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when you have 15 minutes for self-care

liz lamoreux

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Self-care is a word that gets said a lot these days. I think it encompasses several things, including rest, connection, community, noticing and asking for what you need, doing things you love, taking a break so you can recharge, and making sure your basic needs are being met before you’re able to help others (that whole put on your oxygen mask first idea).

Today, I want to focus on some pretty simple self-care moves that we can do when we have just a bit of time in our day. These are the ones I turn to when I’m running from role to role and start to feel depleted. They often give me a boost of support as they help me push pause on multi-tasking so I can make the choice to be present. They aren’t an answer to everything, but they can help you feel grounded before you move onto the next thing on your list. Pick one thing from this list and try it today. Or let this list be a springboard for your own ideas. 

Take a Breath (and then another and another...)

Pausing to take a few deep breaths is something you can do just about anywhere, and you don't need anything but you. During my yoga teacher training, one of the first breathing practices we learned was Sama Vritti, which is known as Equal Breathing. The effects are a calming of the mind and body. 

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To work with Equal Breathing, sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and close your eyes. (You can also sit on the floor cross-legged or lay down, but you don't want to fall asleep. That said, this is actually a great breathing technique to do to help you quiet your mind before going to sleep.) 

As you sit, begin to notice your body and see if there's any place you're holding tension and release it where you can, relaxing your shoulders, your forehead, your belly. Then, begin to notice your breathing. 

After a few breaths, begin to inhale and count to four and then exhale to the count of four. Continue this for several breath cycles, and if you have time, continue for several minutes. You can increase or decrease the length of your breath so that it feels comfortable for your body. Noticing what you need is really important here. 

Write Yourself a Love Letter

Writing letters to myself is a practice I use often. For real. (If you’ve taken one of my ecourses, I’ve probably shared a few ways to do this with you.) Here’s one way: write yourself a love letter.

Fill it with the words you would write to someone else who might need to feel uplifted. You could begin with "Hello dear one" or "Hello beautiful soul" and just write the words you most need to hear. You can then tuck your note into an envelope and put it somewhere to read later. Think about even choosing a date in a few weeks or months and putting a note in your calendar (or setting a reminder on your phone) to remind yourself to open up your letter again and reread it. When you do, it will probably again feel like the words you most need. 

This practice can seem silly when you first start it, but I really recommend it.

Put Down Your Phone

Sometimes when we have a few minutes to ourselves, we quickly fill it with looking at our phones or other devices. And suddenly what was meant to be a break from it all becomes 15-30 minutes of social media, email, and random articles that we don't actually care about. Try taking a true break and put down technology for 15 minutes. Walk away from your computer. Put your phone in a drawer. Consciously create some space away from that online chatter and take a few moments to just notice the world around you.

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Call a Friend or Even Send a Text

On the surface this might seem in conflict with my previous suggestion, but please keep reading. Sometimes the best way to fill up the well inside you is to connect with someone else.  When you have just a few minutes, you really can have good connection through a quick phone call or even a text message. 

When I'm having a tough day and need to be reminded that it's all going to be okay, I have a few friends I will reach out to just to say, ‘So I kind of need a hug’ or “I need someone to catch this story today,” and they'll send over support. Even though my schedule might not have room for time with a friend, this simple act of letting someone know I need to connect helps to ground me.

Give Yourself a Massage

Sometimes what we really need is touch, slowing down, and relaxation. You can give this to yourself by gently massaging your hands, even if you're at work.

Start at the base of your hand (palm up) and give yourself the pressure that feels good moving up toward your little finger, applying pressure all the way to the top of your finger. Then back to the base of your hand and move up to your ring finger, and so on with each finger. Then flip your hand over and do the same thing on the other side of your hand. Repeat on each side and then do both hands again.

You can do this with or without massage oil. I love the oils from my friend Bella of Intentions by Bella.

Bring on the Laughter

Laughter actually does help you release tension, which is something I’m reminded of again and again when I turn to a favorite YouTube video or watch a clip from the late night talk shows. It helps me to just laugh. There’s even an article over on the Mayo Clinic’s website that explains why: laughter can "activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling."

Another idea is to keep a funny book nearby that you can open and read for a few minutes (I love Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson). Or phone a friend who always knows how to crack you up. Or even follow a few Instagram accounts that make you laugh.

Eat or Drink Something that Nourishes You

Think about having some go-to foods that really nourish you during the day, and then schedule in your 15-minute break to rejuvenate yourself. You might even want to make a list of nourishing foods, so you can hone in on what makes you feel good.  

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My go-to foods that really nourish and nurture me include: fruit and green smoothies, yogurt, a small plate of cheese + almonds + fruit, an apple with peanut butter, and hot tea. Sometimes I also have dark chocolate or a cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream. I don't avoid sweets completely; instead, I listen to my body and what it needs. And having a list of things that feel and taste nourishing helps me remember what to buy when I go to the store so I can keep these things on hand.

Just 15 Minutes a Day

Imagine giving yourself the gift of 15 minutes of self-care a day, maybe even every day for the next five days. Time for you where you can breathe, take care of yourself, reconnect with yourself or someone else, and feel grounded in the midst of whatever life is handing you. If you try any of these ideas or have a few more to add, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credits: photo of Liz meditating by Lauren Oliver Photography, third and fourth photos by Vanessa Simpson of Focus In Photography.