We all have stressors in our life. Only in the last year, I´ve experienced a whole lot of grief and loss. Then there are other stressors I face at times like a client´s late payment causing cash flow issues, or the challenge of raising teens, close family members having health problems …
Although I practice yoga and mindfulness daily, there are some days where I just need an extra dose of it all. Today I could actually feel my stomach contracting and starting to hurt in response to a whole lot of stress, brought on by all of the above.
I´m fortunate that I work for myself and I can make my own schedule. As soon as I realized that stress was taking over, I cleared out two hours to take care of myself. I knew that if I didn´t do that, I´d probably end up in bed doubled over in pain. Plus, I wouldn´t have the mental or emotional clarity to produce work of any significance.
I also know from experience that if I don´t set aside some time for self-care, my body will find a way to make me do it. I remember the times that pushing through bronchitis made it worse, or when five years ago I was so stressed out but couldn´t relax, that I ended up with shingles.
Today I did not let stress slide. I took care of it. It didn´t cost me money, only time and dedication. And at the end of the session I felt like I´d stepped out of a spa. I felt pampered, and worthy, relaxed and renewed. And, I was able to face my stressors with mental and emotional clarity and focus on work. So much so, that in just a few hours I accomplished what it would usually take me a couple of days to do.
Set aside two hours
I set my phone on Do Not Disturb for two solid hours and resolved not to check email or social media or anything else. Keep in mind that I work online, so this one´s a biggie for me. I pretended I was stepping into a studio.
I set up my yoga mat, bolsters, blocks, blankets, eye pillows and essential oils, just as I would if I were going to teach or take a restorative class. Then I tuned in to what I needed. My thoughts were all over the place and I felt a rush of anxiety.
Slow, mindful vinyasa flow
I know that a slow, mindful vinyasa flow gets me out of my head, so I practiced that for an hour. Here is a 16-minute anti-stress flow with Patrick Beach that you can try. Mine was way longer because I had the time. By the end of it I was feeling much better, and my mind was quieter, but I still had the feeling of contraction in my stomach, so I knew I wasn´t done.
Short restorative yoga sequence
I listened to some Liquid Mind relaxation music and practiced a 15-minute restorative yoga sequence. It was pretty similar to the one I follow when I have a cold, with a heart opening pose, a couple of twists and a supported forward fold (click on the previous link to see it all). I applied lavender essential oil on my wrists and in addition to the blocks and bolsters, I actually covered myself with yoga blankets. I can´t begin to tell you how comforted I started to feel. And yet … When I was done I knew I needed something more.
Yoga Nidra for the win
I´ve been practicing yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, for around four years now. When I can´t get myself to a class (which is most of the time), instead of guiding myself through it, I usually listen to a guided yoga nidra practice by Madhav that is available on apple music and also as an app for smartphones. I usually choose the 30-minute version, but when I´m short of time I will use the 20-minute and even the 10-minute version.
This is the perfect close for a self-care yoga session where one is addressing stress. When dropping into yoga nidra, there is a sweet spot where I can feel I´m not awake but I´m also not asleep. It´s like hitting a reset button deep inside. Everything relaxes, the brain and the body.
When I rolled over on my side after yoga nidra, I felt like a new woman. The tension in my belly was gone and I was able to tackle the rest of the day without hesitation.
I hope that if you´re feeling at the end of your rope or burned out, you will also be inspired to carve out some time for yourself and follow the videos, articles and apps I shared here with you. I promise it will make a difference.