Post ID 730

Posted by on April 3, 2020

“Solitude is rather like a folded-up forest I carry with me everywhere and unfurl around myself when I have need.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why retreats are so wonderful to ‘get away from it all’ and ‘fill yourself up’. What I am excited to share is something that I’ve only just realized, and that’s really boosted my ‘me time’. 

Maybe you’re like I was, and the word ‘retreat’ brings to mind a ‘spa day’ or a ‘women’s getaway’. Now I know that you can also retreat right in the middle of your everyday life and the results will do wonders for your heart, mind, body and soul.

I started reading Jennifer Louden’s classic work “The Woman’s Retreat Book” because I was planning a ski getaway with my husband. Little did I know that my favourite takeaway would be her basic outline of a retreat that has since allowed me to have mini-retreats anywhere at any time. 

Here’s my interpretation of her outline, along with 4 retreat ideas, that will have you retreating in the heart of the hustle in as few as two minutes. You’re welcome!

4 Steps to Retreat

What I didn’t know then that I know now: the success of a retreat is not about the location you’re in, the time you have nor the people you’re with – it’s about what you do and how you do it. 

1) Prepare to Retreat – 

Think about your basic plan, such as where and when you’ll go and if you’ll need any supplies. Remember it’s not about the amount of time away or the physical proximity to your regular life, but instead about how well you can create a temporary boundary from them.

You’ll also want to set an intention for your retreat reflecting what you need right now in this moment. This will give form to your retreat while also allowing the unknowable that will unfold. This starts the process of slowing down and turning inward. For best results, pose your retreat intention as a question that feels open ended, expansive and encouraging. “On this retreat, I intend to ask myself this question . . .?”

2) Withdraw from Ordinary Life –

Begin your retreat in a safe space where you feel sustained and comforted physically and emotionally. This could be your bedroom, your bathtub, the garden, on a walk or a sacred place in your imagination.

Perform an opening ceremony or symbolic action that signals to your psyche that you’re entering a sacred time (even if you’re not physically going anywhere special). Try one or more of tehse many options: restate your intention, read an opening poem or psalm, cross a threshold, put on special clothing or an accessory, light a candle, dance to a song or apply essential oils. 

3) Listen to Yourself – 

This is the body of the retreat where the ‘work’ is done. Choose activities that will help you answer your stated intention and listen to your inner knowing. There are endless options here: rest, move, sing, read, journal, reflect, paint, cook, daydream, build, breathe, play or sleep. Anything goes, as long as the result is that you’re coming back to your centre and working toward a truer and more authentic relationship with yourself. 

4) Return to Ordinary Life –

Wrap up your retreat by reflecting on your experience, including what you’ve done, how you’ve been, what answers you’ve discovered and how you might bring any of this into your everyday life. 

End with a closing ceremony or symbolic action, like the reverse of your opening ceremony, to consciously step back into life. You could try to: offer thanks, move energetically, journal on your experience, read a poem or psalm, pack up your space, take home a momento or mental snapshot. It could be as simple as stating “I am returning from my retreat. My intention was . . . and I discovered . . . I appreciate myself for taking this time to listen and learn.”

4 Quick Retreats to Try 

Here are just a few ideas about how you could easily create a retreat in your day, in under 30 minutes. For the greatest results, please adapt these ideas to specifically address your own intentions and interests. 

1) The ‘Step Away Retreat’ in 2 minutes 

  • Ask yourself “How can I allow myself to relax and be?”
  • Close the door or close your eyes and imagine yourself in a favourite place.
  • Ideas: deep breathing, do nothing, apply body lotion or essential oils, try legs-up-the-wall pose, stretch, do a body scan or notice your 5 senses.
  • Say “All is well in this present moment. Thank you for taking this time for yourself.”

