Continuing on from my eight tips to ignore our basic human needs from last week I’d like to propose an alternative - a ten step plan that I’ve been working on which include my personal practices that I live by to keep me going.
My hope is that you may be able to incorporate some, if not all of these into your everyday lives and benefit from them too.
I have reached these practices through a process of trial and error and personal experimentation for many different reasons and by no means do I stick to them all every day - they are a guide. On those days that I feel myself slipping into feeling low or anxious I know that I have let something slide; be it not drinking enough fluids, not having enough sleep, skipping my deep breathing or that I haven’t given my introvert the space she needs to re-energise.
Each of us have our own mode of working, and no one size fits all but I hope that if you follow me through with trialling and even incorporating each step into your lives you will find some improvements in your function and feel clearer and better able to deal with day to day unpredictability.
My ten steps work through the numbers, so they are easy enough to remember, so let’s start at the beginning.
ONE - you are only one, you are unique and you can only do what you can do on any given day. This is about knowing who you are and how you function and in knowing this you are better able to care for yourself and your own personal needs. Are you an introvert that needs the comfort of home to function? Do you like to be spontaneous? How do you feel and show love? What are your guiding values?
TWO - two litres of fluids. Yes, I know that you’ll have heard that so many times and this is just a guide like I said, I’m not advocating chugging two bottles of cold water. My idea here is to be mindful of what we are drinking and to make your fluid intakes a mindful-moment. For example warm water with lemon when you wake up, your first real coffee of the morning, that sneaky tea while the kids are busy, a refreshing glass of water with fruit slices. Each is a chance to pause in your busy days. Add to that, that being well hydrated maintains cognitive function which means you can react better to any potential chaos (yes that certainly includes kids) around you.
THREE - stretch, even if it is for three minutes. Stretch like a cat, like a dog, like a child, do the stretches you did in PE at school, do a bit of yoga, stretch after you’ve been asleep, stretch after you’ve been holding the baby, stretch when you’ve been on the computer for too long. Just a little stretch works wonders, in the words of my favourite yogi “find what feels good”!
FOUR - this is very important here so I’ve broken it down into three parts the first being breathing in for 4 seconds, a really deep, tummy expanding breath. So, so many studies have been done on this deep diaphragmatic breathing and the evidence is out there that this helps to reduce anxiety, depression and stress and can even reduce the perception of pain.
FIVE - now hold your breath for 5 seconds, look around you or even close our eyes and find something you are grateful for. Again, there are many studies extoling the benefits of gratitude, from improved physical and mental health to sleeping better and improving self-esteem.
SIX - and…. breathe out for 6 seconds, let it all go. Let everything go, sigh it out if you need to, get vocal. Let go of the frustration of your stubborn toddler, let go of the monotony of work, let go of always feeling wrong around certain people, let go that you are giving the kids chips again this evening as you just can’t stand them complaining about vegetables again, let go of your mothers judgement….whatever it is let it go with your breath.
Let’s try that all at once just to practice - breathe in for four seconds fully expanding your tummy, then hold for five seconds and think of one thing you are grateful for, then let it all out for six seconds and let whatever else you need to go too. Do this three more times, in for 4, hold for 5, out for 6…in for 4, hold for 5, out for 6…last one…in for 4, hold for 5, out for 6.
Now how do you feel?
SEVEN - moving on to seven and this is where it gets colourful! Eat the rainbow - Roy G Biv or Richard of York etc. However you remember your rainbow the aim is to eat fruits and vegetables from each colour group every day: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and white.
EIGHT - another to do with eating and this, in my opinion, is a super hack! It goes completely against what society seems to have ingrained in us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that we should always keep our blood sugar levels up with snacks. A year or so ago I would not have said this was a good idea, especially as I used to get very grumpy without a snack. However I can fully advocate intermittent fasting; only eating within an eight hour window each day.
NINE - a nine minute brain hack, if you’ve got a job to do that you don’t want to do and have been putting off set your timer and just start it - it’s not even 10 minutes! If after 9 minutes you are enjoying it, carry on. If after 9 minutes you’ve nearly finished just get it over and done with. If after 9 minutes you definitely don’t want to carry on it’s ok to stop, at least you have started it!
TEN - this is the end of the day, 10pm slow down, shut down, lights down. I understand not everyone needs seven, eight or even 10 hours of sleep. However, it never harms to turn it all down after 10pm and start settling in for the night, a good nights’ sleep can reduce anxiety, help with weight loss, improve focus and much more. I’m sure you yourself know how rough you feel after a late night.
So there they are, my ten tips, my practices, habits, rituals, whichever name you feel suits them best. Over the coming weeks I will expand on each with much more information and loads more tips, I’d love for you to benefit from this so I’ll be making downloadable documents for each stage too. It’s all a work in progress as is each of us.
Wishing you a fab week, see you next Monday!