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What did you do with the hour you gained last week? (DW#695)

In North America and Western Europe, the end of October/beginning of November signals the switch back from Daylight Saving Time. The clocks go back and we "gain an hour" on Sunday.

While many of us cringe at the coming of Winter and the shorter, darker days, there is a significant statistic that we need to be aware of:

"In the autumn within the Northern Hemisphere, when the clocks move forward and we gain an hour of sleep opportunity time, rates of heart attacks plummet the day after", writes Mathew Walker inWhy we Sleep.

He explains that the opposite is also true of course. Here is how he puts it:

"When communicating science to the general public in lectures or writing, I’m always wary of bombarding an audience with never-ending mortality and morbidity statistics, lest they themselves lose the will to live in front of me. It is hard not to do so with such compelling masses of studies in the field of sleep deprivation. Often, however, a single astonishing result is all the...

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The second pillar of self-care (DW#691)

As we continue our series on self-care, let us remind ourselves that we are keeping it super simple for now.

Instead of making self-care an elaborate and unattainable practice that takes up three hours of our time, we are starting with our most basic needs.

What is the second most basic self-care routine that can have a major impact on our wellbeing?

Sleeping.

To start with, let us reflect on this passage from Matthew Walker’s fantastic book Why We Sleep:

"I was once fond of saying, ‘Sleep is the third pillar of good health, alongside diet and exercise.’ I have changed my tune. Sleep is more than a pillar; it is the foundation on which the other two health bastions sit. Take away the bedrock of sleep, or weaken it just a little, and careful eating or physical exercise become less than effective, as we shall see."

Given that the vast majority of us are sleep deprived these days, doesn’t it make sense to prioritize this as a fundamental of self-care?

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The breathing cheat sheet (DW#690)

[Daily Wisdom #670] The breathing cheat sheet

As we wrap up our first self-care practice of breathing, let us remind ourselves of what we discussed:

[DW #675] Attend to the basics of self-care

[DW #676] Remember the three golden rules of breathing

[DW #677] Breathe Through Your Nose (all the time!)

[DW #678] Breathe deeply

[DW #679]Exhale for longer

[DW #680] Flip the switch on stress

[DW #681] Slow down

[DW #682] Breathe into your belly

[DW #683] Notice the impatience

[DW #684] Take breathing breaks

[DW #685] Balance your mind

[DW #686] Establish your baseline

[DW #687] Breathe vertically rather than horizontally

[DW #688] Distinguish breath awareness and intentional breathing

[DW #689] Boost your willpower using your breath

As always, I would love to hear from you. How has using these practices impacted your life? Which of these practices do you find the most useful? The most challenging?

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Establish your baseline (DW#686)

If you are still sceptical about how something as simple as breathing properly can impact your overall wellbeing, there is a simple way to measure and monitor your wellbeing before starting a breathing regimen and then again, a couple of weeks after.

Vranich Belisain Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging and Fuelling Your Body and Brain suggests scaling the following on a scale from one to ten.

1. Stress level. On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your stress level right now? Note if it is normally this high or is it higher at present for some reason? The stressors do not really matter that much – just note a number on your subjective stress scale

2. Pain. If you are experiencing pain of any type, put a number to it. 1 being no pain, 5 being tolerable and 10 being intense or acute.

3. Energy level. Although your energy level obviously fluctuates throughout the day, put a number to the average energy level these days. 1 being no energy and 10 being bouncing off the walls...

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Balance your mind (DW#685)

Have you ever heard of, or tried, alternate nostril breathing?It’s an ancient yogic technique that’s been shown to effect brain waves and reduce anxiety and stress while inducing a calm, balanced mind.

Research from UCSD indicates that the nasal breathing cycle corresponds to the dominance of the left or the right hemisphere of the brain. The study suggested that the "cycle of hemispheric dominance" could be manipulated by using breathing techniques: "Closing the right nostril and forcibly breathing through the left nostril produces greater EEG activity in the right brain and vice versa. These changes in the pattern of EEG dominance occur almost instantaneously; at most, they require periods of about five minutes."