2) The ‘Take a Break Retreat’ in 10 minutes

  • Ask yourself “What do I love and how can I celebrate that?”
  • Light a candle, put on a favourite accessory or read a favourite poem.
  • Ideas: Mindfully drink a cup of tea, shower or bathe, journal, rest on your bed, practice an instrument, meditate or have a dance break.
  • Reverse your opening practice and write down how you love and celebrate, so you can remember to do more of that in the future.

3) The ‘Nature Retreat’ in 20 minutes

  • Ask yourself “How am I feeling about . . . (a demanding situation)?”
  • Get dressed and step out the door.
  • Ideas: Walk, sit in the sun, forest bathe, work in the garden or play in the park.
  • Before stepping back inside, notice if any new insights or feelings have arisen.

4) The ‘Lunch Break’ Retreat in 30 minutes

  • Ask yourself “What do I need to do to refuel myself now?”
  • Leave your workplace, or wherever you were previously spending your time, and go somewhere safe and soothing. Make a ritual of some small special gesture on your way, like listening to music or making a special beverage. 
  • Ideas: Mindfully eat lunch, go outside, read, socialize (if this is refueling to you), stretch, move, breathe or create (draw, knit, write – whatever thrills you).
  • Before returning, notice how you are and say “I’m ready for the rest of my day!”

However you choose to retreat, I hope these ideas bring you one step closer to feeling the best that you can and hearing the wisdom and wonder of your own self. 

P.S. For more insights like this sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to my email community HERE.

Post ID 724

Posted by on March 20, 2020

You face daily stressors, with no end in sight.

You need to stay well – in body and mind – to best make it through these uncertain times, care for others and contribute to the collective well-being. 

No pressure. 

Keep reading for the simple step you’ve been missing that will transform your response to and results from stress, keeping you healthier and more resilient to face another day.

The most succinct explanation of how stress works that I’ve found is from Emily and Amelia Negoski’s book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Much of what I have to share here is from their research on how stress works, the crucial step to de-stressing that we usually miss and ideas of how to take that step in as little as 20 seconds! 

How Stress Works

You know you’re under tremendous stress, but have you ever stopped to think about what’s really going on with stress?

Ideally it’s a 4-step sequence or cycle:

Stressor Experience -> Stress Experience -> Stressor Response -> Stress Response

1) Stressor Experience

A stressor is anything in your environment that you sense with your 5 senses or imagine, and that you interpret as a potential threat. Stressors can be external (work, finances, relationships, time, societal norms, global events) or internal (unhelpful emotions, self-criticism, regrets of the past, worries of the future).

Ex. You may find that your new routine of staying at home has introduced all kinds of new internal and external stressors that are impacting your sense of safety and security.

2) Stress Experience

Stress is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter a stressor. Your entire body and mind instinctively change your neurochemical, hormonal, digestive, immune, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and reproductive systems, in response to your perceived threat. This helps you get ready to navigate the ‘danger’. 

Ex. Your body is flooded with stress throughout the day (which you may notice as quicker breathing, increased blood pressure, tense muscles, vigilant focus, heightened senses, etc.) in response to the challenges you experience. 

3) Stressor Response

The stressor response is the way you manage the threats that arise. You are likely quite good at addressing the stressors of your day, whether or not the way you address them is helpful. Your long-term goal is to minimize and find more helpful responses to the stressors in your life – but that’s not our focus today.

Ex. It may have been a wild day, but you managed to make it through – got some work done, missed a deadline, entertained the kids, yelled at the kids, made a healthy meal, ate chips, called your mom, hid, whatever – and now you hope to get some sleep and then start again tomorrow . . . 

But wait! 

This is where we typically stop, but by doing so we’re not completing the stress cycle and becoming unhealthier and less resilient by the day.

This is the crucial missing step . . . 

4) Stress Response

The stress response is what you do about all those activated neurochemicals and body systems. The only way to signal to your body that you are safe – and the only way to effectively complete the stress cycle – is to physically DO something. It doesn’t work to just mentally think to yourself “I’m safe now, all’s well.” Your body speaks ‘body language’ so you must communicate safety through your body.

