As I begin to recover from 10 days of feeling unwell, my thoughts have turned to healing and self care. You see I was exhausted before I became unwell, which may bear absolutely no relevance as to how poorly I felt, but it's certainly opened my eyes to my self care practises - or lack of them.
I, like so many, have had Covid. And the first thing I have to say is how lucky I am that it wasn't serious and I didn't need hospital treatment. It was the most poorly I have felt possibly ever, but the worst part was the depression. Depression is not new in my life, I have experienced it on and off for over 20 years, but this recent bout has been perhaps the worst I have experienced in recent years. I have been aware it was building, bubbling away in the background, but I have got a little too good at avoidance. I should of acknowledged it sooner.
I am an active person, always on the go and busy. Perhaps I use being busy as a mechanism to not think about things that worry me. Covid, vaccines, isolation, lockdowns, the effect it all has on our children... it all terrifies me - and you too surely, I mean we are living in the strangest of times. Mental health issues are huge and all these new triggers are making life almost unbearable for some, so we really must look after ourselves and others.
For me keeping active kept it all at bay, to a point. Keeping yourself busy is a good thing, but avoidance is not. So when I was forced to stop and lay in bed for ten days, not even feeling well enough to read or put Netflix on until at least day seven, my mind went in to overdrive with worst case scenarios. On reflection I know now I should of talked more about my fears - reached out to people who are qualified to talk these things through, or friends who always offer reassurance. I should of journaled about my worries, meditated, all the things as a yoga teacher I would recommend to others. But I didn't, I pushed my mind and body to the point of exhaustion trying to block out all he things that scare me.
So, as I begin to feel better I know it is time to put some new self care practises in place, to carve out time for rest and reflection, to reach out if I feel overwhelmed. I am often guilty of waiting for people to realise there is something wrong with me - to ask me if I am ok before I speak about what is bothering me. If I flip that and think of my friends doing that, I feel very sad, I would want any of my friends or family to be able to to say 'something is really playing on my mind'... and my friends and family are lovey people, so I know they would want the same from me.
So what are my new self care practises going to be and could they help you too? I am sharing in the hope they might. First thing is to reduce my social media time. That has been one good thing about not being well enough to even want to look at my phone. We all know too much phone time is not good and mine has dramatically reduced and I am going to do my best to keep it that way. I am going to read more, something I have always loved, but in recent months not been able to do so as I can't settle to it. So I plan to journal before bed, get any worries out of my head on to paper and then start to enjoy reading again.
I am going to reduce the pressure I put on myself in pretty much every aspect of my life, I expect far more from myself than I ever would from others and that is not sustainable. More time outside is a must too. Living through times where going out of your house is now sometimes not allowed has made me realise how important going outside is and how there is nothing quite like it. And Autumn is my absolute favourite season, its the perfect time to let things go, shed the stuff that you need to let go, just like the trees shed the leaves, Autumn always makes me feel lighter somehow.
One of the things that I have found hard and missed very much whilst poorly is my physical yoga practise. My body literally has not felt capable of any yoga, my legs have been wobbly just walking to the bathroom. But of course due to over a week of no physical activity at all my body has become very tight and sore with tension and lack of movement. I now feel I can start to very gently rebuild my practise. Yoga for me is never about fancy postures, asana is not the main/only focus of yoga, its just one limb. Obsessing over fancy postures will bring little if any benefit. Ahimsa is one of the Yamas of yoga, a yoga rule as such, it means to practise kindness and do no harm. Forcing your body to do more than it feels ready for would go against this. I love the simple sensations gentle yoga postures can bring - length for the spine, release for tight muscles, space to breathe, all of these sensations can be achieved through very gentle movement.
A combination of gentle movement and breathwork can make all the difference. At the start of your yoga practise take the time to breathe, perhaps sit cross legged - or even in a chair and take 5 minutes to focus on the sensation of your breath. Begin by simply observing - are you breathing only in to the top of your chest, could you lengthen the breath by imagining the breath filling the whole of the torso. Start to lengthen the exhale if you can, perhaps breathe in for three seconds and out for five seconds. This will help the body to rest and bring you to a state of relaxation. Focusing on your breathing whilst practising gentle movements will help to bring a sense of peace and quiet to your mind. Staying in a simple posture for a few breaths, allowing your body to experience the sensations and your mind to settle will greatly boost your sense of wellbeing.
Your yoga could be done completely from a chair or a seated position or laid down. Your yoga can be whatever you want it to be, remembering we are healing our body not pushing it to achieve anything other than a sense of calm and release. The image above shows a selection of postures that I find very peaceful, these may or may not be right for you - if you feel ten minutes in childs pose is what you need then that is exactly what you should do.
Take your time, reach out to friends and family if you feel overwhelmed, adjust your lifestyle as you need to - recovering from any form of illness takes adaptions and patience, we mustn't expect to bounce back instantly, but instead allow time for a healing process that just might lead to changes in your lifestyle that you keep long after you have healed.
Lots of Love