Here’s how alternate nostril breathing works. Please note that it sounds much more complicated than it is in practice.

Place your right thumb over your right nostril and rest your pointer finger on your forehead. Inhale through your left nostril. I like...

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The three golden rules of breathing (DW#676)

Over the weekend did you complete the ‘noticing your breath’ assignment? Have you been noticing your breath? What have you noticed?

Do you breathe through your mouth or your nose? (Many people breath thru their mouth. Look around and/or in the mirror. Notice yourself and others. How many mouths do you see open?)

Do you breathe deeply (and calmly) into your belly? (For many of us the breath stops at the chest, especially if we breathe through our mouths.)

How long is your exhale compared to your inhale? (If we are stressed, we gasp for air without emptying out our lungs fully)

Here are the three basic rules for breathing:

1. Breathe through your nose. All the time, even when exercising.
2. Breathe deep into your belly
3. And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled
Let us explore each of these a little more over the next few days.

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Attending to the basics (DW#675)

If you are a perfectionist, you have already started researching the "best" and most "perfect" self-care routines. You may have downloaded some apps and trackers and telling yourself that once you have done enough research and have a handle on best practices, you will start your routine. (Please do not ask me how I know this . .)

If this describes you, please STOP right now.

Instead of making self-care an elaborate and unattainable practice that takes up three hours of your time, keep it super simple. Start with your most basic needs for now.

What is the most basic self-care routine that can have a major impact on our wellbeing?

Breathing.

Yes, yes, of course we are already doing it but in order to make it part of self-care, we need to be a little bit intentional about breathing.

Over the next couple of days, just notice how you are breathing. Is it shallow or deep? What happens to your breath when you are stressed or anxious?

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Ignoring yourself is not heroic (DW#671)

A deep-seated belief that many of us have is that there is virtue in self-sacrifice and workaholism.

And our culture glorifies this. The employee who puts in 80-plus hours a week is promoted, the working mother who manages to excel at work and run a perfect home without missing a beat is admired, the husband who works hard for his family without ever taking a day off or getting a hobby is praised as dedicated.

And because we believe that self-sacrifice and ignoring ourselves is best, we feel shame or embarrassment when we feel like we need to do something to recharge or refuel.

And because we don’t want to be we ‘lazy,’ ‘selfish’ or ‘weak’, we ignore the whispers of our bodies, our souls and our hearts that are asking for something different.

We ignore them, that is, until they become loud, screeching sirens telling us that something has broken down. We realize then that we are trying to put on oxygen masks on everyone else while gasping for...

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You cannot pour water from an empty jug (DW#661)

You cannot pour water from an empty jug. Seems obvious doesn’t it? That you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot take care of others if you are depleted and running on empty yourself.

And yet, how many of us do this on a continuous basis? Women in particular (but not exclusively) are notorious for caring for everyone around them except themselves. We seem to be hitting every ball that life throws our way, juggling all the various roles that we play and making sure that everything and everyone is okay. The constant pumping of adrenaline in response to stress and striving helps maintain the illusion that we are okay and are managing fine.

 
But here’s the thing: we can run on empty for only so long. We can ignore ourselves and our needs for only so long.

So let us wake up before we have to. Before self neglect initiates a crisis. Before the burnout or the breakdown.

As Audre Lorde says: self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.

...
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Mental subtraction of relationships (DW#660)

All of us have relationships in our lives that are a blessing and also perhaps a relationship or two that can feel like quite a challenge at times.

It is easy for the challenging relationship to take up more than its fair share of space in our mental and emotional bandwidth. Today’s practice can help redress this balance.

The next time you are with a group of friends and/or family, try this:

1. Pause for a moment and consider a single person.
2. Think back to where and how you met this person. If they are a family member, recall your first memories with them.
3. Think about all of the possible events and decisions—large and small—that could have prevented you from meeting this person, or kept him or her from your life.
4. Imagine what your life would be like now if events had unfolded differently and you had never met this person, or if they had left your life at some earlier point. Bring to mind some of the joys and benefits you have enjoyed as a result of this...

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