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Day 6: Ten Days of Self-Care (The Holiday Countdown)

Hello and welcome back, or just plain welcome if this is your first visit. Today is day 6 of the countdown and before heading right into my self-care suggestion of the day, I invite you to take a moment and allow yourself the time and the space to just settle in. Move into a comfortable seated position wherever you choose, on the floor or in a chair. Imagine there is a string attached to the crown of your head and imagine gently pulling upward on the string. Feel your spine elongate as your shoulders relax downward away from your ears. Rest one or both hands on the belly, just below the navel. Begin to tune into your breath, just allowing yourself to become aware of it without altering it in any way.

As in a previous post, here is an additional position option: if your mid-back is letting you know it is completely unimpressed, you may want to try laying on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and keep the soles of both feet flat on the floor (your legs will look like an upside down 'V'). Make sure you are still respecting the alignment of your spine: your shoulders will still be relaxed down away from your ears. Rest one or both hands on the belly, just below the navel. Begin to tune into your breath, just allowing yourself to become aware of it without altering it in any way.

After several rounds of regular breathing (one round = one full inhale and one full exhale), change it up and begin to breathe in deeply through your nose, feeling the air move deep into the belly. The belly expands, pushing into your hands. Now sigh it out through your mouth. Imagine any tension you are holding is sighing out with your breath. Feel the belly drop as the air sighs out. Repeat this deep inhale and sighing exhale 3 to 5 times, then resume normal breathing. If you feel like you need more, take a few rounds of normal breathing then move back into the deep inhale, sighing exhale 3 to 5 times before resuming your normal breathing pattern again.

Day 6 Suggestion: Sleep

What would a self-care countdown be without a recommendation to sleep well, sleep deeply, just sleep? Countless studies have been done that show just how important sleep is to our bodies and our minds; you could count sleep studies instead of sheep these days! Sleep is important for the repair of muscles and cells including the heart and blood vessels (having a chronic sleep deficiency has been repeatedly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke). Sleep helps our athletic and general physical performance, has been linked to cortisol regulation (less sleep can = more cortisol and more cortisol has a host of health issues including anxiety) and glucose metabolism (again, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes). Inflammation and immunity? Yep, those too are affected by sleep. Mentally sleep helps concentration, productivity, mood stability and the ability to interact socially. Sleep deprivation is also linked with increased depression. Turns out that a whole lot happens when we are unconscious!

Now, at the same time that all these studies are telling us how important it is that we catch some quality zzzs, a large percentage of us are reporting decreased sleep duration, decreased sleep quality and an increase in a variety of sleep issues like insomnia. In North America some studies suggest 1 in 3 adults are chronically sleep deficient. Yikes!

It is time to make sleep, quality sleep, a priority in our lives. Establishing a bedtime ritual can be hugely beneficial in getting you there. Try setting two alarms for yourself: the first for two hours before you aim to get in bed, the second for one hour later. When the first alarm goes off, two hours before bed all screen time is over. Plug your phone in to charge overnight, turn off the tv, turn off the computer. Over the next hour, get your night-time teeth-brushing, face-washing, sleep clothing routine done and finish up any tidying or prep for the following day. This is a winding down situation so you aren't starting anything new, just wrapping things up and putting them away. For a head start on relaxation soak in the tub and get into some soft pjs when you climb out. When the second alarm goes off an hour later, head to the bedroom.

You don't have to get right under the covers or even lay down. The aim of this hour is to decompress and relax. You may try laying on the floor with your legs up the wall, schedule meditation during this time, try breathing exercises, do some self-massage or read a book. Engage in quiet, restful, soothing activities. Begin to lower or phase out overhead lighting if you can. Turn on lower lights, lamps or bedside lights if available. When this hour is over, it's time to climb into bed and turn out the lights.

I know, I know, two hours to dedicate to sleep preparation seems like a lot. Ok, it IS a lot. As someone that struggles with sleep myself I know this is a bit of a hurdle to jump over. BUT...if two hours can help you get quality sleep and that in turn can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, stress etc., isn't it two hours well spent? Try it. Try establishing a bedtime ritual that works for you and give it a good week of consistent application before deciding if it helped you. Experiment with different activities that promote restful ease within your body and mind. I will be practicing right along with you.

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