Life can be unpredictable, especially when Lyme and co-infections are in the picture. That's why I developed morning and evening self-care routines that help me stay grounded amidst the occasional chaos.
I made sure it was a routine I could do while traveling to most locations, because it's important to keep some regimen even when you are away.
1. Wake up at 6am
It's important to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. I find that 6am is my ideal wake up time. It gives me enough time to do the rest of my self-care before I need to be anywhere. I don't always make it out of bed at this time, but my goal is to get as close to it as possible.
2. Meditate for 5-30 minutes
Immediately after waking up (and feeding my dog), I sit in my meditation space and meditate. I currently meditate for about ten minutes and I'm working up to thirty.
After I meditate I read my daily affirmations. I save a list of them on my phone in Google Keep. They are little reminders of where my headspace should be every day even if I get off track. Here is a sample of my affirmations:
"I am present with a generous spirit."
"I am in agreement with life and resist nothing."
"I keep my power for myself and in turn I am a powerhouse for good in this world."
"I am healed. My body is in balance. I am strong, healthy, and flexible."
4. Yoga poses
I start with three cat/cow poses and then do three half sun salutations. This gets my spine warmed up and the blood flowing. Since I've started doing this every morning I'm now able to (barely) touch my toes, which is a long way from where I was a couple of years ago when the picture below was taken. It's a testament to how small changes over time can make a big difference.
5. Essential Oils
After I get ready I put a mix of 1 drop of this peppermint oil and 1 drop of this lavender oil on my temples, forehead, and behind my ears. This wakes me up and gets rid of the morning fogginess. Then, I use a product called Tummy Rub by Rocky Mountain Oils, a drop or two on my stomach, liver area, and sternum to help with digestion throughout the day.
When I'm ready for the day I prepare a healthy breakfast. May people skip breakfast, but because I need to take my morning pills I need at least a little something in my stomach. Most days I have my Nutrition-Packed Go-To Every Day Smoothie and a scrambled egg.
After that I'm ready to start my day.
1. Lay out my clothes for the next day
Before I get ready to turn in I always choose my outfit for the next day. It helps me visualize what I'll be doing throughout the day and saves me time in the morning. If I'm planning to go to a yoga class, I lay those clothes out, too, so I won't have any excuses when the time comes to go.
2. Dry brush
Right before I get into my Epsom salt bath (see #3) I dry brush to wake up my lymphatic system. I used to do it in the morning, which is the ideal time to do it, but I find I have more time to do it as part of my evening routine. Here is a an article on the technique: A Step-By-Step Guide to Dry Skin Brushing.
3. Epsom salt bath
Then, I take a 20-30 minute Epsom salt bath. I turn on my playlist of inspirational songs and relax away the stressors of the day. This helps with muscle aches and helps me fall asleep easier.
4. Essential oils
At night, I do the same essential oil routine that I do in the morning. The peppermint oil helps with any lingering evening headaches, the lavender is calming to prepare for sleep, and the tummy rub makes sure I’m digesting while I sleep.
5. Gratitude journal
When I get into bed I write in my gratitude journal. I start with writing “Dear Universal Energy, Today I am grateful for…” and I list 5-10 things that went right for me in the day. Then, I write down the name or names of those who are suffering and ask the universe to be with and around them. This practice helps me stay mindful of my blessings.
The final thing I do every night is read. It helps shut down my busy mind, so I can fall asleep. I usually read a page or two from the current month’s O, The Oprah Magazine, which I read cover to cover every month, and then turn to whatever book I’m reading until my eyes get droopy.
To understand the importance of routine is to also understand the importance of doing things that aren't routine. Because I do these small things every morning and evening it keeps me grounded to be more open-minded and adventurous during the day. Success and joy in life comes from a beautiful balance between routine and adaptability to change.
"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." - John C. Maxwell
I recently moved across the country from Chicago to Seattle. My husband and I sold our three bedroom house and downsized to a one bedroom apartment. In our previous house we had an office and half of it was dedicated to my meditation space, now I have carved out a tiny corner in our bedroom. What's important isn't that you have a lot of space, what's important is that you have a dedicated space, whether it's an entire room or a small blanket and tray you bring out of the closet. Having a personal meditation space will help motivate you to practice on a regular basis.
How to Design Your Own Meditation Space:
1. Find a space in your home that makes you feel peaceful
Maybe you like the light that comes in through your bedroom window or maybe there is a back closet away from everyone else in the house. Either way, select a place in your home that makes you feel calm and peaceful. It's probably a bad idea to set up your space in the middle of the kitchen, but only you will know the right place in your house or apartment.
2. Determine what you need to help you meditate
Not everyone needs props in their meditation space, but there may be a few calming objects that help signal to you it is time to meditate. Some people use crystals, a salt lamp, plants, or a Tibetan singing bowl.
For me, I have a small table with a candle, lucky bamboo, and a few decorative objects on it. I'm still looking for the perfect statue of the Buddha.
3. Use candles, incense, or an essential oil diffuser
Every day before I meditate I light a candle. As I light the candle my meditation session begins, and when I blow it out my session is complete. It helps me stay centered.
