Tag Archives: sleep

Caring for Oneself

October 13, 2019

Culture and Society

For the first 18 years or so of our lives, our parents take care of us. They provide a safe and warm home, delicious and nourishing food, emotional support and encouragement, resources for a solid education, and a clear set of guidelines that teach us appropriate ways to engage with the world and meet various expectations.

When we leave our parent’s homes for good, we have to learn how to fend for ourselves. We feed ourselves and find our own housing. We get jobs to be able to pay for everything or complete a college education. We essentially take over the job of sustaining our very own well being.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and in my mind, caring for oneself goes deeper than having a roof over our heads and our physiological needs met.

Truly caring for yourself involves nurturing your emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical states. While all of these can be rooted in your biological well being, this ultimately means that there has to be an active consciousness and honest awareness of how you are feeling and doing both inside and out.

For example, let’s say you have a productive day. at work. You are firing on all cylinders and getting a lot done. On the outset, that is wonderful. It’s great to get ahead with your responsibilities, but what if the root of this productivity is an avoidance of dealing with a deeper sadness or anxiety? Just because all is well in one corner of your life, this does not guarantee that all is well elsewhere. I find it tricky to be able to discern these kinds of variations when you genuinely want to believe that you are doing just fine. Sure, everything is not always going to be peachy keen, but that is not the point.

The point is that you stay attuned to the vulnerabilities you face with honesty and an open heart and actively find ways to compassionately address them.

Every day, I have a list of little things that I do to help me take care of myself. They are geared toward rejuvenating my spirit and maintaining an awareness of self.

Have a look . . .

  • I write in a journal every morning.

    Usually, it’s one or two small paragraphs that state what feels most pressing in my life, how I am feeling, and reminders to do those things that enhance stability and growth. This is essentially a daily check-in with myself–kind of like a briefing for the CEO, CFO, the Board of Directors, and the shareholders of my body and my life. They each have a vested interest in my success and health, and they deserve complete transparency over every transaction and its outcome.
  • I drink lots of water every day.

    This is one of the points where the biology of your body effects everything else. Staying hydrating sustains everything. Yes, everything. It gives you more energy, flushes toxins out of your body, helps you stay regular, keeps your skin healthy, and refreshes/cleanses your internal organs. Water is your body’s version of the sun. It gives you life and stands at the core of your physical well being.
  • I loudly state several things for which I am thankful.

    It’s no secret that thankfulness has numerous benefits. Several years of having a daily thankfulness habit has improved my mental state. I’m more inclined to believe in the positive side of things and am less effected when setbacks happen. Gratefulness is what feeds resilience. It gives our minds the willingness to stay strong and keep trying.
  • I stay as physically active as I can.

    For me, this means taking the stairs and not the elevator, parking farther away so that I can walk a longer distance, and engaging in a physical activity that I actually enjoy like riding a bicycle and walking. Most days, especially on the large college campus where I go to school, I walk a whole lot, and I LOVE it. Move your body as much as you can and find a fun way to do it.
  • I try to connect with loved ones and friends as much as I can.

    There is something healing about the human connections we make. Through laughter, empathy, and heartfelt discussions, our mental health gains a lot by being engaged with people who genuinely love and care for us. Find those people and hold on to them for dear life.
  • Be generous.

    Whether you give of your time, money, or personal resources, just give. Do so with no expectations whatsoever. Just give. I will not tell you why, but I invite you to find out for yourselves.
  • I make the time to rest.

    Sleep, alone time to decompress, napping, and doing nothing are all forms of rest in my life. Rest is the antithesis of burnout. If we do not recognize those moments when we need rest, then we are in danger of getting far too worn out. Take the time to rest as often as you can. It will restore your energy and your faith in yourself.

For the record, I am not a doctor or psychologist, these practices are thoughts I have culled out of my own queries and experiences.

Life can be tough, and we often have so much we need and desire. The more we taking better care of ourselves, the better off we will be.

Honor the work and the diligence of your parents, and take exceptional care of your body and mental/emotional well being. It’s not fair to pin any of that on other people. Take responsibility for yourself. It’s your life and your own version of happiness at stake.


The Keystones of my Life

August 11, 2019

Culture and Society / Roque Recommends

In the natural world of forest and ocean ecosystems, there is a well-documented phenomenon called keystone species. This term refers to specific animals whose existence and practices have an enormous and enriching effect upon the environments in which they live.

The beaver had previously been hunted for its furs and considered a nuisance due to the flooding it creates from the damns it builds. Both of these considerations primarily grow out of the selfish and less wholesome needs of human beings.

As far as the rest of nature and the earth goes, the beaver is an absolute godsend. Those dams that we complain about support numerous salmon and fish populations. They help to purify water by trapping sediment. and perhaps the biggest impact is that they create wetlands. Wetlands, in turn, can store carbon pollution for hundreds of years, provide buffer zones for storms and wind, facilitate flood control, furnish fertile farmland for rice and various crops, and mitigate sea level rise. Because of their unique locations bordering salt and freshwater ecosystems, they serve as a sanctuary for hundreds of different species, both endangered and otherwise.