You must take a physical action to give your body the space and time it needs to heal from the process. 

Ex. At the time of the stressful event, or at least within the same day, move your body enough to breath deeply for at least 20 minutes – but even 20 seconds helps. And if you can’t, simply DOING something is the next best plan.

How to De-Stress in Minutes

To effectively de-stress, all you have to do is physically DO something:

  • Best – Move your body however you can to get yourself breathing deeply for 20-60 minutes daily.
  • Better – Stand up, take a deep breath, tense all your muscles for 20 seconds, then shake it out with a big exhale. 
  • Good – Practice other less physical activities that will also help: 
    • Deep breaths with long, slow exhalation
    • Positive social interactions
    • Deep belly laughs
    • Tear inducing cries
    • Affection with a person or pet with whom you feel mutual respect and trust
    • Creative activities that encourage emotional expression
    • Spiritual practice to feel supported by something greater than you
    • Nature connection for multi-layered health benefits

In the moment – you will know that your action has worked when you feel a subtle shift in your body toward peace and you feel slightly better. 

Over time, with consistent practice – like prioritizing 30 minutes in your day to physically de-stress – you will keep up with the daily stress and begin to heal the potentially decades of unprocessed stress within your body that has built up over time.

I like to think of all of this in terms of a stress spiral. By effectively practicing and completing the 4 steps, you will keep yourself moving in a healthy and forward direction, like an upward spiral. When there’s a glitch in the 4 steps, or when you’re missing one, you’ll get stuck or find yourself spiraling downward.

What one simple action will you commit to doing every day to physically relieve your stress? 

Stress well, be well.

     Nicole

P.S. Want more insights like this and exclusive notes from me directly to your inbox? SIGN UP HERE to join my email community.

Posted in: Body, Renewal

Post ID 684

Posted by on June 10, 2019

In my household, summers are always high energy, and this year is no exception. As we pack up and clean the whole house to move out for the summer months, prepare to spend two months travelling and camping, and finish up our commitments and activities for the school year, I’m doing my best to practice self-care.

I suspect some of you may be in a similar place, which is why this month I’m diving into the subject of Self-Care, to help us ‘manage the mayhem’ and ‘fuel up’ for the active months ahead.

What is Self-Care?

Self-Care means taking care of yourself (no kidding? ;). It includes the behaviours, actions and practices that you engage in to nourish your body, mind, heart and spirit.

For me, Self-Care is half of the Self-Love equation.

The other half is Self-Compassion which includes the feelings, emotions, thoughts and beliefs that you have, again in support of your whole best self. Self-Compassion is the inner state of being that directs Self-Care, the outward expression, resulting in Self-Love a.k.a. self-worth.

Self-Care + Self-Compassion = Self-Love

I begin here with Self-Care because it can be easily practiced, in small increments of time and with no cost. Over time, you can build your Self-Care practices, and start to address Self-Compassion too.

What do you need?

The first and simplest step to Self-Care is to identify and meet your needs. If you’re like many women I coach – and myself at times – I bet you rarely, if ever check in with yourself in this way.

So now’s the time. Let’s do this . . . Pause for a minute, and notice what comes to mind when you ask yourself: What do I really need? Considering your body, mind, heart and spirit, and noticing without judgement nor censoring, what answers come to mind?

Next, ask yourself: What could I do right now or today to meet that need? If your needs are great, another, less overwhelming way to approach this is to consider: What could I do to get 5% closer to meeting that need today?

Now get out there and try it! Small and consistent actions toward meeting your daily needs will build into a beautiful Self-Care practice over time, one kind step at a time.

Your self-care sister,

Nicole

P.S. Superior Sisterhood: The Self-Care Sessions continue through June. I’m interviewing various wellness professionals about their personal and professional experiences with Self-Care. Join us at: www.subscribepage.com/SuperiorSelf-Care

Posted in: Empowerment, Renewal, Spirit
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