My world of self-care didn’t start until the second half of my 4th year of veterinary school, at almost 30 years old. Being a people pleaser, I always put everyone but myself first and in turn, I ended up very unhappy and with an overall negative outlook on life. It wasn’t until January of last year, about a month into being single for the first time in 10 years, that I realized my happiness was in no one else’s control but my own. I began to understand how important it was to take care of myself, my well-being, my happiness, my life and make ME a priority. And all of these factors that play such a big role in making my life rich and fulfilling, are my responsibility. I had no idea how much work I had to do though… So, I started small with a Five Minute Journal, and I continue to do it to this day. Since then, I’ve added quite a bit more to my routine. Here’s a quick glance at what I do on a daily and/or weekly basis to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health. You can find more detail about each below…
My Self-Care Routine
- Eating Clean
- Five Minute Journal
- Essential Oils
- Foam Rolling
I started meditating back in November when work was becoming so stressful that I was having anxiety and getting close to panic attacks. I started meditating and now it has become a part of my daily routine. On work days I’ll meditate twice a day, basically for my sanity and the wellbeing of my co-workers. I kid, I kid… But I’ll make the time for it on workdays, once before work and once at lunch. Usually, these workday meditation sessions lead to a nap, since my day starts at 4am. The sessions are so relaxing that I end up dozing off before the session is even over! How do I meditate? I use the Headspace app, which has guided meditation sessions that you can set for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Some of them you can choose longer sessions like 60 minutes. The hardest part about these meditation sessions for me is turning off my brain, which is thinking about a million different things, but throughout the session, the instructor reminds you to bring your attention back, focus on the breathing and stop the ‘mind chatter’. Sometimes this works for me and sometimes it doesn’t. The important thing is that I’m consistent and it helps me stay relaxed, positive and happy throughout my day.
I recently started doing yoga after my body was telling me that 5 days a week of CrossFit was too much. My muscles were getting so tight that sitting or standing was painful and my body was under constant physical stress. I ended up cutting my training days down to 4 days a week, as suggested by coach Danny (also boyfriend Danny). But cutting out a training day didn’t sound really appealing to me. I needed some sort of activity to get my energy out in an attempt to replace the endorphins I chase after from throwing weights around. So, I decided to incorporate yoga into my third rest day on Sunday so I could have an ‘active rest day.’ I’ve been using the app Down Dog and it’s a really great app! I’m only 2 weeks in, but it has been going well so far and has helped to keep me moving on a day that I’m not in the gym and also keeps me mobilizing as well (I can picture the smile on Danny’s face – the mobility master).
Every night before bed, I spend 10-50 minutes, depending on how much time I have, winding down with some ROMWOD. ROMWOD stands for Range of Motion Workout of the Day and it is deep stretching that was originally adapted for CrossFitters, but now a ton of other athletes are using it as well. Stretching before bed gets me winding down, calms my mind and my body and gets me ready for sleep. I typically get home at night around 8pm and need to have my eyes shut by 9pm in order to wake up at 4am for the gym. That doesn’t give me a lot of time to eat dinner, shower, walk/feed Haley and do my nightly routine. And I need to fall asleep quickly after 9pm in order to roll out of bed so early the next morning. Incorporating ROMWOD into my nightly routine helps my mind and body prepare for sleep in a short period of time. And it works because I’m typically asleep within 15 minutes of closing my eyes, which is a huge win for me because it used to take me over an hour!
Exercising goes without saying when it comes to self-care. Taking care of my body with physical exercise 3+ times per week is essential for my physical health AND mental/emotional well-being. Therefore, is one of the most important parts of my self-care routine. I’m releasing endorphins, keeping my muscles and bones strong, keeping my mental health in check, increasing my energy, exercising my brain, helping with sleep and relaxation… I could go on and on. The most important part is being consistent and in order to do this I have a routine and I stick to it every week. I don’t just go to the gym whenever I feel like it. I’d end up slacking off and cherry picking workouts. Every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I get up at 4am and hit the gym for the 6am CrossFit class and on Friday the noon class since I don’t work Fridays. It’s my routine every week. If I’m tired, I go. If I’m feeling down, I go. If I’m feeling energetic and happy, I go. I don’t make excuses. I show up consistently. I brush my teeth every morning and every night. I go to the gym every Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri. It’s that simple.
