What can be said about 2020 that hasn’t been said already? It was a long and stressful year that no doubt placed a great deal of strain on our mental and physical health. That’s why I want to talk about self-care. We have finally entered a new year – and with it, an opportunity to regroup and reset. Normally, I would have a long list of career, self-improvement, and health-related resolutions. Strong goals I would set and be absolutely determined to achieve. But this year feels different. What I really want is for us to all survive and to take care of ourselves as best we can – to treat ourselves with kindness and practice self-care for our bodies and our minds. Life is short! And we certainly learned that in 2020. And while I don’t want to overload my plate with more stress than needed as we head into the new year, I still want to build myself a roadmap for a healthier and happier 2021. So I decided to sit down and make a list of lifestyle changes and healthy intentions to help me practice greater self-care in the coming year.
My 10 Hacks for Self-Care Success
1. Work less and spend more time with family.
I love every aspect of what I do! I love helping and educating others. But it takes a lot of time, energy and creativity. And it’s so fun and exciting to learn new things and meet groundbreaking health innovators who’s work I get to share with you. But I do tend to be a workaholic and want to cultivate a greater work-life balance. I’ve heard of so many people looking back on their life that they wished they’d focused more on family and worked less. I don’t want to have that regret. I am lucky to be going through this pandemic with my family and I together under one roof. And I want to be more present with my family and define better boundaries around work and play. Remember, you reap what you sow.
2. Focus on stress management
Stress changes your brain at a biological level. It makes you more reactive, decreases your ability to control your emotions, throws your hormones out of balance, and makes you more prone to mood disorders, brain fog, and more. The longer stress continues, the harder it is to escape the negative loop it creates (but don’t worry! You can escape the stress loop!). I used to thrive on stress and worry, and would use that cortisol surge to get me through the day – push, push, push. But it was making me sick like it’s making you sick. Your thoughts can drive illness and inflammation. It’s the biology of belief. Stressing over problems doesn’t solve them any faster. These days I’m working on literally reconditioning my nervous system. I’ve had to tell myself, “I’m not in a race. I will accomplish mygoals. Everything will get done. I will get what I want from life. I am joy, health and abundance. I don’t need to stress about ANY of it!” You have to learn to enjoy the ride. This is a practice. And one I’ve really needed to focus on for a while. Life is as stressful as you frame it and perceive it in your mind.
3. Gain a sense of inner calm with vagal nerve regulation
Okay, so this is a bit of an extension of #2 above, but it is super important and deserves its own section. I don’t want to only focus on reducing stress just to get by – I also want a greater peace of mind and inner calm. And I plan to work on that using vagal nerve regulation. Your vagus nerve is a part of your nervous system that regulates your stress level and fight-or-flight response. It also affects your sense and ability to reach that state of inner calm. Carol Garner-Houston (an expert in neurodevelopment, who has helped thousands of people overcome stress and restore a sense of inner balance) says,
“Vagal regulation is the number one basic building block of the central nervous system. It impacts all the different areas of the brain and the nervous system, not only chemical release, but also inflammation. It’s core to the brain-body connection.”
Your vagus nerve helps your brain interpret cues and signals from the world around you. If you’re under constant stress, your vagus nerve can become dysregulated and your nervous system can become stuck in a stressed state. As a result, your brain feels it’s always under threat, and you’ll have trouble relaxing at a physiological level. Studies show that stimulating your vagus nerve helps bring it back to baseline, which can relieve stress, depression, and even PTSD . Resetting your vagus nerve teaches your brain that it’s okay to relax. Vagal stimulation causes your entire nervous system to calm down and creates a feeling of safe wellbeing. Some simple ways to begin calming the vagus nerve:
- Gargling loudly
- Playing a wind instrument
- Drinking through a straw
- Exhaling longer than you inhale
Once your nervous system no longer feels threatened, it becomes much easier for you to rewire it for resilience. You have a solid foundation for building a stronger, calmer brain.
4. Follow my intuition
This has this been a huge focal point for me the last few years. I’ve done a lot of work with Shanna Lee, David Router, Robert Marking, Kismet Salem and other very gifted people that can help you protect yourself and hone your intuitive skills. I’ve worked on this to better navigate my business and life choices and relationships. And it’s helped me tremendously. To live your best life requires you to really listen to your intuition and harness your power. This is a skill that can be cultivated. But we all too often don’t follow our intuition or dismiss it and pay dearly for this. We create friendships that aren’t right for us, make poor job or business decisions, get into relationships that are clearly unhealthy for us and attract energetic vampires….
