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self-care

2017: The Year of Self-Care

Happy New Year, everyone! As 2017 commences, I’m sure many of you are doing what I’m doing: trying to mindfully come up with a tangible wellness goal. My usual go-to is “I won’t drink any alcohol in January!” or “I will work out every day no matter what!”

But you know what? Those goals usually become stressful because they may not be realistic. And when your new year’s resolution doesn’t come to fruition, it can be depressing. Which starts the cycle of feelings of failure and disappointment!

Ugh.

So instead, this year, I’ve decided to focus more broadly on self-care. This means no hard rules, but it encourages me to remember that being mindful about all facets of my health is important. Here are 5 ways in which one can focus on self-care (and this is my personal plan; what I’ll be doing):

Eats

The first thing most of us think of when adopting a self-care routine is a diet tweak. And fair enough! I mean, you are what you eat, right? The fuel we choose to put into our body directly correlates with mood, behaviour, weight, aging, and more.

So what should we be eating?

I think the trick is to not be strict and deprive yourself. (Because most of us can’t stick to an all-or-nothing plan.) Instead, a healthy balance is optimal. In general, tons of fresh vegetables, lots of whole grain carbohydrates (like yams and sprouted grains), and lots of plant-based or lean protein.

Basically, anything that makes you feel good and gives you energy and lends to quality sleep and rest is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new healthy cookbook, try Vegetarian Comfort Foods!

Drinks

Water, water, water. That is all. (Haha…) Here’s the thing: we know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and affect mood. We know that sodas and juice contain way too much sugar, which spike our blood sugar and then leave us feeling sleepy after.

And more recently, I’ve discovered my go-to non-alcoholic drink of choice (club soda with lime and cucumber) makes me bloated because of all the carbonation. So I’ve come to the conclusion that water and herbal teas should definitely make up the bulk of what I drink during the day and night.

To find out how to make your own herbal teas, check out The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea!

self-care

Movement

Movement is so essential to our bodies and growth and development, and yet we forget to move! Most of us intentionally schedule in time for movement (which is great), but ideally, our bodies should be moving a lot more. Small ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives, include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking on the outskirts of the parking lot so that you’re forced to walk a little more, getting up from your desk and stretching every 45 minutes, and so on.

Think about what you can do to incorporate more movement into your life, and your body will thank you for it.

Sleep

Fresh off of reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (which I mentioned in a previous blog post HERE), I’m really beginning to understand (and I mean REALLY understand) just how much we should all be appreciating and emphasizing better sleep.

Our culture has somehow evolved to think of being busy and sleep-deprived as something to be celebrated or respected, and yet, being sleep deprived is basically the same as being intoxicated. Would you go to work drunk or drive home from a business meeting while under the influence?

I hope not, and yet we all do it in the form of being exhausted. Let’s start NOT doing that. Let’s just remember to place appropriate emphasis on sleep, and celebrate what it feels like to not be tired!

Mental

As in mental health, that is. Although everything that’s listed above contributes to better mental health, we can a couple more things to really give a final push.

  • Meditate.
  • Be grateful.
  • Say thank you.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Love yourself.
  • Try aromatherapy.

And that’s it. By committing to general improvements in your own self-care routine, you become more in tune with parts of yourself that you can’t possibly reach when you’re not as well as you could be.

Happy New Year, friends! Cheers to self-care, and to living life with intent and grace. Give yourself a break, and tune into YOU!

You deserve it. xo

Vancouver Man Says Yoga Gave Him His Life Back

Enlightenment

Happy Meatless Monday, friends! I’ve had yoga on the brain lately. I miss it. I haven’t practiced since the end of November, and it’s completely invading my dreams. Also, I’m becoming pretty un-bendy, and considering how un-bendy I was before, this news is not good.

Anyway, today’s post was also shared with MyVanCity.ca, a Vancouver website that I guest blog for. I’m the writer of this post, and it’s based primarily on my observations for the last two years in regards to my brother-in-law, Rob. This is his story, and it’s pretty incredible.

Also, if any of you have any inclination to begin (or go back to) yoga, this success story should clinch it for ya. So, without further adieu:

Valentine’s Day weekend marked the 22nd anniversary of Vancouver’s Wellness Show, which took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre in waterfront Vancouver. For one exhibitor, being present at his booth for this event signified a year of powerful healing, and hope for a strong, healthy future.

A year ago, Rob could barely walk. Just a few weeks ago, I watched him do camel pose. For those not familiar with yoga, camel pose involves kneeling on a mat, sitting up straight, and then arching your back so that you’re able to grab your heels behind you and stare at the ceiling. Even the best of best cannot hold this pose for longer than about 15 seconds—it’s that difficult.

He also did a head stand.

Let’s back up. In the spring of 2012, at the age of 32, this man sustained a major back injury while at work. He suffers from three herniated disks (S1, L5, and L4) and severe sciatica. Side-effects of this injury include unbearably severe back and tailbone pain, subsequent insomnia, the inability to walk, sit, or lie down comfortably, temporary loss of bladder control, and depression. One year later, British Columbia’s Worker’s Compensation Board (WBC) deemed him partially but permanently disabled, and recommended that he pursue a new career in marketing and sales, because it matched his current wage and was within his physical limitations.

