Find your RHYTHM and replenish your energy

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(This is the third in a series of 8 posts that I am publishing every week on the topics of self worth and self compassion)

If you have read my earlier post you would know why it is important to protect our most precious and valuable resource- TIME.

(You can read the earlier post HERE)

In this post, I am focusing on yet another important resource that we often take for granted - ENERGY. We often feel that we have an infinite amount of energy that we possess as we push through life ignoring our natural cycles and rhythms even though our body's internal clock has evolved over millions of years to be in sync with nature. But because of our fast paced lives, we are often living a life which is completely out of sync with that of nature. Today, many of us are paying the price for this in terms of feeling overwhelmed, tired, exhausted and drained of energy. 

When we live under chronic stress, live sedentary lives and eat a bizarre combination of processed foods that are alien to our bodies, we are completely removed from what evolution has prepared our bodies and our minds to deal with over millions of years. In our chaotic lives, we eat at all hours of the day and night, barely get enough sleep and are constantly distracted by our devices and media.

Is it any wonder then that so many of us struggle to lose weight, feel vibrant and healthy and live to the fullest?

Do you....

Wake up in the morning and not feel refreshed?

Need coffee, tea or sugary beverages to keep you going through the day?

Lack the motivation to accomplish even the smallest tasks?

Struggle to lose weight in spite of a healthy diet and regular exercise?

Feel your mind racing even though you are physically tired?

In my coaching practice, we address these issues by finding out the root cause and then making lifestyle and dietary changes to support it. My clients are taught to understand that our bodies have an innate biochemical and genetic rhythm which has evolved to rest when it becomes dark and to wake up when the sun rises. In other words, each and every cell in our body has an internal clock. This is because every function in our body has a specific time as it cannot do everything at once. Scientists have also learned that while our circadian rhythm is influenced by light, the timing they follow is controlled internally by our genes.

Each of us must find our rhythm, it allows us to thrive. Finding it is often difficult in today's noisy world but it is important if we want to feel centred and balanced. Living in sync with the seasons of nature helps us find a wavelike rhythm and routine. This gentle repetition allows us our minds and our bodies to replenish and rejuvenate on a regular basis thus ensuring our wellbeing at a spiritual, emotional, physical level.

(You can read about the power of a morning routine in my earlier post HERE)

Finding a routine which helps you to work with your body's natural rhythm and not against becomes important. It helps add stability to our lives and makes us feel more balanced and secure. It is equally important to understand the remarkable resiliency our bodies posses and that when given the right ingredients, it can quickly bounce back as it has a tremendous capacity to adapt and evolve.

"I feel safe in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life"

- Louis Hay

Incorporating rhythm in your life can be done in many simple ways some of which are given below-

going to bed and waking up at the same time every day

exercising regularly at the same time 

regular meditation

having meals at regular times

playing and also indulging in hobbies on a regular basis

spending time with friends and family

getting exposure to natural sunlight 

On the flip side, some people fall into a rhythm and a set of patterns that is self destructive. These people end up coasting through life without being able to fulfil any of their needs in a positive manner. Their lifestyle ends up working against them and holding them back.

This can also happen to the best of us at some point in our lives but most of usually find our way by making small but positive changes in the right direction. We learn from our mistakes and move towards what we desire and then moving towards it, one step at a time.

It all starts with where you are. Taking rest if you need to. Listening to your body. And getting back on the bandwagon if you do fall off. And knowing that the results are worth the trouble that you are taking right now- at a physical, spiritual and emotional level.

As you treat yourself with compassion, you start to notice that you are beginning to heal in many different ways. You will find that as you find your rhythm, your energy levels start improving over time.

You can then add a few more additional layers to your routine to give yourself a bigger boost.

You can...

hydrate yourself well every day starting with a glass of water when you wake up in the morning

get your body to move- dance, yoga, pilates or any other restorative exercise

go regularly for a walk in nature

start journaling (a stress journal works really well for some people)

ask for help for something you are struggling with (I have written an entire post on this- read it here)

focus on your "WHY" - why you get up in the morning and what you are planning to accomplish? (you can read my post on this topic here)

focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot

By living a life that is in rhythm with the natural order of things, you will also start to notice that you get a natural high on most days instead of having to resort to artificial means of boosting your energy levels. At the same time, having a well thought out routine at home and at work will provide you with the freedom to focus your energy on your goals and things that are important to you. This can help to restore balance in your life and create a sense of order.

Ask yourself this,

"What is the ONE routine that I can incorporate in my life today that would help me the most at this point in time?"

