Thursday Therapy: Yoga As Self-Care

I haven't focused quite as intensely this month on mental health and self-care, and while it has been nice to take a break from the deeper aspects of this blog, the truth is, those aspects of my life remain - and I believe that for most people drawn to this blog, those aspects still remain alive if not quite well in your own lives too.

If you read this blog because you struggle with mental illness of any kind, particularly illness resulting in severe chronic anxiety and/or depression, then it's likely that even if holiday cheer was enough to lift your spirits for a while, the holidays are over, the excitement of the new year has passed, and we're all getting back to regular life - and regular symptoms.

For me, the holidays meant missing a PMDD cycle, which was a relief because my PTSD symptoms had been somewhat out of control through most of December. I was more anxious, more watchful, more irritable. More prone to worrying, less able to sleep. More dependent on my calendar and list-making strategies to get through the day, less able to focus to complete things no matter how many lists they were on. I missed deadlines in November and December simply because I couldn't keep up, and I had to scramble to at least look like I was keeping things together. It wasn't fun.

I kept up the pretense though, smiled for my babies, and made it work as best I could. Christmas went well, the babes liked their gifts, I was proud of pulling it off, and that carried through into the beginning of the new year with hope, excitement, and big plans for carrying last year's momentum into 2018.

Not that I wasn't overwhelmed though - I was. I still am, actually. My kids are finally back to school after what felt like an impossibly long Christmas break, only to have had the last two days out due to snow and weather. This, and other small happenings in my daily life, have conspired to steal much of my peace from me despite certain other things that have had me flying high with glee.

So, while I've been writing daily this month to unload my thoughts and keep myself focused on something productive, I've also been working extra hard to seek out therapeutic self-care - especially as the weather has also stopped me from attending therapy as reliably as I need. I've been seeking out the little things - turning to quotes that inspire me, taking a few extra minutes to really pamper myself in the shower, shutting down to watch a movie. And yes, I've done my fair share of daydreaming.

But mostly, the way I cope with stress is to get active. I wish I had a gym membership, where I could go spend a couple of hours sweating myself half to death - ideally, it would be a gym where I could drop Eden in the childcare center and take Joey with me to work out. It would be good chatting time for us during warmups, and I'd love being able to take the place of coach as she begins to show more interest in fitness. But since a gym membership is an expense I can't afford at the moment, I like to do things at home - bodyweight exercises mostly, and I love pilates. But when I need peace and there simply isn't any to be found, that's when Eden and I turn on some nature sounds and dig into our favorite yoga routine.

This list of poses is one that I made up because I got obsessed with the fluidity of moving yoga sequences and also desperately needed a way to regularly loosen my chronically tight calves and hamstrings. I'm a long way from being able to get my heels on the floor in the downward dog pose, but using this as a goal (as well as seeing an end to the tension living in the backs of my knees) also gives me the benefit of this pose reminding me to keep my shoulders our of my ears.

I like the way this sequence of poses is easy for Eden to do with me without a ton of coaching, relaxing for the tension I carry in my back, shoulders, and legs - and yet challenging enough to engage my body and muscles in a way that allows me to disengage my overworked mind. Eden and I both love the way it feels completely natural to move through these poses, with each new pose easily flowing from the last and into the next.

Depending on how long you hold each pose while moving through this sequence and how long it takes you to settle into each pose, this routine can be done in as little as five energetic minutes, or in as much as thirty more relaxing minutes. We go back and forth, depending on what we need most in the moment - sometimes it's energy, other times it's meditation.

I also like that there are countless other poses to choose from, and we can use little poses we're already good at in our efforts to work toward more challenging poses in the future - although my daughter will probably be fully grown before we're advanced enough to try any of this serious mother-daughter stuff, and even then we may never come close to anything resembling the splendor of acro-yoga.

Still, a good half hour of practicing, either together or apart, if often all it takes to reset our bodies and minds - and sometimes the whole day in general. Which means that for Team Kennedy, yoga takes the self-care win.

What's your favorite physical way to work on your mental health - and if you like yoga too, what's your favorite pose? If you're a parent, have you ever shared your yoga practice with your kids? What poses work best for them?

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from quotes that inspire us to lessons we've learned, to travelpoetry, and our goals for the future. Make sure you check out David's blog to see his thoughts on these topics and more - most specifically, check out his post about how he's reintroducing his fitness series from last year in hopes of kickstarting his fitness focus in 2018.

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