The other day I saw a sign outside a local laundromat that caught my eye. Its catchy slogan announced in large block letters, “IT’S TIME TO CLEAN YOUR WINTER COATS!” Maybe it was something about the urgency of the words, or maybe it was more the message of cleaning and self-care that got my attention, but for some reason, that phrase, “It’s time…” really stuck in my head.
It’s time. It’s time….I can think of a lot of things it’s time for (or way overdue time for!). It’s time for a Mommy spa day. It’s time for a lovely hour-long massage. It’s time for an extended holiday with sunshine and long walks on the beach to feel the sand between my toes with only the sound of the wind and waves in my ears.
Heck – I’d even settle for “It’s time for a hot bath!” Ahhh time…there never seems to be enough these days.
Are you like me too – constantly fighting the sensation of the day just flying by? Spending your days hopping from one task to another, in a complicated, seemingly never-ending dance of trying to balance everyone’s needs with little time to breathe (much less make time for yourself)?
It gets way too easy to completely focus on the others in our lives and forget that we still have needs too. And I think that’s a pretty common “mom feeling.”
Well – last fall I decided to try slowing down a bit and creating some time for myself. And although I’m still far from getting everything that I’d like (I don’t just want a bath. I want a long hot bubble bath…), I’ve found some really simple strategies for mindful self-nurturing that have kept me happier and healthier this past Winter. Check them out!
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Is It Time to Change Your Daily Dance?
Sometimes I like to think of my day as a dance.
As I’m moving from one activity to another, there are different moves required (think the Hustle when it’s time to leave for school or the Sprinkler at dinnertime), different paces, and different dance partners.
On peaceful days, the dance flows seamlessly from one move to another, and effortlessly from slow to fast. There are lots of little breaks to catch my breath – or I find I don’t even need breaks and I’m ready for more dancing at bedtime!
On challenging days, the dance is a bloody mess! 😉
I’m always a beat behind, or I’m blanking out on the next step mid-performance, or maybe I find myself doing the Floss when it’s supposed to be the Cha-cha! Oy!
What I’ve come to realize is that I can’t control how smoothly the music of life plays around me, but I can definitely control how I choose to dance through my day.
I can either make it a Hustle day, or a peaceful and steady Two-Step.
All I need to do is consciously choose to add a few mindful minutes into my busy schedule to s-l-o-w t-h-i-n-g-s d-o-w-n.
How To Slow the Daily Dance
Here’s what works for me. I wake up each morning and consciously decide that I’m going to be as aware as I can of as many minutes of my day as possible.
It’s as simple as that – and as challenging as that.
I start by setting my clock 10 minutes early to get up each day, and meditate using a quick 7 minute guided meditation by Dan Siegel from his new book Aware (which I highly recommend – as well as any book written by Dan Siegel).
Whether you can make time to meditate, or not, or have no idea how to meditate, you can easily boost your daily dose of mindfulness in small chunks.
Do you find yourself asking what I mean by mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness?
It’s not as “hippy-dippy” as you may think. (Thanks Jason at Kala Yoga for that awesome term!)
Basically, at several points throughout your day, you try to notice exactly where you are at that moment and really BE there – with your thoughts, your body, and your senses.
You temporarily pause your habitual thinking about the future (what am I going to make for dinner tonight?), or reflecting on the past that makes up 99.9% of your day, and focus on really being where you are right now.
Like I said, simple right? But oh so hard in practise!
It’s not an easy thing to do when life is swirling around you. And it can be damn hard when your own mind and thoughts are doing the Floss! Lol!
But the great thing about mindfulness, is the more you practise it, the easier it gets to stay mindful and live in the now. You’ll start to notice that you are having and noticing those mindful minutes more often throughout your day – even in the midst of a chaotic “dance.”
Great Mindfulness Resources
If you’re looking to learn more about mindfulness, I’d highly recommend you read these awesome books:
One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide to Mindfulness: If you’re a visual learner like me, you’ll love the beautiful coloured drawings in this graphic novel-esque explanation of what it means to be mindful.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment: This book is filled with A-ha moments about the benefits of mindfulness and how to become more mindful. It helped me lose much of the daily anxiety I was accustomed to feeling.
Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence–The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice: This latest book by one of my favourite parenting authors, walks you through how to use this amazing meditation metaphorical tool called the Wheel of Awareness which helped me better understand why my mind, my emotions and my body are not really the core of me.
Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life: I found this beautifully written book to be a great relaxing read at bedtime. Jon Kabat-Zinn walks you through different ways of mindfully going through your day by awakening your five senses to the beauty around you.
No Time to Read?
However, if you’re just looking for a few simple ways to start incorporating more mindful self-nurturing time into your day, check out my list of ideas below.
Be inspired to take some me-time…not because that’s easy to do, but because you deserve it, and everyone around you (especially your children and partner) will benefit from you moving more gracefully through your daily dance.