While having to consider what a career change like this would mean for his future, he began undergoing intense physiotherapy that Rob describes as ”absolutely crucial” to his recovery at Core Fitness and Rehab (his therapist was Tom Macleese, who works with severe ICBC accident victims). Eventually it was recommended that he also try yoga, which led to him meeting Troy Rankel.

Troy is one of the owners of Oxygen Yoga and Fitness—a franchise that is quickly materializing all over the lower mainland and Fraser Valley. While we’ve all heard the benefits that yoga has to offer, including the remarkable effect it can have on existing conditions,[1] [2] Oxygen Yoga and Fitness provides infrared heat, which has been proven to have an ultra-healing effect on even the most serious of injuries.[3] [4]

Although skeptical at what benefits yoga could possibly provide him with at first, Rob’s determination to stabilize his injury led him to give it a try. Because yoga is not recognized as an option for physiotherapy with WCB, Rob chose to pay out of this own pocket (as he did for his rehabilitation at Core Club), and finance the therapy himself. Within only a matter of months of beginning a very careful, private hot yoga program that was tailored to his own specific injuries, Rob was able to gradually regain mobility, strength, and best of all, hope for a relatively pain-free future.

Think that’s impressive?

In 2013, Rob took the advice of WBC and was re-trained, and in November received a diploma in Marketing and Sales from Sprott Shaw College. (In order to complete this education, Rob had to stand up for most of the day, 5 days a week, for 6 months due to limitations that his injury placed on his tailbone.) But because he decided to go with his doctors’ recommendations and he knew his limitations would not allow him to realistically succeed in an office environment, he graduated from yoga teacher training at Naked Truth the very same month, and began to instruct yoga at the Abbotsford and Mission Oxygen Yoga and Fitness locations in December.

 Rob Pic

Rob swears that yoga gave him his life back. He was able to rebuild muscle that had atrophied after his initial injury, which allowed him to place a strong layer of protection around the injury sites. Aside from the physical benefits, yoga also contributed to increased mental clarity, which he says played an instrumental part in allowing him to stop feeling like an accident victim, and begin to appreciate the present and be grateful for everything he has been given.

Nowadays, nearly two years after his accident, Rob’s outlook on life is positive and peaceful. He teaches several yoga classes a week, essentially receiving his physical therapy while instructing others. Although life has thrown him a major curve ball, Rob says that the changes he and his family have had to undergo have ultimately been positive. He’s been forced to go from being very hands-on to becoming much more of an observer, but he embraces this change of pace.

There are still struggles for Rob. Pain will, to an extent, be part of his life forever, but the management techniques that he has learned through his yoga practice is providing him with the tools he needs to keep himself focused on his recovery. It’s been a long road that will always be a work in progress, but he enthusiastically credits yoga—a practice that focuses on strengthening the mind, body, and soul—with not only saving his life, but also giving him the motivation to help others who are walking the path to recovery that he has  gotten to know all too well.

Rob’s favourite class to teach involves mediation. He firmly believes that by strengthening the mind, you can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles that we are sometimes involuntarily faced with. He wants others to know that where chronic pain and disability is concerned, there is hope. He positively insists that “by changing your perspective, you change your outlook.”

Oxygen Yoga and Fitness’ mantra is “I love my life,” and that’s exactly what Rob intends to do.

Namaste.


[1] http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2011/research/yoga-back-pain/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23246998

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2539004/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23155613

The Art of Slowing Down

This is the time of year when everyone seems to be on fast-forward. In fact, the phrase “hustle and bustle” is completely synonymous with Christmas and the holidays. Stress can be off the charts, and alcohol intake often goes up in an attempt to combat the effects of stress.

So, what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

The answer? We have to train ourselves to consciously slow down when we feel overwhelmed. Simple solutions, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help considerably, without making a giant time investment.

Deep breathing: I’m talking about 10-20 deep, conscious breaths in and out, for a count of 5. 5 in, 5 out. It takes about one minute to complete this exercise, and it makes all the difference.

Meditiation: This takes stress relief one step further. You can do this, even if you’ve never done it before. Find a place that is preferably quiet and dark. Sit or lie, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. If you can do it the way I described above, then that’s ideal. While breathing, think about or whisper an affirmation. It can be “I” while breathing in, and “can” while breathing out. Or “slow” and “down.” Or whatever you want. This works.

If you’re feeling as though you might kill someone (usually a partner is the object of temporary hate here– you may be feeling like you do it all, and he/she doesn’t pull his/her weight), then I highly recommend you go ahead and attend a yoga class. If you go at night, you can often find a candlelight restorative class, or something akin to it. Yoga combines the deep breathing and the meditation, as well as some light exercise, positive reinforcement, and welcome comradery. It’s the best of the best, in terms of stress relief.

So, instead of drinking yourself into oblivion, slaying a spouse, or throwing a giant tantrum in front of your children this year (that last one hits home for me…), consider a healthier way of dealing with your anxiety and stress. After all, the holidays are meant to be fun, not stressful. TGIF!