How are you feeling? No, really, how are you actually feeling now, on an emotional level?
I’m so totally “meh’ right now, and I can’t shake it.
This past week has suddenly felt very fall – in Toronto where I live, the temperatures dropped and we had several days in a row of gray, rainy weather. Even when the sun is out, the air and the mood have changed. And even in southern Ontario I’m seeing some yellows, oranges and reds starting to show in the foliage. Fall is here, even if it isn’t officially fall on the calendar yet. Normally I love fall – I love the cozy feeling of moving into long sweaters and yoga tights, wearing ankle boots and pulling on jeans – and even socks – after a season of shorts and sundresses and sandals. I like making soup, hearty and nourishing with bright squashes, and eating everything tomato. And switching to warm oat milk turmeric lattes from the summer iced ones. But this fall is different and the best way to describe how I’m feeling about it is “meh”. Which is why this September self-care blog is late – I really had a hard time writing it. I felt like I should feel more upbeat, more optimistic, more inspiring and positive. But then I decided WTF, that would not be real or authentic or transparent. So, this is me, how I’m feeling, and what I’m doing to take care of me and my mood, so that I can be there for everyone else – for my husband, children, parents, friends, and so that I can put my energy into Niyama, and growing this little brand and community that I love so much.
I think for me, the “mehs” come from the realization that we are now moving into our fourth season of COVID. It was still winter when it began, albeit barely according to the calendar, and we finished that season indoors, then moved through spring cautiously, and finally into summer, with lots more time outside and a careful return to seeing family and friends socially, and enjoying outdoor meals at home and on patios. In Ontario it felt like we were rewarded with a long, hot summer, with so much sun – like the summers I remember as a kid. I worked on my laptop in the backyard and really tried to be present and enjoy it. And I’m so grateful for that. Moving into this new season feels even more uncertain – back to school, COVID case counts going the wrong way, not feeling sure about socializing as we move indoors when the weather makes outdoors difficult. And the state of the world – the racial injustices, the COVID impact on the economy and the environment, and the election to the south of us. And if I’m honest and sort of trivial, I’m already worried about what the holidays look like – sharing great food with our family and friends is what makes it special for us, and my daughters are already asking what it will be like. Plus, I do tend to worry ahead! And to top it off I feel guilty for my meh, because I really and truly have so much to be grateful for.
I’m sure some of these feelings are familiar to you too, and I’m not alone in the meh zone. As I have read on social, we may all be in different boats, but we are all in the same storm.
Here are my September self-care tips for surviving (and maybe even thriving) this fall:
Yes, this is always #1 on my self-care list. To me, prioritizing sleep is the single most important self-care practice you can employ. You can read my full sleep blog if you want more, but in brief: Stick to regular bedtimes and wake times and try not to vary it much, even on weekends; Avoid screens an hour before bed – no social, no emails, texts, or news;
Establish a bedtime routine – bath, reading, journaling, meditation, herbal tea, gentle stretching or foam rolling – whatever works for you and try to stick to it – it sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to power down. If you want more support try a natural sleep aid like Sleep Like Buddha – but ensure you follow all directions and cautions and/or chat with your health care professional. And I know, this sounds simple, but kind of hard to stick to, until you do and realize how well it works!
2. Proactively Manage Stress
Different strategies will work for different people and personalities, but in these times, we all need to be managing our stress levels. Being aware of the triggers and acknowledging our feelings. Some of my favourite techniques: taking a walk outside, doing a 10-minute guided meditation with an app, taking a bath, taking a 15 minute yoga break mid-day, making a plant milk latte – turmeric, mushroom cocoa, matcha, or an herbal tea with adaptogens in it. Sometimes just taking that break and focusing on making a comforting hot drink just puts me in a way better mood, with less stress. I also take Daytime Zen every day, as soon as I wake up, with a very large glass of water so I get a head start on hydration at the same time as getting my adrenal-supporting adaptogens and nootropics to help me stay feeling grounded and focused all day. And cut yourself some slack. It's ok to not feel ok - but it's not ok to ignore those feelings.
