Five Doors. Which One Will You Choose?

I often don't realize how good I feel until I don't. An interrupted night's sleep, a tweaky back or low energy levels will suddenly remind me how much my health impacts my wellbeing and happiness.

For me, feeling good is all about a daily commitment and re-commitment to self care.

Self care. It sounds easy. Or maybe even silly. We are adults. Of course we care for ourselves. But do we really, truly know what we need? And how many people or activities do we put before ourselves, either to nurture someone we care about or to avoid the hard work that will ultimately make our lives easier and more fulfilled?

It has taken me decades to come up with this very basic list of *my* daily needs:

A decent night's sleep
At least 68-ounces of water
Protein at every meal
Movement
To be around the people and do things/activities I love

Although not a complete compilation, these items are my foundation--the things I have to think about each and every day so that I remain patient with and present to myself and others. Armed with this knowledge, I can better handle the person who chooses to sit next to me on public transportation. I feel less depleted when I inevitably need to spend time with people who steal my time and energy (more on that another time). The quick fixes in life (say, mmm, espresso) may be what gets me through an energy-draining situation or low-energy day, but it isn't necessarily the best choice. From years of listening to my body, I know what too much caffeine does to me. And often the immediate fix is not worth the longer-term effects. I most likely need to drink more water or surround myself with people who nourish me, than indulge in an afternoon cappuccino.

Focusing on self care and building a strong foundation is especially helpful for when the bigger moments in life happen--good or bad. For me, my foundation began to crack a few years ago when I spent a month at Kripalu for a yoga teacher training. If you have ever visited the former ashram in the Berkshires, an extended stay may sound like a dream. And in most ways it was. As you might imagine, it was hard to pack my bags and board that Peter Pan bus to Stockbridge, leaving behind my husband, sisters, friends, family, city and life for 30 days. And as difficult it was to be far away from those I love, once I arrived on campus something unfamiliar happened to me--I could not sleep. I spent an unexpected first night tossing and turning and told myself it was the transition and that the next night would be without incident. It wasn't. Each evening my head would hit my pillow and even after an emotional and physical 15-hour day, I simply could not drift off.

About a week in to my dilemma, one of the head teachers, Rudy, read an assignment I had completed where I must have had to admit I was sleep deprived. He sought me out and asked about what I was doing for self care. 

Self care.

Of course. I was out of my routine and in such survival (and learning) mode, I was allowing my other necessities to slip. Yes, I was eating and drinking, but I was expending so much energy on my training and dealing with my sleep issue, I was neglecting the other necessities that keep me... well, me. Sleep has always been important to me (it is first on my list for a reason), but it is only one of my pillars and I was functioning without it. Over the next few days, I became even more focused on how much water I consumed. I started joining my sangha members on walks during our breaks or I would take a stroll on my own. I sought out new friends to share meals with. I loaded my plate with protein. I carved out time to call home. I wrote in my journal. I splurged on a massage to heal my aching back. I listened to music. And sure enough, in the days ahead I was able to re-establish my sleep pattern. When I think back to all I did during those first nine days without sleep I can't believe I not only survived, but I managed to thrive--my foundation was strong enough that when one thing went missing--and with some compassion and advice from my teacher--I was able to recalibrate and move on with my new routine.

I think about my teacher Rudy all the time and how his advice was able to get me back on track. The most powerful thing he taught me during that time is the question he asks himself daily, "Dear heart. What do you need today?"

It's such a simple question. But it's a powerful one.

Dear Heart. What do you need today?

Rudy's question takes self care to a level that would otherwise get lost in the day-to-day busy of my life. It is the pause I need especially on the days I feel less grounded and things feel a bit more out of control. I ask the question. Dear Heart. What do you need today? I wait for the answer. I don't rush it. And it always presents itself ("I need to talk to my sister" or "I need to be near the water" or "I need to play with a niece or nephew" or "I need to bake" or "I need to listen to Lauryn Hill"). Without that question, I would get caught up in survival mode and my to-do list and another block of time or day would pass without me getting to that next level of self care.

So what does self care and listening to your heart have to do with five doors health + wellness? I learned I can't do it alone. Yes, it's up to me to keep my foundation strong--only I can make sure I am drinking water, eating protein and getting enough sleep. But for the last 20-plus years I have had to rely on a wellness team to support my efforts to help me feel my best. Every week, I carve out time to unroll my mat and learn from my favorite yoga teachers. When my crooked spine shows the first signs of interfering with my ability to move easily, I contact my massage therapist or chiropractor. When my allergies kick in or I feel lethargic without explanation, my acupuncturist gets me back on track. And I hope that as you continue on your journey to your healthiest you, you will find that the teachers, practitioners and experts are here for you too. Our yoga and meditation teachers will help you breathe and/or move, as well as give you the space and time in stillness to reflect and settle. Our massage therapists will listen to your concerns and work out any kinks or tension--and if you have ever had body work, you know the power of massage and the impact it can have not only on your physical body, but your emotional and energetic state. We also offer reiki and life coaching. In June we will add strength training. In September, acupuncture. And as we move into the fall, we will begin work with a nutritionist.

Not sure where you should begin? Use the "contact" link and I can help guide you into the most appropriate yoga class or help you find a practitioner who will meet your needs. Otherwise I hope you will sign up for a class or a session and I will see you at our little wellness shop. Soon. In the mean time, feel free to borrow from Rudy and ask yourself, "Dear heart. What do you need today?" The answers may surprise you.

Anne Marie
founder of five doors health + wellness

Anne Marie Costantino