By: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
We are all busy. Without even noticing how or when, we became adults! Some of us are traveling the world, others are completing that summer internship to prepare for the dream job, some just started working in their first real job ever, some got married, and some are raising kids of their own. If we're doing what we love, it feels amazing (at least most of the days). However, even when we live excited about tomorrow, love our day to day life, and have our life together, it may still feel like we're way in over our heads. As time passes, we realize adulthood is really about "figuring it out as you go" and that our parents didn't really know what they were doing when we were kids! A lot of stress goes into planning: what to cook tonight (or should i order take out?), when to work-out, where to get that masters, where to look for a job, what city has the most opportunities, when is the best age to get married, when should people have kids... When this happens, we tend to forget about the most important thing: our essence.
Our essence is at the core of our being, buried beneath all the to-do lists. It is that place of serenity, comfort and connection with the self (which is actually where all the magic happens). When we are connected to our essence, we no longer feel stressed and our mind is able to relax. We appreciate the small things and are able to remain present (even for a second). It is when we connect back to this true nature, that our imagination and creativity expands. It's where our playful side resides, where we feel at peace, and where we become grateful, for even having the opportunity to make it this far. This feeling should be rekindled time and time again.
Connecting back to our essence could be the equivalent of stress-relief, but with an oomph. It's not just about de-stressing. It goes much deeper than that. To connect back to your essence, you first need to know yourself and understand what works (for you). You need to figure out the what,where & how. What brings you to a zen state and how can you access this state quickly? By identifying the rituals that bring you back to the center of your core, and practicing them often, your body is more able to recognize the feeling quicker and your mind is able to benefit from the task in a much more efficient way. For example, lets say one of the rituals that connects you back to your essence is yoga. When you haven't practiced yoga in a while and do so for the first time after reading this article, it's possible you won't feel connected until the end of practice (or maybe until you walk to your car or take a shower). But after the 3rd or 4th time of practice, your body will recognize the sensation as soon as you walk into the studio... giving you the chance to re-connect quicker than you could before. That's the power of creating habits and having your go-to self care rituals at hand!
Everyone is different and what works for you may not work for someone else! It's important to let go of labels & stop putting yourself in the box you've created for yourself ("I'm not creative, I don't do well with yoga, I'm not handy, I hate running") and try new things! You might surprise yourself!
Here is a list of 10 possible self-care rituals to practice the next time you need to connect to your essence:
With the constant stimulation through our phones, lap-tops, news, email... it's hard to unplug and shut off the outside chatter. With this constant "connection" to social media, we can easily find ourselves engaging in critique, anger, and negative emotions that push us farther away from our true nature. Take time to unplug everyday. Make your mornings quiet and set specific times a day to be alone with your thoughts. Read a book, organize your planner, rearrange your home, anything that doesn't involve "refreshing and scrolling" is a good way to de-stress.
2. Immerse yourself in Nature
Nature has been found to be calming for the nervous system and increase creativity. Spend time at the beach, go for a hike, take a walk in the park, or go for a bike ride as often as possible. You don't have to drive 3.5 hours to the nearest lake or beach to benefit from the effects of being outdoors. Heading to the nearest park or something as simple as watering your plants can bring you closer to reconnecting to your essence.
3. Mindful Practices
Mindful practices are habits that tend to slow you down, connect you to the present and bring a sense of peace to your mind. There is a wide array of options in mindfulness but the most powerful ones tend to be rooted in an intention (or the why behind your practice). Make it a habit to slow down, decide what you'd like to achieve through this practice and bring your whole attention to the task at hand. This can be as simple as lighting candles, taking a walk outside, practicing yoga, deep breathing, meditation, etc.
4. Schedule play time
Sometimes, we forget the importance of engaging in something competitive or doing something just for fun. Playing board games, planning a volleyball tournament, jumping on a trampoline, going bowling is more powerful than you would think. Playing is our childlike nature and it's a simple way to bring us back to what truly matters and feel good, fast.
5. Get physical
A kickboxing class, pilates, strength training, walking, power yoga... these are all stress reducing and boost our mood. When we're in a slump or need to reset, getting physical is a way of coming back to ourselves and releasing the adrenaline that might build up due to the stress of every day life. Whenever you feel a bit off or need a reboot to be able to function like a semi-adult, try anything that will build up a sweat!
6. Pamper yourself
This ties back to our mindfulness practices. A massage, a bubble bath, a facial...these all tend to relax the nervous system and make us feel good. Practicing self-care is essential when trying to manage way too many responsibilities and helps you reconnect to what truly matters. It's a way of telling your body: you can chill out now.
Laughter has been thought to release endorphins (as does working out). Endorphins are the feel good chemicals that are also involved in decreasing pain and diminishing signs of depression. Find ways to laugh every day. Watch a funny tv-show, spend time with kids, go out to lunch with your best friends.
8. Eat something healthy
When we nourish ourselves well and spend time preparing healthy foods, we feel at ease. Because of the powerful minerals and vitamins in whole foods, the aftermath of this meal will likely be uplifting and calming. Whenever you're feeling disconnected and need to reboot, try a new healthy recipe, cook for your friends, prepare yourself a huge smoothie. The physiological effects of food on the brain are enough to have you feeling more like yourself in no time.
9. Eat something unhealthy
It can't all be greens and veggies. It's important to indulge in what you love and not feel bad about it. What's your favorite sweet or dessert? Grab a friend and go for an ice cream date, bake your favorite cake, anything! When we become too uptight about our diet, it causes stress and can have an impact on our self-esteem. As long as you create a balance, you should be able to eat your favorite treats when needed!
10. Get creative
Just like playfulness, creativity has the power of reconnecting us with our nature. When we are living creatively, we loose sense of time and come into a flow state. When we are in this flow state, time tends to stop and we become so engaged with the task at hand that we no longer remember our to-do lists. As often as possible, use your creative side of the brain. Have a section at home with crayons, coloring books, paint, crafts. Spend time writing and coming up with new projects. Rearrange your home, take on photography lessons. All of these are ways of coming back to yourself and feeling your best.