Anything that captures the mind can be used as a point of focus for meditation./Adobe Stock
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Modern society is frenetic enough. Add to it the current coronavirus scare and subsequent self-isolation, and we boost the stress and anxiety many of us already feel in our daily lives. As we collectively ride the wave of time when normal escapes—yoga class, a massage, a haircut—aren’t on the menu of options, it’s important to incorporate self-care at home.
While we don’t suggest trimming your own bangs (you’re upset as it is, and a few bobby pins or a bandanna will hold you over), we checked in with Delaware’s wellness gurus to score some tips on how to self-pamper our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“These are unusual times, so we may need to take an unusual approach to our meditation practice,” says Diana Hoscheit, founder of Harmony Yoga Therapy. “There is a lot of fear, which is the mind traveling into the future and often creating a worst-case scenario. Our body and nervous system then react as if we are under threat of that envisioned future. The key is to bring the mind back to the present moment and away from the troubling thoughts.”
Anything that captures the mind can be used as a point of focus for meditation: your breath, singing your favorite song, putting a puzzle together, talking a walk.
“Get absorbed as fully as possible in what you are doing while you are doing it,” says Hoscheit, who is also limiting her exposure to news and media, as well as immersing herself in nature whenever possible. “If you are meditating on the breath, notice the sensation of it moving in and out of your body. If you are meditating with song, feel the vibration of your voice within your body and notice the sound your ears hear.”
Adding a bit of challenge to what you are doing can help focus the mind; consider choosing a puzzle of higher difficulty or a hiking trail where you really have to pay attention to where you place each foot step. “…The mind won’t have room to wander. And be patient with yourself. We have never experienced a time like this, and we are all beginners at finding our way through.”
Get your vitamins
Eating a nutritious diet (i.e., plenty of vegetables and fruits) increases energy, improves mood and boosts immunity to common illnesses. But we’re talking about vitamins D and N(ature), which come from one source: the great outdoors.
“It’s extremely important to get outside and exercise,” says Dave Parris, director of fitness at the Siegel JCC, noting nature’s impact on both physical and mental health. “When we’re all out of our normal routines, it’s easy to get in a rut,” he says.
Use this time to get your workout—as well as adequate fresh air and sunshine—simultaneously, being mindful to keep your distance from others using the parks. Amount and duration of exercise is specific to one’s health and fitness level, but Parris recommends a minimum of a short walk four to five days a week.
“Find some form of exercise that works for and challenges you,” he says, noting that you don’t need gym equipment to get a solid workout. Sets of lunges, jumping jacks, running stairs and lifting with canned goods can all be done outside (or inside on a rainy day).
Need pointers? The JCC’s fitness pros are sharing how-to videos on the website a couple times a week, so check back for new movements. “The idea is to get your heart rate up and increase the intensity to keep yourself motivated,” Parris says.
Rub a dub rub
We typically feel the effects of stress in the neck and shoulders, as well as low back and hips. “These are areas where the nerves exit the spinal cord and are affected by a plethora of muscles, joints and fascia,” explains Joanne Ambrogi, physical therapist and founder of Ambrogi Integrative Health Services.
Targeting stress starts with your breath. “Breathing deeper into the abdomen at first will decrease the use of the accessory breathing muscles in the neck area (which lift the ribs, allowing for more space for the lungs to expand),” she says. “This also allows the diaphragm to expand downward, gently massaging the organs, and may assist with releasing tension on muscles around the hip area.”
Next, try self-soothing massage. “I love when I get my hair washed and cut,” she says, noting the “head massage” many of us are missing most about our routine cuts and colors. “It may sound strange, but giving yourself a scalp massage while washing your hair can be delightful and relaxing. Lather up, and instead of vigorously scrubbing, try slow, gentle circles and find points along your temples to gently press and hold. Take several long deep breaths and visualize yourself in your favorite place … maybe an island or a waterfall.”
Get to the point
Ambrogi says that certain acupressure points, when gently massaged, may be helpful in relieving stress and anxiety:
- Hall of impression point: This point lies between your eyebrows. Sit comfortably, eyes closed. Touch your index finger between your eyebrows, and apply gentle but firm pressure in a circular motion for five to 10 minutes. Take slow, deep breaths.
- The shoulder well point: To find it, pinch your shoulder muscle (upper trapezius) with your thumb and middle or index fingers. Gently hold and massage for five to 10 seconds at a time. (Not recommended if you are expecting, as it may induce labor!)