Once this routine has been in place for at least a month, you can ask yourself the following questions to determine the progress that has been made so far.

In what ways...

do I feel less overwhelmed?

more balanced?

more productive?

more at peace with myself?

has my clarity and/or my ability to concentrate improved?

(whichever is applicable)

Finding our rhythm lays the foundation to help us achieve our dreams and lead a life that is fulfilling at the same time. It allows us to live a life filled with joy, happiness, peace and to be fully alive to love and be loved.

The Byrds had captured this really well in their song "Turn turn turn"

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up
A time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rain, a time of sow
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace
I swear it's not too late

Why sometimes you need to say “no” to others (in order to say YES to yourself)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(This post is the second one in a series of posts that I will be publishing over the next 8 weeks on the twin topics of self worth and self compassion. In the first post I had broached the subject of the perils of "doing it all" and the high price associated with it. You can read it HERE.)

We have all been taught to be there for others and take care of those who love and need our help and support. We also know that we need to take care and support each other in order to grow and thrive as a part of a family, community or country. As social animals, we have been hardwired over time during the course of our evolution to get along with each other since our very survival depended on it. Hence, it is very natural that we just the thought of saying no brings us physical discomfort and do not like to hurt or disappoint others. As a result, we often end up saying yes to avoid feeling guilty, uncomfortable and even to avoid the physical discomfort of saying no.

How many times have you said YES lately where you immediately regretted your decision?

(I have written about the positive aspects of being a part of a community in my earlier post, you can read it HERE)

What usually ends up happening in our busy, modern world as a result of this is that we are often overcommitted and overscheduled. Our instinct of saying yes when we really wanted to say no to a request or a task can often leave us resentful, frustrated and burnt out in the long run. If we are honest enough, being asked to help and do things for others also makes us feel good in many ways. However, these emotions can often interfere with our clarity.

As a result, we can end up regretting our acquiescense for days, months and years which can ultimately prevent us from achieving what had we set out to do in terms of our own goals. And it certainly takes a toll on our health if this becomes a way of life. But we need to keep in mind that for each of us not our energy, but rather the TIME that we have in this world is actually the most non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

Our time on this earth is the most valuable and non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

And once a second, minute or an hour is gone, it is lost forever never to come back. Our energy and other resources can be renewed with enough rest and planning but not our time. This means that in order to live a life where we feel that we are able to contribute, achieve our goals and at the same time enjoy our time with our friends and families, we need to be clear about setting limits and putting boundaries in place.

Healthy boundaries give us the freedom to be involved in activities and causes that are aligned with our purpose and give meaning to our lives. It helps us avoid burnout, frustration and stress to a large extent by avoiding overscheduling and overcommitment. It frees up our time to spend time with those who really matter to us and to pursue hobbies and interests that we are passionate about.

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others"

-Brene Brown

However, for any sensitive and caring individual, it takes courage to stand up and say no to others. Women are usually much more concerned about what others think of them and even have what is called the "good girl" (and even "good boy") syndrome and have a hard time saying "no". I have realised much later that I have been dealing with this ever since I was a child. And it has only been in the past few years that I have had to learn to say "no" at times as a part of my self-care so that I could do what was needed to be done for my family without feeling burnt out, frustrated or resentful.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts on self care or have been through my self care challenge that I did recently for my Facebook Group, know that I strongly believe that as primary caregivers of most families, a woman's primary responsibility is towards her own health and wellbeing.

Only when a woman takes care of herself lovingly and willingly can she do the same for others without feeling deprived, resentful or ultimately sacrificing her own health. I also believe that those of us who have daughters have an added responsibility and need to teach our daughters by setting an example of this by practising this ourselves and ending this legacy of deprivation and burnout.

How many times have you agreed to....

do something even though there was a distinct tension in what you felt was right and what someone was pressurising you to do?

be a part of something that you really didn't have time for but you felt that would make those people like you?

a request from a family member, coworker or a friend simply because you did not want to disappoint or anger them?

Every single day people make all kinds of decisions based on what others want even as they know that on some level they may be also committing an act of self betrayal. That they are forever playing the role of a "good girl" (or even "good boy") which is hard to let go of. But at what cost?

What would happen if you did start saying YES to yourself? 

There would most likely be some kind of fall out at the beginning, especially if you have been used to overgiving without setting healthy boundaries.  This would likely have trained people around you to expect you to be there for them whenever they may need you. It takes courage to be honest and open with yourself and to stand up for yourself.  Indeed, this is a critical component of self care. And while you may feel guilty and selfish for a while and face social awkwardness, boundaries are essential for your own mental and emotional well being as well as for the health of your relationships.