5. Shake off the energy vampires in my life
Relationships are the most powerful asset we have in this human life. And as we move into the new decade you will want to consider which people are helping you rise up and which are holding you back. You know who they are. You need to make informed choices based on the evidence and your intuition about which people support you and which one’s are a liability instead of an asset. I want to be around those with whom I feel good after being in their presence, those who challenge me and are honest with me even if it’s uncomfortable. I respect that. And I want to be the same person in kind. Invest in the relationships that challenge your weaknesses, inspire your greatness, and feel in alignment with your values. Detox the rest. Do everything in your power to get away from people that don’t believe in you or drain you or put you down. Life is too short! This is hard to believe but my ex-husband thought that my health website and work were pointless, that detox was a waste of time. That I wasn’t helping people by doing hair mineral analysis and heavy metals testing. He could have cared less about his diet or using chemical cleaners. When I got my first speaking gig and told him I had to travel for it, he threatened to divorce me. He put down my passion at every opportunity simply because he wanted me to focus on him. He wanted me available to him at all times. He didn’t value me or my work like you do. Can you even imagine? But most of us have or have had someone like this in our life – that doesn’t support or believe in the things that make us happy. And my work made me the happiest I’ve been in my entire life. I was very hard on myself that I didn’t see this coming – I believed that if I was doing something that made me so happy that my ex-husband would support it. I rose above it and detoxed that person. But it took a tremendous amount of courage and faith. I stayed true to myself and my purpose and am so beyond happy today!!! I didn’t initially listen to my intuition about this relationship, but I eventually became present, forgave myself and moved on.
6. Turn off all electronics at least 2 hours before bed
This is KEY to calming the mind and body so that you can wind down into a restful night of sleep. But it can also be tough because I know I have a bit of an addiction to my phone. It’s often the last thing I look at before I go to sleep – and I definitely want to break that habit! All that blue light from cellphones, TVs, tablets, and computers is really stressful and confusing to the brain and interferes in sleep by suppressing melatonin. I much prefer engaging with my daughter, curling up with a book, or spending time with my fiancé instead of doomscrolling on my phone. So new rule: turn off all electronics at least 2 hours before bed! Not only does it give me more time to be present with those I love, I also notice that I have lower stress levels when I do this simple digital detox in the evening.
7. Prioritize healthy sleeping habits
This is a big one that I am usually good at, but I want to be better. I track mysleep with an Oura ring. And it’s indicating I need a bit more improvement in this department! Don’t we all! I am going to prioritize getting 8 hours of sleep each night – and by going to bed by 10pm.
Sleep is by far the most important thing to get right when it comes to your health. Without good sleep, our bodies aren’t getting the digest-repair-restore time needed to heal. And without enough restful sleep, our mental health tanks — the important emotional reserves we need to deal with the stressors of life get depleted, and compliance with any healing protocol can feel overwhelming or even impossible.
Additionally, if you’re not sleeping enough it can make you gain weight, look older, and steal your energy.
8. Focus on healthy eating habits
I’m not embarrassed this one because last year was ROUGH, but I have put on a few extra pounds. The long and short of it is that I’ve been snacking more and working out less. It’s easy to fall into habits like this when we are stressed or when we (especially women) prioritize others over ourselves. But I would like to take this year to refocus my diet, be more mindful of my eating patterns, as well as what I am putting in my body. To help with this, I will be:
- Making healthier food choices and sticking to a Modern Paleo Diet
- Snacking less on junk foods
- Eating more veggies
- Eating meals on a smaller plate (this is huge!)