I get that for some people cooking is stressful or a drag – but it really doesn’t have to be. There are so many amazingly healthy and easy recipes out there now that anyone can make delicious food. Not much cooking happens in the morning at our place, unless one of the teens or my husband has eggs. My breakfast is almost always a smoothie with Plant Protein, fruit, and a healthy fat in the blender. And lunch while working from home is usually a salad or leftovers. But dinner is when we cook. And it is a team effort which makes it more enjoyable and gets everyone engaged in the outcome. And then we eat together as a family practically every night. This has, for me, been the biggest silver lining of COVID. Less rushing, more recipe experiments, less distractions and way less takeout or eating out on the run between work and lessons. And more conversation over food. We do reserve one night per week for a takeout meal or local patio, to support our local food scene, and take a little break – even if you love cooking, a night off can be bliss. But I digress – the point here is you should cook – because good, healthy food is important, and homemade food is generally healthier and less processed, and the actual act of cooking yourself adds something emotionally nourishing to the food. You put effort and love into it, and it gives back. You may not always feel like it, but i can almost guarantee you will be glad when you are eating what you prepared.
4. Get Moving
You know you should, and you know you feel better when you do, but sometimes the meh is so heavy you just think – tomorrow, I’ll exercise tomorrow. And one day off turns into two, then three then you can’t remember the last time you sweated. On the days when you just don’t have it in you, instead of heading to the couch just do something gentle. Take an online yin yoga class or google some restorative poses, or just go for that de-stressing walk outside. Just move your body in some slow way as opposed to nothing. And then on your higher energy days, do the exercise you enjoy – whether that is yoga, barre, the gym, running, CrossFit, F45 – whatever gets your heart rate up and your sweat on. Keep your body and your mind healthy at the same time. And shout out to all the local yoga, movement and fitness gyms and studios that have had to be closed for so long. Let’s support them if we can – whether it’s in person or virtually, they need our help.
5. Cherish the little things
One of the cool things about COVID and trying to be more present, is really appreciating the little things that bring me joy during the day. The morning espresso my husband makes me with MCT oil and a bit of maple syrup makes me smile every day. And I’ve taken to keeping essential oils in the shower – if it’s a morning shower I sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the far corner (an area that doesn’t get a lot of splash, so the aroma lingers) and the hot water creates a beautiful aroma steam effect – instant spa! If it’s an evening shower I use lavender oil, of course. So meh-busting!
6. Be aware of the self-care spectrum
It seems to me that there is a spectrum of behaviours that runs from Self-denial at one end, all the way over to Self-destructive at the other end. In the middle is probably Self-care, with Self-Indulgence mid-way between Self-care and Self-destructive. (I have no training in psychology ok, I’m sort of making this up, using my own experience, common sense and lots of reading over the years. It might already exist though, so if I am stepping on toes I apologize. The point is, you want to be in the Self-care zone, being kind to yourself, recognizing and meeting your needs; mentally, emotionally and physically. But you do want to be honest about where you are on the spectrum, and you know you. My goal, as the temperatures drop, is to avoid the self-indulgent verging on self-destructive pattern of posh salt & vinegar chips (the pricy, natural ones) with multiple glasses of wine and Netflix every night – which is where I was in March-April – and I know I’m not alone. I’m not saying never – a treat is awesome, but for me this became habitual and it took a detox cleanse to break it in the spring. Moderation is actually part of self-care, and we just want to be honest about our behaviours and course correct as needed. Edging into self-indulgent is totally fair, but watch that you don’t creep too far on my made-up spectrum.
Hopefully some of these tips will be useful, or even just make you think a bit more about what works for you. I truly think that self-care will be more important this fall than any other – we need to keep our immune systems and our mental health strong as we continue into the unknown. And count our blessings as often as we can – gratitude is a practice that we have to repeat daily – and that is when the magic happens. And most of all, be grateful to your own self – you’ve made it this far and you are doing awesome, even if it may not feel like it every day.
And if you’ve read to the end of this – thank you – I’m super grateful. Because even the act of writing this has lifted the meh for now! Signing off to cook, and enjoy one glass of wine.