There are different ways of saying "no" gracefully and it starts with separating the person from the relationship that we have with them. In other words, when we say no to a request from a person, it does not mean that we are saying no to that person. Once we are clear on this, it becomes much easier to remain strong and at the same time communicate with others in a graceful manner. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you say "no"-

Focus on what you are getting in return and remind yourself that setting certain boundaries are essential in self care

There are a variety of ways of saying no without using the word, For e.g. "I don't have the bandwidth right now", "I would like to, but I am overcommitted right now"

Give alternative suggestions and buy some time to respond to the request when possible

Check in with yourself and ask yourself  "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I really want to do this?" or "If I knew this person would not be angry or upset, would I still say no?"

Think about how this request would make YOU feel- would it bring joy, pleasure or satisfaction? Or is it only about fulfilling obligations and responsibilities?

Being first honest with yourself and then with the people in our lives in a compassionate and authentic manner prevents a sense of betrayal and guilt towards ourselves as well as others.  At the same time, being open in a warm and caring manner strengthens our relationships with others and makes them respect us in the long run. In any case, you simply cannot control how others will react if you disappoint them (which happens inevitably at times) while setting your boundaries. However, you can certainly control how you feel and how you choose to communicate.

At the end of the day, our boundaries reflect our sense of self worth. We practice both self care and self respect when we set healthy boundaries.

We are all unique individuals and healthy boundaries help us to maintain our uniqueness and protect our identities. Many women, in particular, find that somewhere along the way while taking care of their families and bringing up their children lose their sense of who they used to be and their voice. I see this in my Health Coaching practice. Most women who have various chronic health issues are a result of years and even decades of neglecting their own needs and wants.

We are rarely taught why we need to set healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives. As a result, our sense of self worth gets eroded slowly over the years until we reach a stage where we can no longer tune in to what our body needs from us. At times, we need to do less and take proper rest but we can no longer heed the messages our bodies are constantly sending us. We simply choose to ignore the occasional headache, digestive troubles, constipation, tiredness which are merely symptoms of underlying imbalances. Until we can no longer ignore them.

In Functional Medicine we often say "a headache is a blessing" and it is true!

So the next time you are about to say "yes" to a request, check in with yourself. Remind yourself that you are much more than simply a mother, wife, daughter or employee. See how you feel about it and take your time in responding with grace and compassion in a clear and honest manner.

As Anne Taylor said so well

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept."

5 simple morning habits for a calmer, brighter day

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This is the THIRD in a series of 6 weekly posts that I am writing about self care- if you have not done so already you can check out the first part "Do you know your WHY?" and the second part "Rocks, pebbles and sand...the key to knowing what is important in your life".

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver (from the poem "The summer day")

Take some and reflect upon your answers to the following questions

What do I want from life?

What am I doing that really counts?

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?

What is the unique gift that I can share with the world so that I can contribute and make a difference?

For many of us, somewhere deep inside we have this niggling feeling that what we are doing is not contributing to what really matters to us and what is important in our lives. Taking the time out to reflect on the questions shared in all the three posts should give you some clarity and inspire you to think about what you need to change in order to move towards your goals and focus on what is important to you. As you do this, you will be able to take out the time to listen more, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy and indulge in your hobbies, relax more and get to know yourself through meditation and self reflection. It would then be much easier to identify those areas of your life that need an overhaul or some tweaking in order to become the best version of yourself.

However, sometimes even when we have the clarity and the inclination to make changes in our lives, the external world can get in the way. Without realising it, we can start and end our day on autopilot merely reacting to circumstances and people, fulfilling their agendas and not ours. For many of us, as soon as the alarm wakes us up, our habitual thoughts take over and our mental playlist of activities, worries and to-do list fill our every waking moment. Each day turns into a month, then months turn into years and pretty soon we have lost decades of our lives simply by remaining on autopilot. We may also feel that because of our circumstances- financial, personal, professional we do not really have any choice but to live like this on autopilot.

This is simply not true

At each moment we have a choice. You chose to read this article today. You choose the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the activities that you indulge in. You choose to be angry or to forgive people. You choose to be happy or to remain sad. You choose to be grateful for what you have or to focus on the things you lack in your life. You choose all these things and much more. BUT what you need to keep in mind is that this power to choose resides only in this present moment. In time, it is what we do every single day that matters much more than the profound decisions that we may make once in a while.

