If I were to ask you to think of something stressful in your life, I'm sure you could come up with a laundry list of things. But can you think of anything more stressful than if you were on a plane and something went wrong in the aircraft? Imagine the flight attendant grasps the intercom microphone and urgently instructs you to “Put your own mask on first before assisting others.”
Of course, the flight attendant wants you to take care of yourself first because you would be of no use to those who depend on you if you passed out from lack of oxygen. Luckily, I've never been on a plane where this scenario actually happened. However, it is critical to take care of yourself so that you can function at your best capacity in your daily life and perhaps even take care of others.
I like to think of my self-care as a form of "oxygen." There are certain things I do for myself on a daily, bi-weekly or monthly basis. If I don't do these things for myself, I don't feel good. I can get very irritable, overwhelmed or even sick.
One of my favorite gifts to give my dear friends is a "gift" I give myself... massage. I am aware of the benefits of massage because I get one twice a month. Below are some of these benefits:
- Increase energy and alertness
- Relieve muscle aches and pains
- Improve circulation
- Boost joint health
- Enhance recovery from injury and illness
- Increase restful sleep
- Improve your outlook
- Increase relaxation and inner peace
WOW! Some of you may be thinking… she gets a massage every other week! That’s a lot! But for me, massage is much more than a simple indulgence. It is a vital form of self-care.
You see, I was diagnosed with a rare hip disease in my twenties. That’s a long time ago, as those of you who are following me read in my blog post titled “59 and Not Holding Back.” I have had multiple surgeries on my left hip and massage has helped me gain nearly full mobility of my hip.
So... let's imagine that I have just given you the gift of a massage. You enter a completely quiet and serene room. Only ambient lighting from a glowing rock lamp illuminates the space. Soon you are keenly aware of all of your senses. You slip between the warm, silky sheets of the heated massage bed. You lie on your stomach with your head cradled on a supportive massage pillow. You can hear the sounds of a babbling brook and soft meditation music in the background. The scent of refreshing oils fill the air as your therapist gently pours some warm massage oil on her hands and on your back.
To clear your mind, the therapist might say,
"Take three slow, deep, relaxing breaths.
Inhale calm and relaxation… exhale all stress and worry.
Inhale positive energy… exhale all negativity.
Inhale peace and balance… exhale all things not within your control.”
Soon you are in a twilight state... somewhere between being asleep and awake. You are aware that you can still hear, smell and feel the sensations, but you can also hear your deep relaxed breathing. This is when the restoration of massage can begin.
It's a feeling unlike any other I've experienced. I can even get visualizations during massage. When I leave my massage therapist, I feel like I have set all the good intentions for the rest of my day... perhaps even my week!
To me not taking care of myself is like cutting off my oxygen. I'd define my self-care as the activities and habits that allow me to function at my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual best. Here is a list of practices that are like "oxygen" to me:
- Adequate sleep (Typically I get between 8 – 9 hours of sleep each night.)
- Healthy home cooked meals (I frequently use the farm-to-table meal kits that are all the rage right now like Plated and Hello Fresh. The kits I choose are organic meals with no preservatives and no left over wasted ingredients. The meals are calorie and portion controlled and are truly nutritious and delicious.)
- Daily quiet time for reading, reflecting and meditating (I allow myself time to read the news, inspirational articles, catch up on my social media sites and just relax. Sometimes I even take a 20 minute rest where all I do is quiet my mind and meditate.)
- Quality time with my husband, family and friends (I am a people person. I get my positive energy when I am around other people. This doesn't mean I never enjoy solitude. But I am truly energized when I get to spend quality time with those I love. However, if you are an introvert, you may need more alone time. Do whatever suits your personality best. )
- Some form of exercise (I love my yoga and stretching… even though this hip of mine limits me more than most, I feel the benefits each and every time I go to yoga practice. It's like an internal massage I give myself. )
- Creative outlet such as writing, blogging, photo journaling. (My friends and family often call me "Sue-Preme"… because I like to use my creativity to add a spark of style to life.)
My secondary list of essential forms of self-care do not necessarily have to happen on a daily basis. But I still find that I am a better version of myself if I take the time to do the things that make me feel good about myself. I'd like to give a shout out to the following people and services that I utilize in my community.
- My Massage Therapist, Patrice Wasserman of Enlightened Touch.
- My yoga instructors, Lynn Cluskey and Janine Fogg of The Yoga Center for Healthy Living: 4437 South Old US Highway 23; Brighton, MI 48116. A special shout out to the owner of the Yoga Center for Healthy Living, LeeAnn Louis-Prescott for training such wonderful people.
- My Hair Stylist, Julia Phill, from Tangles Hair Salon: 1055 Novi Road, Northville, Mi 48167
- My Nail Technician, Donna Button, of J Christopher Salon: 113 N. Michigan Avenue, Howell, MI 48843
- MaryBeth Potrykus of Mama Bear Productions (www.mamabearproductions.net) for healthy lifestyle products.
- My Nutritionist, Dr. Amanda Childress of the Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbor: 3610 W. Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
For those of you who are TTC, you know your stress levels can be through the roof! Now more than ever it may be important to increase your self-care. You might find that you enjoy acupuncture, a support group such as RESOLVE or that you need to get away from it all and go on a vacation.
Whatever it is that feels good to you while you are in the thick of your infertility battle, it is important that you do it. If you do not have a system of self-care in place, you may want to do a Google Search or contact your local Chamber of Commerce for professionals in your area.
Or you can tap into a few of my friends and fellow fertility advocates:
Lisa Rosenthal is a fertility patient advocate and fertile yoga instructor from RMACT. Lisa offers online fertile yoga practice for those of you who want to participate virtually. She is an absolutely wonderful resource and is so passionate about helping the fertility community.
Karenna Wood, is an expert in fertility coaching and is the founder of Your Fertility Hub www.yourfertilityhub.com You will adore Karenna. She is so warm, compassionate and knowledgeable and offers a fertility "Toolbox" with many free and virtual resources for coping with the emotional side of infertility.
Stepping up your self-care is as vital as oxygen during your fertility journey and for whatever comes next. Perhaps you will get pregnant this time! (I’m crossing my fingers and toes for that!) Or perhaps you will decide to adopt, attempt a donor egg cycle or choose to live child free. However your life unfolds, the self-care habits and activities you practice today will help you make the most of this very precious life you are living. Be sure you check out the RESOURCES page of my website for even more ideas.
Wishing you much health and wellness!
In-Fertility & Friendship,