- Doing 8 hour intermittent fasting
- Fasting one day per week
9. Detox from sugar
While naturally occurring sugar can be found in almost all foods, especially plant foods, added sugars have taken over the food landscape. Unlike natural sugars, added sugars are associated with a wide range of health detriments. And unfortunately, many people’s palates have become so accustomed to the copious amounts of sugar in food products that they’re slightly desensitized to the taste of sweetness. That’s why I want to do a sugar detox. Research shows that sugar, and foods rich in sugar, can induce reward and craving chemicals in your brain on a similar magnitude as addictive drugs. In fact, in animal models, the response to sugar is even more robust than the response to cocaine. This sheds light on why so many people crave sugar and sugary products and make it their go-to food for comfort in times of stress. But just like any other addiction, using sugar as your vice comes with some significant physical and emotional downsides. If you lean on sugar when you’re down long enough, your reliance on it will only grow — which makes taking a break from sugar all the more crucial. Doing a sugar detox once or twice a year is an excellent way to keep sugar addiction and cravings at bay. Even more important, however, is the profound impact that reducing sugar can have on your energy, metabolism, and overall health. I’m vowing to be hypervigilant this year when it comes avoiding foods that contain lots of sugar. I also ordered a home glucose monitor so that I can see how my diet and lifestyle affect my blood sugar levels. I’m not going to wait for a yearly checkup at the doc’s to tell me my blood sugar is high when there has been a problem and damage going on for years. Why wait? And don’t forget – toxins and heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, nickel and iron can play a HUGE role in the body’s ability to control blood sugar and promoting insulin resistance.
10. Get back into my regular exercise routine
I feel better when I exercise! Where I really struggle is motivating myself to workout in the first place. So when I am thinking of all the excuses I have as to why I can’t or don’t want to work out, I am instead going to focus on the benefits of exercising – including, knowing how much better I feel after. I am also going to set small exercise goals that I know I can stick to (knowing I can always add to them later if I find I need more of a challenge!). Things like:
- Walking for 30 minutes daily (which is also super important for lymph flow)
- Doing strength training at least 3 times per week.
- A gentle swim at the beach a few times a week
Exercise is also a great way to improve your sleep!
You’ve probably heard doctors and experts recommend exercise to reduce stress and improve mood. And for good reason.
Because when you exercise, you increase your brain’s levels of GABA.
As you may know, GABA is a neurotransmitter that promotes focus and calm. In a way, GABA acts like an emergency brake that stops your brain from overreacting to stimuli.
A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that people who exercise have higher levels of GABA and lower levels of stress. (4)
Bonus: GABA also promotes deep, restful sleep!
Maintaining Intentions In the New Year
Practicing self-care can be difficult, especially if it is something you are not used to doing. And if you are a people pleaser, making time for yourself can be hard or may even feel selfish. It’s not! Know that after the stressful year we all just endured, it is more important than ever than to carve out some time for taking care of you. Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body. Set your intentions but don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. Get more rest. Protect your health. And know that you can restart again at any moment. Need more help? If you are struggling to stay on top of your health, invest in a coach to help guide you and help you stay on track I wouldn’t be where I am in my website, my personal life or myspiritual life without guidance. Even if you’re clear on your new year’s intentions I urge you to seek a mentor or coach in the areas where you are keen to advance. I’m going to seek out a minimum of 3 mentors and development programs and go to 2 health conferences this year. None of us succeed alone. What stops people from reaching their goals is not usually a lack of drive but a lack of awareness of actions needed or mindset or a better or faster way of accomplishing their dreams. For instance, when I was starting my health website, I worked in isolation for 3 years. I was just sitting in a room writing and writing and trying to figure out how to make a living with my passion for health. It wasn’t until I began going to health conferences and marketing conferences and meeting people doing what I wanted to do successfully – and learning what they were doing, how they were doing it and avoiding the mistakes they made – that things clicked for me and I got the help I needed. I couldn’t have done it alone. A powerful mentor/coach is someone who can illuminate the blocks getting in your way as well as provide key strategies, insights, and paradigm shifting awareness that begins to open your heart and mind to what is really possible. Hire a mentor who you feel aligned with. I’ve never regretted the expense of a mentor, membership program, certification or course. What are your intentions for this year? Post in the comments below and let me know!
Click Here for References+
Eugene, Andy R., and Jolanta Masiak. “The neuroprotective aspects of sleep.” MEDtube science 3.1 (2015): 35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651462/
Ahmed, Serge H., Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele. “Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 434-439.
- R. J. Maddock, G. A. Casazza, D. H. Fernandez, M. I. Maddock. Acute Modulation of Cortical Glutamate and GABA Content by Physical Activity. Journal of Neuroscience, 2016; 36 (8): 2449