Once we are clear about what we need to do, we need to rise above excuses and do what is important and needs to be done. And one of the best things that we can do to increase productivity and get things done is to have a well thought out morning routine. Having a consistent morning routine is infact a common and recurring theme amongst many successful people. It helps to counteract the pull of distractions and overcome daily obstacles that can and do pop up. You can and should harness the power of an empowering morning routine as well. And in time, it can literally transform your life.

Whether it is the Olympic winner Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Ratan Tata, Indira Nooyi or countless other successful people, crafting a sacred space in the morning has made all the difference in their productivity and achieving their dreams. It has enabled them to start their day with intention and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. In other words, an empowering morning can set you up for 'wins' and motivate you to keep going with a calm and productive frame of mind.

Now that the power of morning routines is clear, let us see what it would look like for you. The first thing to note is that it is NOT and SHOULD NOT be the same for everyone. It is not about waking up at a particular time OR doing the same things that everyone else is doing. It is about finding, creating and then sticking to a routine that is right for YOU.

Remember, your mornings are a blank slate and it is up to you to fill it in with what work for you

What is a morning routine?

It is a set of activities that you do upon waking up in the morning. It can and does vary from person to person and includes activities like exercise, meditation, brushing teeth, prayer, journaling, writing and reading.

Take some time today and think about how you usually start your day. Simply start by making a list of all the things that you do upon waking up. The next step would be to identify what is important right now. (This becomes easier if you have already reflected upon this as I have mentioned in my earlier post) Once you know that you are doing the RIGHT thing you can get started crafting out a routine that works for YOU.

In this post, I have shared with you 5 simple habits that you can intentionally develop for a calmer and brighter morning

(It is up to you to incorporate as many of these that you want in your own routine)

Setting intention

Set the tone for the day by finding out what your intention is. The questions below can help you bring some clarity as you think about your activities for the day and set an intention-

How can I show up today that is in line with what I want to achieve today?

What do I want to see more of today? (good news, wonder, acts of kindness, joy)

What is my heart's desire at this moment?

How do I want to feel?

A few examples are "Today I will take care of myself better, show compassion to others and myself, remain calm, be more open to joy".

Journaling, meditation and reflection 

Prayer, meditation and journaling are all beautiful ways that you can use to ground and connect with yourself. There is no one right way to meditate or write in a journal, you simply need to find what works for you.

If writing free form is difficult, you can use the prompts given below (from the book "The Mindful Day by Laurie Cameron")

What I appreciate most in my life right now is....

 I am at my best when I am....

What brings me alive is.....

What I really need right now is....

What gets in the way of me being present is....

My next best action is.... 

Even if you do not have a formal meditation practice, the simple act of paying attention or being more mindful in how you start your day can have a profound effect. The beauty is that you can be more mindful with regards to any activity that you do already. The simple act of paying attention while having a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, showering, exercise will help you to bring awareness to that particular moment and replenish and rejuvenate you.

Related image

Reading

Another way of connecting with yourself and the world in the morning is to read a book (and I don't mean the news). This will be different for each of us as we choose to read something that inspires and motivates us. I find that I prefer to read about other people whom I respect and who inspire me to grow and live a better life. Books like The four things that matter most by Dr Ira Byock, First things first by Stephen Covey, Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, The power of habit by Charles Duhigg, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Mindset By Carol Dweck, The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann are just some of the books I have read over time.

Spending time with family

Spending time with your family is one of the best ways to start your day. It helps to connect with what is truly important for each of us on a daily basis. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, it is the quality of the time spent that matters more than how much time you actually get to spend with your family in the morning.

Since there is always a rush in the morning during school days (I have two school going children), I try and wake my children up around 10 minutes earlier and spend some time with them, giving them a hug or a cuddle and sometimes switching on their favourite music to get them started on the right note. My husband and I also make sure that we savour our quiet time together over our cup of tea and newspaper before we start preparing for our day.

Exercise and mindful movement

Research shows us that moving our bodies first thing in the morning whether it is through exercise (cardio, aerobic, strength training etc) or mindful movements like tai chi and yoga have a profound beneficial and positive effect on our health and how we deal with the rest of our day. By doing this first thing in the morning we have the opportunity to harness the benefits of exercise and movement throughout the remainder of our day. Schedule a workout or activity that you like doing already and then stick to it.