I would say 90% of what I eat is not processed. Mostly fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources and clean fat sources. This keeps my body healthy and feeling good. It also keeps my mind healthy. I don’t eat dairy or gluten. I rarely eat any added sugar. Sugar has such a negative effect on the mind and the body, as does processed foods and added chemicals. Even if I have a ‘cheat meal’ it will be something clean. For example, this afternoon I’ll be making some paleo orange coconut butter cookies. They’re not 100% strict paleo, but all the ingredients are clean, gluten free, dairy free and a hell of a lot healthier than cookies from a bag or box. I try not to limit myself from foods that I love, like desserts and chocolate. I just find a healthier and cleaner option.
Reading is part of my self-care routine almost every night and is usually the last thing I do before I turn off the lights, even if it’s only 5 minutes. I read at night from, hold on a minute… A REAL BOOK. Not a computer. Not a tablet. Not a phone. I have personally noticed the effects of the blue light on my sleep, so I avoid all electronics at least an hour before bed. I do use my computer for ROMWOD before bed, but I have my blue light dimming software on called ‘f.lux’. You can download it here: f.lux Reading allows my brain to turn off, stop thinking about my day, and focus on only one thing, the story in my hands. It prevents me from running through everything that I did that day and everything that I still have to do. And if it’s a great book, what a bonus to top off my day!
Every morning and every evening I make time to fill out my Five Minute Journal. Each day has its separate page with the date, a quote and 5 sections to fill out. In the morning there’s 3 sections: 3 things that I am grateful for, 3 things that would make today great and a daily affirmation. In the evening there are 2 sections: 3 amazing things that happened today and how could I have made today better. Even if I’m running late I will stop to make sure I do my journal. It keeps my perspective on life positive and has trained my brain to actually seek out the POSITIVE things in life instead of dwelling on the negative. Most importantly it reminds me of all the things I have to be grateful for.
Candles are an easy way to create a calming environment. I try to light a candle at night as I do ROMWOD to help set the session up to be relaxing. Sometimes it’s difficult to unwind on a work night when I only have 10 minutes to spare for ROMWOD, so preparing my environment to be ‘zen’ with candles really helps!
I try to make time for hobbies as much as I can throughout my week. Keeping my mind engaged with things that I love to do and those which I am passionate about keeps me happy and excited about life. Some of my hobbies include blogging, jewelry designing, reading, drawing, arts and crafty stuff, cooking and baking, knitting and CrossFit. I’m super creative, so most of my hobbies revolve around crafts. I literally need to be chaperoned if I have to make a trip to Michael’s.
I love essential oils, especially before bed. Whether it’s in an essential oil diffuser or a drop or two applied directly to my chest, the aroma can have a very relaxing effect on my body. Lavender is what I use most often, a few drops applied directly to my chest and it helps me to fall asleep. Eucalyptus is another one that I might throw into my essential oil diffuser along with lavender in the evening. During the day, I’ll put a more bright, ‘sunshiney’ oil into my diffuser like lemon oil. I use Now Essential Oils. Diffusers are great and pretty inexpensive too! Here’s the one I have: URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser.
I can feel the mobility master, Danny, smiling from ear to ear. Rolling out the sore and tight muscles, pretty simple. Pain sucks. Address it. Get the blood flowing to those muscles and push the lactic acid out. Foam rollers are super cheap! I picked up a regular foam one and a spikey one from TJ Maxx for around $7 each. But Amazon has great prices on foam rollers as well.
Almost every night I try to be in bed between 9 and 10pm. On work nights, I’ll get in between 6-7 hours of sleep at most, so an extra 30 minutes of sleep gained or lost can be a huge difference. I also try to get a 10-minute nap in before work and on my lunch break as well to stay on top of my game working an 11-hour shift. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is important if I want to feel my best and perform my best, no matter what that might be. Even on my days off, I will usually be asleep before 10pm. Additionally, because I am an athlete, sleep is SO important for my recovery. That makes it a priority and a crucial part of my self-care routine.
I have been listening to relaxation radio on Pandora on my way to work lately. It sets me up to start my day out relaxed. Work is crazy stressful for me and having some calming music at the very beginning of my day allows me to walk into work in a relaxed mindset. I particularly like the guitar hymns on this channel. They are super soothing but also bright and cheery! However, one of my favorite songs right now is The Cello Song by The Piano Guys. Can’t get enough of this one!!
I hope some elements of my self-care routine resonated with you and inspired you to try some of them for yourself! Please take care of YOU before anyone else. You must put on your oxygen mask first!
<3 Shannon Edith