Freedom Within Structure: Healthy Habits For Sanity & Wellness

I’m a freedom lover. For a very long time, I rebelled against the idea of any sort of routine because I believed that true freedom came with being able to create my own schedule and exist outside of any pre-set parameters. I quickly learned this was a fast track to nowhere.

Yes, I love freedom, but every form of energy needs direction to be truly felt and appreciated. Without a framework around me, it’s too easy to lose track of what was important or what was the highest and best use of my time. Now I realise that liberation exists as a consequence of good habits and structure, and this is possible to create for yourself even within circumstances that are unusual, unwanted or unfamiliar.

When you have a lot of time on your hands and not a lot of variety in terms of how you can spend it, it’s easy to get into a routine that follows the path of least resistance and leaves you feeling under-nourished mentally, emotionally and physically (hello endless watching of TV and scrolling the internet!). As humans, two of our base needs is to have a sense of purpose and to experience a sense of progress. Both of these are possible to cultivate, we just need to be intentional in how we are using our time.

Let’s start at the start and take it from there.

Establishing some sort of routine when you wake up

With everything on the outside seeming kind of out of control right now, creating a morning routine is an important part of taking control for yourself and gifting yourself with a sense of certainty when you wake up.

This can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but I see this very first part of the day as an opportunity to decide how it is I want to show up in the world and the kind of person I want to be. I know- that all sounds very idealistic- but the truth of it is that recognizing that these elements are within my control is something I find very comforting.

Instead of seeing joy or bravery as destinations I arrive at, I see them as opportunities for practice. How can I practice joy today? How can I practice bravery? And if I am operating from that place, how does that inform my decisions and actions?

The other thing that I consider uber important? Taking care of your nervous system. Right now, I believe self-care is part of our community and global responsibility. This is a time where our considered responses, our creativity and our ability to care for each other is needed more than ever. We aren’t able to do any of those things in any constructive way if we are anxious, overwhelmed and strung out.

For me, setting my intentions and practicing a combination of Qi Gong and Yoga help me ground my nervous system and nourish myself so that I can be a part of the solution- part of the flow of the good stuff- and remove myself from feelings of panic or distress that are so easy to slip into right now.

Create a morning routine that’s specific to you. And within that, be flexible.

If you’re inclined to stay in your Pajamas all day, your morning routine might be as simple as getting dressed and taking a moment to breathe before going to whatever comes next.

It won’t always go the way you planned. My moments of tranquility are often interrupted by two little people vying for space on my mat, but it’s all part of it.

Sleep- Make sure you getting it.

This is really a big one and something that I’m practicing devoting myself too. I asked myself what is the one thing that I can do that will have the biggest effect on everything else in my life and making sure I am getting enough sleep takes the top spot on my list.

If you’re still on the fence about whether sleep is important, check out this Ted Talk. And if you aren’t so much interested in watching that, here’s a quick summary of factoids I took away from it

  1. Reducing sleep by 1 to 2 hours a night reduces immunity by 70%. Those Killer T cells that we need to rally around reduce by SEVENTY PERCENT! Can you believe that? The simple equation means that sleep deprivation = immune-compromised. I get that some of us (shift work, small people waking us up in the night) aren’t fully in control of our sleep, but for those of us that are, we really need to make sure we are getting our full 8 hours in. It really matters.
  2. With the same reduction, our cognitive abilities decrease by up to 40%. That means our memory and our ability to retain information is drastically affected.
  3. Not so much mentioned, but talking experientially, if you are sleep deprived, your emotional balance and resilience are going to go out the window. Nervous system restoration and balance happen during deep rest. And there is no backup plan if you aren’t getting it.

Make sleep a priority. It really is a matter of make or break.

Fill Yourself With The Good Stuff (I’m talking eating well, drinking water and exercising however you can)

 I know, nothing groundbreaking here, but it is ah-ma-zing how quickly this stuff gets pushed out when the days are stretching before us and we don’t have the defined breaks that we might be used to. I’ve found one of the most challenging parts of being an adult is deciding what to eat every day, and over the last little while (no need to congratulate me, this is a really new thing for me!) I’ve been going through the recipe books and pre-planning (I know!) what I’m going to eat.

Given how going to the supermarket is not an opportunity for doodling around at the moment, I’m planning on having a pretty firm idea of how to go about things so hitting the old recipe books and getting myself a tight little list will help make sure I actually come home with things I can use (and hopefully avoid the “why did I buy that?) feeling.

Drinking water and exercise. You know how this goes. Do both of them. They aren’t luxuries. You need both of them to be a human being that feels like they have it going on.

Learning. Soak it up.

For me this is as important of any and all of the above. If I feel like I’m not learning, I feel like my soul has turned into a raison, and that makes me a grumpy person on the outside. Space for learning- be it a podcast, an audiobook, a tutorial- is a total must in my day and I’m always looking for opportunities to tune my ear balls into helpful words as I go about doing things.

In my online program, we are really ramping things up to make sure we have the ways and means to support our heads and hearts over this time, and of course continue to create wonderful partnerships with our horses. There is so much incredible content out there to allow you to enrich your heart and mind. Make sure you make the most of it and make space for it in your day.

Humour. Seek it out.

I love me a good giggle snort. This situation we’re in? The universe has really pulled one out of the bag. Yes, it’s serious, but it’s also possible to take the time to lighten up, to soften the edges and realise it’s important to seek joy and laughter in order to make the whole experience sustainable.

I’m really affected by what I watch and read (I think we all are really). When I’m in a position of feeling more vulnerable than usual, I’m especially mindful of what I consume. Watching standup comedians or listening to podcasts that make me laugh is part of my soul food right now and helps me soften the edges of what is a pretty tough time for all of us.

Seek lightness. It’s the only way to be able to carry the heaviness.

Choices. You have them.

A quote that’s always stuck with me (and I paraphrase) is that suffering comes about when we see reality as different from what it already is. What that means is this: fighting against or resisting what is happening only adds a layer of suffering to our experience that is not needed or necessary. It’s possible to observe what’s happening without exaggerating or inflating it with the stories that we tell ourselves.

Suffering is a choice. And that understanding is a liberation. If I feel stress, that’s coming about from me thinking that this situation should be different from what it is.  Instead, I can ask, what’s the next best thing for me to do right now?

Choices. We all have them. And the biggest one might be to reconnect every moment with what is within our control and influence.

To decide on the smallest thing that’s possible for us to move towards a better feeling place.