However, the key to having a successful and consistent routine is to PLAN for it and REMOVE anything that might get in the way

A few things that ensure that I stick to my routine are

  • preparing the night before by keeping my journal, workout clothes ready; preferably somewhere I can see them immediately as I wake up
  • using an app to make sure that I cannot access my emails and social media first thing in the morning (I will be covering this topic in details in one of my later posts)
  • having a simple structure that I can follow in terms of activities and time for the first couple of hours
  • setting an intention for the day; sometimes I set one for the entire week
  • complete my workout in the morning so that unexpected work or family issues do not come in the way later during the day
  • lastly, creating an environment that is conducive to self reflection and gives a peaceful start to my day; I love playing music and lighting incense to awaken my senses

My own routine is very much a work-in-progress and is not something that you need to emulate as is. The whole point is to find what works for YOU and then stick to it. It should be something that you enjoy doing and feel good about doing on a regular basis.

So take a pen and paper and start creating an empowering morning routine for yourself. Every day that you stick to it treat as a small "win". It is only when we pause to celebrate each step that we take in the right direction that we can stick to it and achieve what we set out to do no matter how long it takes.

Finally, take this magical time to connect with your body, breath and spirit to give yourself the best possible start to your day and to your life

As Marcus Aurelius said, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love" 

(As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down the questions that I ask along the way. You may end up getting to know yourself better and even surprise yourself with your answers. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)

 

Take back the power to heal yourself (Part 1)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

(This is the first of a three-part series of posts on self-care. While I had originally intended it to be only one post, I realised while writing this that there was a lot I wanted to share and I did not want to cut any corners. I will be publishing the remaining posts in the next few weeks)

When was the last time you felt that your health was completely in your hands?

That you had the power to decide the outcome of your health goals?

Do you often feel powerless in front of medical authorities when you meet them for your health issues?

This is not confined only to doctor visits though.

This can happen to any of us anywhere and with anyone that we chose to give away our power to. We often knowingly or unknowingly give away our power over our own lives to authorities outside of us and to the circumstances in our lives.

When we hear the word Power we usually think of it as something lying outside of us.

A powerful car.

A powerful businessman or leader.

A powerful speech.

A powerful motorbike.

A powerful doctor that everyone listens to.

This can also be in the form of thinking that-

If only I had that dream house, I would be able to settle down and be happy

If only I could find someone who finally understands me and loves me, everything would be fine

If only I could have enough money, I would take that long vacation and finally be happy

Does this sound familiar to you?

More often than not we fail to realise we have given our power and in turn our happiness to people and circumstances which lie outside of us. This holds true for all aspects of our lives including our health issues

Instead of turning deep into ourselves, trusting our instincts and listening to what our body is trying to tell us, we usually ignore or otherwise medicate our way out of the symptoms. Medication, of course, has its right of place and is life saving when used properly and for the right reasons. However, when medicine is used as a substitute for self care and leading a well balanced life, it can end up creating a lot of problems in the long run.

"Selfcare is how you take your power back"

Our body is a truly amazing and miraculous thing. Too often we fail to give it the support that it needs on a daily basis to take care of us and keep us healthy. We forget that our bodies have an innate ability to heal provided all the right ingredients are present.

Taking the time to really get to know yourself and who you have become and in turn what your body needs at this point in time, is one of the first places to start. This does not happen in one go and neither does it happen overnight, so we need to deliberately take out the time for self care from our busy schedules on a daily basis.

But before we can begin moving towards changing the way we treat ourselves, we may need to recognise the ways in which we have been giving away our personal power.

We need to...

STOP

Blaming others for our health condition and take responsibility for the choices that we have made

Giving so much to others that we start feeling empty and resentful inside

Holding onto anger and grudges against others who may intentionally or unintentionally have hurt us

Letting other people's behaviour dictate our emotions and how we feel about ourselves and others

INSTEAD

...we can 

Take the time to sit down with ourselves and learn to truly listen to what we need at this moment

Take responsibility for our own life,  feelings and actions

Face our fears and learn to accept the dark and unwanted parts of ourselves as gracefully as we do our strengths; once we are able to do so, they lose their power over us

Nourish our mind and body with positive thoughts and energy by eating the right foods and taking out time to take care of our emotional and physical needs on a daily basis

Most of all, we can get to know ourselves as we would a new friend

In getting to know ourselves, we may...

get to know what we want and what we do not want in our lives, what our likes and dislikes are

find that what we were looking for was within us all the time

find that we need to forgive and move on, and many times the person who needs to be forgiven is ourselves

We can then finally start reclaiming our power and move towards our health and other life goals...