- Union valley point: This is located in webbing between your thumb and index finger. With your index finger and thumb, apply firm pressure in the web space with the other hand. Massage for about five seconds. (Also not recommended if you are pregnant.)
- Great surge point: Find this pressure point on the top of your foot, about two or three finger widths below the intersection of your big toe and second toe. The point lies in the hollow just above the bone. Apply firm, deep pressure to the point. Massage for five seconds. (Also helpful in relieving pain, insomnia and menstrual cramps.)
Lastly, says Ambrogi, give yourself a hug. Reach your right hand across your body to the opposite shoulder, then reach the left hand to the right shoulder.
“Some body types may find this challenging, so hold onto whatever body part you can and take a few deep breaths,” she says. “Hold an intention to truly love yourself—all of yourself—then slowly release and reverse your wrap as a gesture of hugging your “evil twin,” as it is sometimes referred to (the parts of yourself you may see as the shadow sides). We joke, but it can be very powerful.”
“Take a deep breath and try and enjoy the slower pace to each day,” says Frances Thrasher, founder and creator of the Kindred Skincare Co. What better time than the spring equinox to shed winter skin and get glowing?
To slough away dry patches, Thrasher says, use a polish cleanse in the bath or shower on both the face and body. “You’ll want to apply it to dry skin with dry hands,” she says. A few drops of an oil or oil cleanse added to the scrub will give some slip, allowing you to dust dry patches from tougher spots like elbows, knees and feet.
“Shower off, bundle up in a cozy robe and apply a face mask” suited for your skin type, she says. While you wait for the formula to work its magic, read a book—or read one to your kids.
With a moisture mask, apply generously and relax with a warm, wet washcloth on your face. “Make a towel warmer with your Crock-Pot,” Thrasher says. “Add warm, wet washcloths into a clean Crock-Pot, and within 15 minutes, you will have steaming, spa-ready towels.”
She also likes to play soothing tunes while she salts, soaks and soothes. Have littles? They, too, can enjoy the same spa treatments.
“Just remember to use products (like Kindred’s) that are safe for children and babies,” Thrasher says. “Try giving your children a massage with body oil. They are probably scared and stressed too, and massage helps our nervous system, gastrointestinal system and overall well-being.”
Want to add a splash of fun? Give each other manicures and paint each nail a different color. (My 3-year-old loves the rainbow of hues by Sienna Byron Bay, a nontoxic collection available at Avenue Apothecary & Spa in Rehoboth Beach.)
Better yet, “have your spa day outside,” Thrasher suggests. “Have your facials outside while listening to the birds and feeling the sunshine.” (On Instagram, share your photos that spark joy using #KindnessWithKindred, and each day Kindred will select someone to win a free mini at-home facial set in the mail.)
town house red
Just because you aren’t out and about (yet) doesn’t mean you can’t take pride in the way you look. Sometimes that extra effort—pants instead of pajamas, a fresh blowout, a cheerful red lip—even if just for ourselves or spouse, can lift our mood a little.
At Houppette, beauty experts encourage you to use this time to relax, pamper and play. Besides, self-isolation is the best time to experiment with skincare or a new look, since no one is going to see the immediate after-effects of say, an at-home peel. (Remember when Samantha scared all the guests at Carrie’s book-launch soirée?)
To keep shoppers entertained and their spirits high (and let’s face it, to help stay afloat when they’ve been forced to close their doors), Houppette is partnering with Lab to Beauty here, helping small businesses continue to serve their customers. Use code HOUPPETTE10 at checkout to enjoy 10 percent off any Lab to Beauty purchase.
Savor the simple pleasures
We’re often so busy being busy that we don’t stop to smell the proverbial roses.
Plant some flowers or herbs. Fill your living space with plants.
Catch a sunrise. Chase a sunset.
Sip your morning coffee s-l-o-w-l-y. Have a second cup.
That stack of books on the nightstand you’ve been meaning to read? Shorten it. Add a pile of magazines.
Break out the bubble bath and soy candles. Crack open a beer in the shower.
Dust off the records. Play guitar. Dance.
Take a solo stroll.
Learn to cook or bake a new recipe.
Binge on a new TV show.
Reminisce over old photos. Start a journal or scrapbook.
Try your hand at a new craft. Create art.
Hug your kids.
Rinse and repeat.
We need a reminder to sprinkle these simple pleasures into the everyday—and what more opportune time than the present? For those of us lucky enough to remain well through this national crisis, maybe it will inspire a healthier lifestyle in the future.