDE!
8. WHOLE, HOMEMADE FOOD
NOTHING beats a home-cooked meal, ESPECIALLY when you are the one who cooked it! While I LOVE a fantastic restaurant that sources local, sustainably-grown food, I’ll take a beautiful home-cooked meal over ANY restaurant, ANY day! To have complete involvement over the ingredient selection, preparation method and portion size is ideal, as well as yummy leftovers for the next day. Even if the meal is simple in nature (there’s no need for it to be a complex recipe), the reward of making the meal yourself and sitting down to enjoy it in the comfort of your own home is PRICELESS! And, it keeps more money in your pocket! That's a whole other post!
In this day in age, this type of time can be pretty difficult to find, let alone set aside! For me, this is my time prior to bedtime, whether I’m just thinking, reading or listening to a meditation. This type of time, even if it is just 10-30 minutes long, makes space in the mind and quiets my thoughts. By engaging in a short meditation just prior to sleeping, I find my ability to fall into a sound sleep in a reasonable amount of time is enhanced! At this moment in time, I’m really enjoying theHeadspace app for nightly meditations!
If you’re not cracking a smile and giggling EVERY day, let alone a few times per day, we need to get some laughter into you! Life is too short to be taken too seriously, day in and day out! While life has its serious moments, all other moments are open for laughter! Laughter stimulates serotonin production in the body - our "Happy Hormone"! It also stimulates the release of endorphins, which heighten our mood, such as what you experience following exercise! Laughter also boosts the Immune System, which we can all benefit from, especially at this time of year! So, GET YOURSELF LAUGHING!
Happy New Year, my online community!
Wishing you much health and happiness in 2018 and beyond!
[i] Epsom Salt Council: All-Natural Home Remedy. What is Epsom Salt? Retrieved December 28, 2017 from http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/
[ii] Haas, Elson, M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
[iii] Salt Works Inc. Epsom Salt Uses and Benefits. Retrieved December 28, 2017 from https://www.seasalt.com/epsom-salt-uses-and-benefits
[iv] Haas, Elson, M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
[v] Haas, Elson, M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
[vi] Haas, Elson, M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
[vii] Haas, Elson, M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Inc.