I hope that you get the point. If you remove the beaver from this equation, you threaten the stability and longevity of vast stretches of coastal lands and ecosystems. That is a reality I cannot even imagine.

African elephants, wolves, and grizzly bears, among other animals, all share the noble distinction of being keystone species.

All of this has gotten me thinking about the concept of a keystone in my own life. What is a habit or action whose short and long term effects are far-reaching? What daily act is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts? What are the simple things I can do that basically improve everything else in my life?

There are five practices that I have established as keystone habits. I have determined that the pursuit of all of these disciplines every day vastly improves everything else.

Bullet points please . . .

  • Drink water

    Yes, water. I drink lots of it these days. Of course, you can drink any variety of fluids that could work just fine, but I always go back to water. Other than low-key being the universal solvent, it has that uncanny characteristic of having no calories, sugars, caffeine, or carbs. They say 8 glasses a day is a good start, but I just keep a cup of water nearby at all times while chugging away as much as possible.

    This means my skin stays smooth and hydrated. I have more energy throughout the day. Water helps with digestion and regularity by keeping everything flowing. It can satiate hunger without adding fat and calories. It clears toxins from the body, thereby strengthening your immunity. Throughout the day, it regulates your body temperature. Improved breathing, better heart and kidney health, and physical performance boosts are among the other benefits of regularly drinking this simple fluid. (Getting up to pee often can be annoying, but the added physical activity this forces is a good thing.)
  • Sleep often.

    With an average lifespan of 15 years (numerous breeds can live well over twenty), they say that cats have nine lives. Sure, I can agree with that, but is it purely a coincidence that they sleep upwards of 16 hours per day? The benefits of sleep have been well documented.

    For myself, a good night’s sleep, and various naps throughout the day, help me stay energetic and alert. Sleep affords a mental and physiological break for my brain against the onslaught of multi-sensory information coming in from all directions. Sleep gives my body a chance to rest so that it can do everything else better. I try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night, and I take brief naps during the day whenever I feel tired.

    Incidentally, I have questioned the inclusion of sleep on this list because it is already a biological function of the body. I decided to keep it on this list by regarding it as a priority practice, as opposed to treating it nonchalantly as we do with “pooping” or “sneezing”. Being more intentional and aggressive about when and how one sleeps reaps dividends.
  • Express gratitude.

    There is so much about mental health that is intangible. Because it is experienced in fluctuating waves of feelings and emotions, it is often hard to quantify what is actually worth alleviating. For years now, I have engaged in a daily practice of expressing gratitude. This involves saying what I an thankful for out loud and saying the words “Thank You” as often as I possibly can to anyone everywhere.

    I am still grasping the effects of this daily practice, but I have found that I am more resilient when faced with setbacks. I linger longer on the pros and the positives of most scenarios. I smile more often. I value and deeply appreciate what I have. Overall, I am a more pleasant person who other people like to be around (as opposed to a miserable lump of flesh that complains about everything and feels constantly victimized). Daily gratitude has vastly improved my mental health. Exponentially, it has upgraded how I feel about my life.
  • Pursue Sacred Mindfulness

    This is the newest keystone habit I have pursued. The concept came to me from this blog post by Leo Babauta. This means that EVERYTHING I do involves single-minded focus, reverence, and presence of mind. Imagine the most precious object in your life. You handle it with the greatest care. You are methodical with every movement because it holds immense value and is sacred to your entire existence.

    Now, imagine applying that to EVERYTHING that you do all day long. Your brain will be firing on fewer cylinders. You will have a stronger awareness of how you feel. Your day will flow more calmly, and as I have continued to discover, you will actually get more done.

    Sacred mindfulness is a form of meditation. You simply focus on the actual thing that you are doing right in front of you and nothing else. You give that act the respect and care it needs. I have been more calm and productive in all aspects of my life because of this daily meditative practice. Try it. You’ll see.
  • I play piano. (AKA Engage in a creative flow.)

    This keystone habit is specific to my life, but it can be adapted to other scenarios. I have been playing piano for years, and when I do so, this is the place where I can mentally block everything out and easily find my own creative flow. I literally just let go of everything, and my music sings, unencumbered and full. If you can create a space in your life in which there is some kind of creative flow, it will deepen any other work that you do. For some people, this takes the form of dance or drawing. Other people paint or knit. Some people garden while others sing songs or write.

    The art that you happen to create is actually not the point entirely. The goal is the synergy that happens between what your brain is thinking, what your hands are doing, and the emotions that you are experiencing. Active creative expression will make you feel alive and joyful. I play piano as often as I can (as well as a couple of other instruments). The creative flow that my body feels and projects as a result is both mysterious and thrilling.

    If you haven’t found a creative outlet yet, please know that the formative time of learning the craft will feel difficult and challenging at first, but keep at it every day. With patience and persistence, you will start to feel the flow in time.

Life without any of these keystone practices would be much more difficult than it needs to be. Life with them feels more rich, calm, and fulfilling.

Maybe your keystone practices are different from mine. That’s okay. The point is that you pursue them. One keystone is a master key that opens many doors.

Find that keystone and open up your life.