Lighting incense or starting an essential oil diffuser would have the same effect.
There are certain calming scents like lavender and sandalwood that are ideal for meditation.
4. Find a cushion or something to sit on
One of the goals of meditation is to clear your mind. You won't be able to get clear while you are uncomfortable, because the entire time you will be thinking about how your back hurts and your feet are asleep (I may or may not have experienced this in the past).
You can use a pillow, yoga blanket, or a meditation cushion. I use a round pillow, but I have my eyes on this buckwheat medication cushion by Hugger Mugger:
5. Use music or a meditation app
Once you've chosen a space and found the items and scents that prepare you for meditation, it's time to practice. I use a free app called Insight Timer. It has thousands of meditations to choose from and you can bookmark your favorites. I bookmarked about 50 meditations and I am working through them from shortest to longest. It's helping me learn to sit for longer periods of time. The app has both spoken meditations and music, so you can use whichever you prefer or simply set a timer.
If you don't want to use an app, try putting on some soft music or white noise.
It's easy to set up a meditation space and once you do you will find you are more compelled to meditate on a regular basis. Personally, I meditate first thing in the morning for 5-20 minutes. I find that if I wait until later in the day I am more likely to come up with excuses or feel less "in the zone."
After I meditate I do cat-cow pose and three half sun salutations and then I feel ready to start my day.
Find what works for you and then make it a daily routine.
Here is a picture of my simple meditation space. The table is an original mosaic created by my grandmother:
Overtime meditation has helped me cope with anxiety and chronic pain. Meditating in the morning ensures that I start my day in the right head space. I still need practice on letting go of thoughts, but I know it takes time.
Do you meditate on a regular basis? Do you have a meditation space set up in your home?
"Meditation means the recognition or discovery of one’s own true self." - Sri Chinmoy
Last week I went to a yoga class with a plank sequence that went on twenty minutes. While the rest of the class did low plank, high plank, side plank, and one-legged plank, I was in child’s pose. There were at least two people in the class over seventy-five who seemed to have no problem with the planks. At first I was embarrassed being folded up in a little ball while the others we’re sweating through their gym clothes, but then I remembered—my challenge was just in getting there.
When I walk into a yoga studio there is no indication from my outward appearance I’ll be the one in child’s pose half the class. I’m average weight and usually one of the youngest. The reason I struggle is because, in addition to Lyme, I have an autoimmune condition called SAPHO Syndrome. It's a type of reactive arthritis that attacks my muscles, joints, and bones. Over time, this extremely rare illness caused fusion in my lumbar spine and sacral joints. I also have fusion in my clavicle, limiting the range of motion in my shoulder. I’m lucky if I can just touch a block in forward fold. SAPHO also causes chronic pain. In spite of my physical limitations, I will never stop going to yoga. For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I fell in love with yoga, when I bought a DVD called Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss to get in shape for my wedding 10 years ago, but it was only after I became ill that I truly understood the benefits of regular practice. When I'm in yoga class, I am at peace. My sympathetic nervous system, or "fight or flight" reflex shuts down and puts me in the healing state of "rest and digest." It's the only type of exercise I feel comfortable doing with my condition, because I don't have to worry that it will put a strain on my already taxed immune system.
Yoga also helps me maintain the range of motion I still have, and hopefully will help me gain some back. Due to my unstable spine, my hamstrings overcompensate and become extremely tight. With regular practice I'm able to inch the tiniest bit closer to touching my toes. In addition to adding flexibility, the stretches ease and prevent pain.
Like many people with Lyme and related autoimmune disorders I also have chronic fatigue, which means most days I don't have the energy to go to yoga and after I finish class, I'm exhausted. I usually only make it to one or two classes a week. It takes a lot of motivation to get myself to go, but when I'm done I feel so accomplished--exhausted--but accomplished. I used to worry that the teacher or other students would think I was lazy or not trying, but through yoga I've learned to listen to myself. Now, I don't worry about what other people think, and simply do what my body tells me it needs.
For other people with limitations who have been considering yoga, I encourage you to try it. There are chair, gentle, restorative, and slow flow classes at most gyms and studios. These classes are designed for beginners or those of us who need to take it easy. You can slowly work your way up to the next level. For those of you who are intimidated by a group class, private sessions may be an option. There are also certified yoga therapists, who meet individually with clients and use yoga poses and breathing techniques to treat emotional and physical ailments.
It’s also important to note that using pose modifications and props help you get the most out of your practice. Don't be ashamed to use a block or a strap—even the most experienced yogis use them to deepen poses. When I reach my limit, I simply go into child’s pose and rest. Make sure you communicate your physical restrictions with the instructor before class.
At the end of each class when I bow to the teacher and my classmates and say, "namaste," in my head I always say my preferred English translation, "the divine in me blesses and honors the divine in you." We're all sacred beings, and no one in any yoga class is better than anyone else based on ability or flexibility. What's important is showing up and listening to your body. Remember, honoring yourself is the honoring the divine.
"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down." - Jigar Gor
I'm Kerry and I am healing from chronic Lyme disease and autoimmunity. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of illness.