This week I've needed some serious self care...
Being 36 weeks pregnant I'm finding that nights have gotten a bit rough- I have terrible restless legs in spite of extra magnesium, potty breaks are frequent, and no sleeping position is comfortable. I've tried it all, the wedge pillow, sleeping in a recliner, pillow between the legs, all to no avail. Most nights I toss and turn almost the entire night, and I'm starting to think that I'll sleep better WITH a newborn than I currently do.
The only thing that feels comfortable on my legs, hips and pelvis is being upright, so often I'm inclined to just get up out of bed and move around in spite of being sleepy. I walk, stretch and do yoga, but this week called for calling in some extra measures.
I've taken warm baths with essential oils. If you're looking for an excellent and effective quick way to unwind at home on any given weeknight, this is the one! I frequently use a few drops of lavender, which is proven to be both safe and relaxing during pregnancy (here's a list of other pregnancy safe oils for my prenatal friends). Find yourself a favorite relaxing playlist (here's one of my favorites), use some candles, pour yourself some warm tea, a glass o f wine, or other favorite beverage, grab a book, get your comfiest pajamas ready, and make sure you'll have no interruptions. Even a half hour calming soak goes a long way to helping the body feel relaxed and help reduce stress.
I've made a new face mask! This one was super easy, and makes a great deep pore treatment for those relaxing baths. Use 1 Tbsp. bentonite clay and one emptied capsule (apx. 1/8 tsp) activated charcoal mixed with two drops tea tree oil, and few drops of sweet almond, rosehip or extra virgin olive oil. Add a tiny bit of water at a time and mix until it's a spreadable paste consistency. Spread on your face while you're soaking in the bath, and the warmth will help soak into the pores and give them a deep clean. Rinse well after dried, you might need a clean washcloth to help, the charcoal sometimes requires a little extra help. Follow with your favorite moisturizer.
For nights when my brain won't shut off and I struggle to get or stay asleep, I've gotten REALLY into Yoga Nidra. If you've never heard of Yoga Nidra, this is a more meditative practice and does not include asana (physical practice), so basically it's a guided relaxation meditation. I found Sarovara Yoga on YouTube and find her nidras super relaxing, and I often use headphones (and a satin sleep mask) to listen at night before bed, or in those early morning hours when I struggle to get back to sleep. She has an extensive playlist of nidras ranging from 10 minutes to 3 hours, I highly recommend giving a listen.
Remember, when you find yourself tired or stressed and in need of comfort, sometimes little things to help you feel well can really go a long way. Taking care of yourself isn't selfish, it's important, and even when time get limited and the stresses pile up you can still find small ways to rest and reset. Much the same as with fitness, I have found that when I'm less able to commit longer single sessions to myself, whether for workouts or self-care activities, doing small things do have cumulative benefits. Take 10-15 minutes here and there several times a day and it adds up- spending an hour on yourself is still an hour, even if it's broken into smaller sessions.
An introduction to my self-care evolution before our first self-care Saturday recipe...
Once upon a time and earlier in my adult life I lived a life different than I do now. Self-care was not part of my routine and was perceived as selfish. I was living an existence that revolved around the trophy created by stress and burnout, rooted in never ending self-sacrifice. Over time I learned that this is not uncommon, and worse, that people sought out others that did the same. Instead of encouraging one another to prioritize health and wellness, all I found was the "wine culture" of indulgence and humor about premature aging, making people fell less alone in their struggles. Camaraderie is a pretty powerful and comforting thing, and it seemed as though people lived in novelty instead of mindfulness.
By serendipity I found some things that made me feel a little rejuvenated, finding ways to sneak them into my busy routine. Instead of dwelling on the guilt over the time spent on myself, I found myself feeling more present in other endeavors. This feeling grew and inspired me to become the best version of myself that I could be, not just because I deserved it, but because the people around me deserved it, too.
One of my favorite college professors wrote about the Leadership Imperative of Self-Care, motivating people in leadership positions to look beyond self care myths for both personal and career success. It still resonates with me how she was able to professionally articulate a growing sentiment I was witnessing in my personal life, and as my journey continued and I evolved into an advocate for health and wellness I continued to default to the importance of prioritizing your individual well-being.
I still do. It's good for me, and for all of my relationships, personal and professional. As a parent I believe that self-care practice is essential; beyond giving everyone the best version of yourself, you are leading by example and showing them that everyone is worthy of time, and that everyone has hobbies and interests equally as important as their own. Beyond that, I don't believe that anything good comes from teaching a child that the world revolves entirely around them, rather, they learn patience and self-sufficiency. Self-care looks different to everyone and should be something that is helpful and beneficial, making you feel a sense of reset. Self-care should improve your health and while a glass of wine and a warm bath, or an occasional indulgence in a special treat sound nice, be cautious that you don't use the term "self-care" as a broad sweeping way to feel less guilty about bad habits, which should be practiced in moderation...meaning eat the piece of cake or drink the glass of wine, not the whole cake and guzzle the bottle. Self-care can sometimes be a balancing act of habits and indulgences.
For me, I find my self-care in being outdoors in general, most especially trail running and hiking. I love yoga, and I also really enjoy at home spa and beauty treatments. I like to find and try different skin care companies and products, especially natural ones, and create concoctions and mixtures with other natural products to make homemade masks, scrubs and creams. The outdoor enthusiast in me also likes to forage for wild plants I can use in these creations, and have used plants like dandelion to make body salves that help fight inflammation. Much the same as with nutrition and what it does to the inside of our body, plants and other foods can do really neat things to the skin as well.
That said, I found a recipe for a pumpkin facial that I tweaked with slightly different products that I prefer, and it's been a keeper. I've seen pumpkin enzyme products and have read about their benefits, and I've even seen a pumpkin facial offered at a local day spa, so my curiosity was piqued. What I learned is that pumpkin has natural enzymes that help to gently exfoliate the skin, Vitamins A, C and E which fight signs of aging like fine lines and sun damage, and zinc and potassium which fight redness. With the addition of plain yogurt you get more exfoliating power from the naturally occurring lactic acid, a common and sought after Alpha Hydroxy Acid in skin care products, which has a wide range of benefits such as acne fighting, anti-aging, and collagen building properties. Honey has natural anti-bacterial properties, and sweet almond oil is a powerful little addition that replenishes moisture without clogging pores, contains anti-aging Vitamin A, and contains antioxidants which help reduce photo-aging while retaining moisture on the skin. This mask creates an instant glow and leaves your face feeling smooth and supple.
Anti-Aging Pumpkin Mask
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon Honey (I use local raw honey)
1 Tablespoon Sweet Almond Oil
Mix all ingredients until combined. Keep mask on for about 10 minutes then wash off with warm washcloth. Follow with favorite moisturizing serum and moisturizer (I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5).