If you’ve been hanging around these parts for the past few months you’ll know we’re proponents of small changes and micro rituals, especially when it comes to self care In isolation, these lifestyle hacks appear insignificant. Viewed as a whole, however, they add up to radical transformation.
Keep reading to learn why self care is essential to my mental health.
It wasn’t until my recent trip to Tokyo (to visit my sister and her family) that I realised how radically my life has changed since our first visit in 2014, and the impact of being away from this lifestyle took me by surprise!
After only a week in this urban jungle, my physical and mental health had deteriorated noticeably. My symptoms – digestive discomfort, bloating and constipation; eczema; migraines; fatigue, anxiety and low mood – all pointed clearly to a nervous system out of balance. My sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ response) had gone into overdrive.
What was this trying to teach me?
At the same time all of this was unfolding I was reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book The Universe Has Your Back in which she talks about showing up for life’s lessons with grace.
Be willing to show up for the assignment once and for all.
And trust that the Universe never gives you what you cannot handle.
I thought that if I left Tokyo, I would let down my sister and nephews. I thought leaving was akin to running away. I thought that my assignment was to STAY, to tough it out.
In a moment of clarity, a moment of divine grace, I identified a pattern. Repeatedly I had chosen to tough it out, putting up with situations that didn’t serve me because, in my mind, my needs and desires were less valid than those of other people.
When you begin to slow down and open up spiritually, you may become even more
aware of the ways you’ve been resisting true healing. You may see how your addictive
patterns have masked your feelings or how your high-strung energy made you move
so fast that you never slowed down long enough to feel.
Contemplating these words I realised I wasn’t running away. My assignment wasn’t to STAY. My assignment was to GO, to take ownership of my lifestyle choices and prioritise my self care.
I had undervalued my lifestyle choices and the importance of self care rituals
Was my decision to return home early selfish? Yes, in a way it was. But just as you’re instructed on an airplane to fit your own air-mask before helping others, I can’t be of service to others if I don’t look after myself first.
By tuning into my inner wisdom I was able to make a decision from a place of compassion and self-love rather than fear; a decision which honoured:
- my choice to be child free
- my choice to remove myself from the 9-5 grind
- my choice to fuel my body in a way that nourishes my body and mind
- my choice to prioritise rest, rejuvenation and silence.
It takes self-awareness to identify what it is you need, and courage to thumb your nose at social norms. Yoga has given me both.
Embracing the simple life
When the plane touched down in Brisbane I choked back tears of sweet, sweet relief and when I opened my front door less than half an hour later (one of the perks of living 10 minutes from the airport) I allowed my tears to flow freely, knowing I was exactly where I needed to be.
From the outside our life appears simple, perhaps even a little boring. But it is a life we have consciously created and it is the foundation for my mental and physical wellbeing. It is a life which brings joy and gratitude.
These feelings of gratitude intensified when I opened a birthday gift which arrived while I was away. In a beautifully wrapped box there was a note from my best friend notifying me that a donation had been made to the Mental Awareness Foundation, a charity Sam and I raised money for earlier this year.
I am so proud of your journey toward your own wellbeing, and the work you’re doing to support others and reduce stigma. I love you.
Having experienced the profound impact of yoga on my physical, mental and emotional health, I am committed to sharing my love of yoga but I cannot be of service to others if I don’t look after myself first.
I am slowly finding my way back to balance and, as 2016 comes to an end, I have given myself permission to slow down. New projects are on hold, making time and space for reflection, celebration and self care.
There may be unexpected twists and turns on my journey but I believe everything happens for a reason; every experience – pleasant or unpleasant – enhances my understanding of myself and the world around me. This is my yoga.