Keep a running list of things, places, people, aromas, and activities that make you feel grounded. Refer back to it when you feel disconnected. For me, I grew up in the mountains and pine trees are very grounding for me. I use essential oils, and I like to keep a bottle of Siberian Fir and Pine essential oils on my desk to apply to my wrist before an important call or presentation.
Thanks again to Chaya Weiner and Authority Magazine for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this important topic, especially as companies are navigating employees' readaption to juggling home, family and office from the office again.
In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Definitely! Yes, this is so important in general, but even more so in the midst of the pandemic. We all need support with our mental wellness. Here are 3 good habits that I think are essential:
- Honoring your sleep cycle by getting up at the same time everyday to an intentional morning routine that sets the tone for your day. This is probably one of the most important things when we are thinking about mental wellness. We are animals that rise and fall with the energy of the sun, so the more you can align your sleep cycle with the sunset and sunrise the better. At the same time, we are creatures of habit and routine and the body’s systems function better when they can predict what is going to happen. Therefore getting up and going to bed at the same time everyday is the first step to improving your sleep time and quality. I personally have always been an early riser, but I have adapted to get up at 5am everyday to have a lot of time for my morning routine, and some time to myself before my kids get up. This allows me to wake up excited for some “me-time” instead of dreading jumping out of bed rushing to get them ready for school. Not to mention doing my self-care practices helps me get mentally prepared for the day and means I show up for my kids with a lot more patience.
- A daily movement practice. This doesn’t have to be traditional exercise, this can look differently for everyone. The fact is our bodies are designed for movement and our brains work better when we move everyday for at least 20 minutes. This could be yoga, stretching, a brisk walk, or even cleaning out a closet, something that puts you into action mode works wonders to keep us healthy mentally. This is ideal in the morning, when cortisol, a stress hormone, is usually at its peak. Although it can also work wonders mid-day when you feel your energy and creativity slumping to get the body moving. Try creating a movement playlist, 4 or 5 songs that get you moving and invigorated. In our family at the beginning of the pandemic we had a daily family dance off just to keep the energy high in the afternoon and allow the kids to let off a little steam and express themselves with their bodies.
- Plant-based living. This one might surprise you, but what you are consuming in every sense affects your mental wellness. One of the easiest ways to ‘lighten your mood’ is to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables throughout your day. You will get a boost of nutrients, vitamins and water which helps our brains function optimally. When people shift to a more plant-based diet they feel lighter, and that applies to our mood as well. On a more abstract level we can also consider what energy the food we are eating has, so fresh fruit and veggies are alive and have active life and energy from the sun still in them. Whereas a cracker or granola bar that has been processed, packaged, and sat on a shelf in the supermarket for 6 months is lifeless — it ultimately brings our energy down and in turn our mental state as well. Sugar in particular really affects our mood. We initially get a high, but then we crash and feelings of anger and sadness take over. Switching to fruit as your sweet source is a great way to avoid the roller coaster mood swings we experience from sugar, and processed food in general.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I would love to. There is really a lot of overlap, wellness is multifaceted and therefore anything that improves your mental wellness will also improve your physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. I will happily add onto the habits I mentioned above.
- Develop a solid-bedtime routine to help us ‘power down’ our system and maximize the benefits of our sleep. Avoid stressors that will interfere with your sleep. When our stress hormone cortisol is released it puts our nervous system into ‘flight or fight’, which means our body want to physically run or move to get us out of dangers’ way, it also signals to our system to shut down digestion and store fat so that we are ‘ready’ to fight or ready to survive without eating while we deal with this stressor or danger as the body perceives it. The problem is that these stressors are not usually a real threat, such as a bear chasing us, they are mental, such as a pending deadline at work, or an email we have to write. Having a buffer in terms of time and space from being ‘on’ to getting ready for bed is so important. Turn your phone off and charge it in another room 30 minutes before bed. Have a bath or wash your face. Apply some essential oil such as cypress or lavender to your feet to help you relax. Jot down any impinging thoughts on a notepad beside the bed so your brain will allow you to relax more fully. Dim the lights, read a few pages of your book and be sure to keep work related things in another room of the house. Keep your sleeping environment sacred to rest and restore energy.
- Tuning into our biorhythms to understand the best times to eat. This is a great habit to incorporate, it may be challenging for some to shift the times at which we eat, but once you adapt it will be second nature to eat breakfast a little later, have your biggest meal in the middle of the day and let your digestion to have a good head start before we go to bed. For a lot of people it is easier to shift when they eat, than to shift what they are eating so this is a great place to start. Our bodies go through three phases a day: Appropriation, Assimilation, and Elimination. Once we get to know our own rhythms we can support our body by eating the majority of our food in the Appropriation phase, and allow the digestive system to rest while the body incorporates nutrients and prepares to rest and heal at night in the Appropriation phase. From there in the morning while the body is still in the Elimination phase we don’t want to overload it with new food, so we can support our system by drinking lots of water and starting our day with warm water with lemon before we drink coffee or tea.
- Incorporating spices and superfoods into our diet to boost the immune system. I think we all get into the habit of using the same combination of spices, which is not a problem, but we could be supporting our system a lot better by mixing it up. Spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, chile pepper, sage, thyme, oregano, cardamom and lemongrass can really liven up the flavors in our plant-based meals and also provide our body ward off low level inflammation, boost our circulation and help detoxify our system. Superfoods on the other hand can be fresh or in powdered form similar to spices. You get more bang for your buck with fresh ingredients, but many of these superfoods are not available everywhere fresh. Kale and blueberries are great superfoods you can find seasonally, and I recommend you embrace them whenever you can. I recommend starting small and investing in a couple superfood powders at first so that you get used to using them and feel the results before you move on from there. Maca is a root from Peru that has given the Incan distant runners stamina for millenia. It is easy to incorporate into your morning smoothie or sprinkle over your salad and lunch. Cacao is another favorite that you can buy in the form of cacao nibs. They make a great addition to a homemade trail mix with pecans, goji berries, dried coconut, and raisins.
If you are interested in getting started on making wellness a way of life and not just a checkmark on your to-do list please book your first session here.
You can read the full interview here.