Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Welcome back to my holiday countdown, focused on taking time for the amazing, fantastic you! I invite you to take a moment to settle into a comfortable seated position, wherever suits your body today. Wiggle about a bit until you have a comfortable connection through your seat and then move your attention to your spine. Imagine a string attached to the crown of your head and gently pull it upward. Feel your spine elongate. Settle your shoulders down away from your ears and bring your attention to your breath. Without trying to change it, just tune in and listen. After several rounds of regular breathing (one round = one full inhale and one full exhale), begin to breathe in deeply through your nose and sigh it out through your mouth. Imagine any tension you are holding is sighing out with your breath. Repeat three to five times before returning to your regular breathing rhythm.
Day 4 Suggestion: Soak in Some Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a pretty mainstream word these days, but are you aware that it involves more than just making something smell nice? I'll be honest and admit that I didn't for quite some time. I thought the idea of a room diffuser with essential oils was really just a less-chemical kind of air freshener and that bath products with essential oils were mainly just a more hipster-friendly form of bubble bath that had more earthy smells (and therefore earthy appeal in marketing) working in their favor. Turns out there is more to the science of smell that has, well, some science behind it.
When smell receptors in the nose are stimulated, they send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system of the brain - the part of the brain composed of interconnected structures involved with both memory and emotional response. Have you ever smelled something that immediately recalled a memory? That would be the limbic system in action. Aromatherapy works on the premise that certain scents or combinations of scents can make use of this system to help create a response in the physical body. The smell of lavender for example (the natural scent of the bloom, not a chemical replication) is associated with stress reduction and in some cases pain reduction as the physical body relaxes muscle tension. Combine that effect with a soak in a warm bath and you have the potential for giving stress a one-two punch. Not a fan of lavender? There are so many different essential oils available that you are sure to find one that works for you. Do pay attention to the content of the oils you purchase as a unified system of regulation has lagged behind the boom of products entering the market. In Canada you can look for an NPN (natural product number) that signifies the claims made about the product are recognized by Health Canada. It is also recommended to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba before it comes into direct contact with your skin.
While there are a myriad of ways to incorporate essential oils into your day, I am suggesting a bath because there is a bit of a ritual to it. Preparing the water, choosing the oil (diluted with a carrier oil) and then getting in are all ways to take a little extra time for yourself, and unless you want to slosh water all over the floor, a soak in the tub is a great way to create some stillness too. Try doing a short breathing exercise like the ones I have started the last few blog entries with and let yourself unwind.
Note: if you have a shower in your home but not a tub, you can still combine hot water and aromatherapy in a relaxing way. Run the water a little hot and add essential oils to the bottom of the shower. Adjust the water to the desired temperature and climb in; the essential oils will. be carried in the steam. I tend to use the oils undiluted when I do this, but again it is important to read up on what oils are safe to use in this way.
I recently had the pleasure of ordering from The Sage Soap Company, a local company here in Guelph that creates artisanal products that are tailor made for adding essential oils and aromatherapy into your self-care routine. When I received my package (aptly named 'Surprise Self-Care Box') I was so happy with it I wanted to share it with those of you who are reading along. There are different sizes you can order and I chose regular size, which included a soap, wooden slatted soap dish, bottle of bath salts and a bath bomb. It would make a terrific gift for anyone who needs to take time to unwind (including the one and only you) and is available for online order (local pick up this close to the holidays): https://www.thesagesoapcompany.com/collections/gift-sets/products/surprise-self-care-box
Please note that I am not employed by The Sage Soap Company and am not being compensated in any way; I just really like the product and it was such a perfect fit for the topic I just had to share.