15+ Mindful Self-Nurturing Strategies
Try one of these calming and focusing ideas the next time you need a little mindful nurturing.
Focus on your breath
Try a minute or two of deep breaths, in for 5, hold for 2, out for 5. Allow your tummy to expand out as the breath comes in. I’ve been told that if you start to feel a bit dizzy, you’re doing it right!
Close your eyes for a minute or two and imagine a favourite place in every detail, what do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste?
Grab your running shoes and get a few extra steps in, even 10 minutes of fresh air can make a big difference in a busy day. Add an extra dimension of relaxation by meditating while you walk!
Be in nature
It’s not just important for kids to get outside, it’s important for us too. Soak up some vitamin D and just BE outside (daily if possible!). Soak yourself in the senses of wherever you are. Take a moment to really listen to all the different sounds in your spot. Then really look at how the light is playing off the objects in the area. Do you notice any smells? Can you feel anything against your skin? Can you imagine your feet growing down into the earth like the roots of a tree. It doesn’t take long to do this little sensory tour, but the relaxing effects can last for hours.
Get aware through your senses
Try the “5 times 5” game. Take a minute or two to just sit and list 5 things you can see, 5 things you can smell, 5 things you can hear, 5 things you are touching, and 5 things you are feeling in your body.
Buy a lovely journal and add your thoughts, inspiring quotes, or record funny anecdotes of the kids. It doesn’t have to be organized, or pretty – just the process of writing or doodling can be relaxing and cathartic and will bring you into the now – especially if you’re focusing on things you’re grateful for.
Colour, sketch, draw, paint, sculp and create. Whether you like to just colour in and tune out, or unleash your creativity, taking time to make art soothes the soul.
Scan your body
Ask yourself “Where am I tense?” and work your way from the top of your head to your bottom right big toe! Notice where you’re tense and consciously relax those muscles as you go. See if you can feel your pulse in your fingers. Notice any tension or pain or discomfort in your body and breathe into those spots.
Listen to music
Find an upbeat mix for dreary days, or a chill-out playlist when you’re wired. I’m partial right now to “Magic in the Air” by Magic System” or “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News when I need a positive kick in the pants! Do you have a great song to recommend? I’d love to hear it. Leave me a comment below.
Find a magic spot
Claim a spot in your home as your relaxation spot. It could be a darkened room, a seat on the patio, a special chair by the best view outside, or even just your bed. Do something there for a few minutes regularly to rejuvenate yourself and eventually your brain will associate just going to that spot with chilling out.
Scent your life
Experiment with some different essential oils and find ones that you like. Add them to a necklace or bracelet, and just take a sniff when you need a little pick me up! Oils known for their relaxing qualities are lavender, rose, chamomile and frankincense. Or try some lemon or grapefruit for a pick me up.
Set a timer to breathe
Create little touchstone moments in your daily life that remind you to be mindful. Try to remember to take a deep breath every time you walk through a door, or put on your shoes, or when your phone buzzes with a text.
Practise yoga or meditation
Yoga has been described as moving meditation and both of these practises significantly and positively impact stress levels. Learn how to become aware of your mind and its connection to your body, as well as how to settle it. The more you practise it, the more benefits you get!
Use your support system
Call or text a friend or close family member, be honest about what’s going on in your life, ask for support. It’s okay to make mistakes and not be a perfect parent who has all their $%^& together (who does?). It’s part of being human!
Read for fun
Find a great parenting book, or an awesome romance, or something uplifting or inspiring. If you have trouble settling with a book for short periods of time, try an adult graphic novel (I loved Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander!) I also love this One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations book filled with colourfully illustrated quotes and pieces of wisdom from the likes of Rumi, Buddha and Martin Luther King Jr.
Love your pets
Our animal friends can be soothing to hug, pet, or just snuggle with. (Children work well for this too if they’ll sit still!)
Find a beautiful stone or crystal to keep in your pocket to rub when you’re feeling uptight. The grounding energies of the stones will keep you in touch with your body, instead of caught up in a racing mind. Rose quartz is known for its soothing qualities. These heart ones are nice.
I found some beautiful little pewter “inspiration coins” in a local shop and I often choose one as my intention for the day and keep it in my pocket. Whenever I feel it there throughout the day, it reminds me of my intention: to keep calm, to breathe, or to live well. On the company’s website,I found many more choices and sayings.
Take a parent time-out
Sometimes you just need to step into the washroom, lock the door and take a mindful minute to yourself…or that long hot bath! Make that time. And remember – no room for guilt! You can’t possibly fill up anyone else’s cup if yours runneth dry.
Do you have a self-nurturing strategy to share? I’d love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below.
Looking for more ideas? You might be interested in this post: Zen Parenting
All the best in your daily dance! xo