View this post on Instagram
Most people think self-care means spending a day at the spa or going shopping or getting a mani-pedi or watching Netflix while drinking wine.
Those are types of self-care techniques but not long-lasting because true self-care must include nourishing your mind, body, and emotions.
I lost a dear friend to a heart attack a few months ago. He was my senior in boarding school, and one of the most revered people I knew. Everyone in our school network turned to him for advice. He was the kind of guy who would drive two hours in the middle of the day to help someone 20 years junior to him.
In my line of work, clients, colleagues, friends, family, and strangers tell me their problems and life/health issues. I am grateful to be their guide, educator, and voice. But this friend and I didn’t turn to each other for guidance. I guess that is why the bond that I shared with him was special; we never discussed anything serious. It was a light-hearted, fun friendship.
My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary a few days ago. My friend and his lovely wife got married two days before us (different year). In fact, he and I met our respective spouses around the same time. My heart kept aching for his wife on their wedding anniversary. If I am looking for answers for my friend’s untimely demise, she must be going stir-crazy trying to make sense of her nonsensical loss.
Once the grief of losing a good friend started to stabilize, the Ayurveda practitioner in me started to drill down how he could have died so suddenly. Ayurveda reminds us of the power of connection between mind-body-emotions. He was a guy who didn’t drink alcohol. He was fit, happy, so dearly loved, and in a beautiful relationship with his amazing wife. He had a successful business. What could have gone wrong?
I know he was a night owl. Both western and eastern healing modalities teach the importance of going to bed on time and getting seven to eight hours of sleep. Ayurveda reiterates that one should be in bed latest by 10 p.m. before the heaviness of Kapha is lulled away by the “second wind” of Pitta dosha. Pitta time of the night is 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Sleep deprivation heightens the risk of heart attacks. In one study, people sleeping less than six hours per night had a 20 perecent higher chance of a heart attack. My friend was a big-hearted man who was always available for those in need. I would often ask him how and why he stretched himself so thin.
He wasn’t my client, so I don’t know if he had experienced any discomfort prior to the evening of his heart attack, who had he spoken with, or if there were new stressors in his life. What did he eat/drink that day? Or, if he noticed any signs and symptoms? What was his self-care routine like? Did he ever prioritize himself in his life? I do know that he thought the pain in his arm and then chest was probably from eating the wrong foods.
Ayurveda teaches us that very rarely does any disease happen out of the blue. There are six stages—from dosha imbalances to a full-blown disease. There are always signs if we pay attention. Like a heartburn or constipation or insomnia or constant fatigue or inflammation or constant mind chatter or you name it…they could be signs that point toward bigger issues. But we take pills and never get to the root cause of anything because we assume bad things happen to others.
Many of us have so many responsibilities in life that we forget to take care of our personal needs, especially if we are a caregiver. But we also live in a world of lazy attitudes, quick fixes, and undeniable arrogance. Once the medical practitioner diagnoses us with a disease or someone dies, we feel shocked and confused…not realizing that the body was trying to tell us something all along. We choose to ignore it.
Self-care is an intentional practice, which is radical. It encourages you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself. When you are replenished and happy, you can be compassionate with others. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more.
Self-care teaches us to be present for our emotional, mental, physical, environmental, and financial well-being. If one aspect is ignored, we face repercussions. Self-care is a vital part of stress management.
My mom, much like my friend, died suddenly. She and my dad were headed to a vacation. The night before, she complained of feeling a little nauseous and light-headed. Dad rushed her to the hospital; she was on the ventilator a little later. I never got to say goodbye. For years, I asked my dad what mom’s week was like prior to her death. She loved throwing dinner parties. There had been several gatherings leading up to her heart giving up on her. Did her body try to tell her something? Did someone’s words hurt her? Did certain foods react badly with her system? I don’t have answers because my mother believed self-care was getting a facial.
My personal learning
My friend’s untimely demise made me reflect deeply on my own personal habits and lifestyle. I work out daily. I practice asanas and pranayama every day. I spend time in nature and disconnect often. I meditate twice a day. My karma yoga is teaching pro bono yoga to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I eat mindfully and very cleanly 85 percent of the time and 15 percent of the time, give myself wiggle room. I am mindful of the people I allow into my life.
But despite all this awareness, I felt prey to desserts during the pandemic. Because the dance studios and yoga spaces closed, and I got sick of virtual classes (even though I continued taking them), I couldn’t find true outlets for my stress. Desserts became it. Losing friends and family during the pandemic made dessert look stable when everything else seemed to be fleeting. Fact is that we have all fallen off the wagon.
The holiday season is upon us. This might mean different things to different people. But it does create a little upheaval in our lives. It brings stress and anxiety too.
May I urge you to check in with yourself regularly? How is your mood? How is your appetite and digestion? Is your sleep okay? Do you feel motivated to move? How are you on the fatigue levels? Are you turning to sugar for emotional relief? Are you binge drinking or doing emotional eating? Is your family walking around on eggshells?
Talk to me. Talk to your medical practitioner. Speak to a therapist if you need. But don’t ignore any signs or symptoms. Don’t call it nothing because you don’t want to deal with it or inconvenience anyone. Trust me; people who care about you want you around for a long time.
Do you love yourself enough to make your wellness a priority?