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Stay Afloat: 5 Daily Pillars of Wellness

Updated: Mar 15, 2021


Wherever

you are

right now

Let it teach

you something

Be kind to yourself

on the journey

And in the process of

who you are becoming





Moody...Mercurial...Sensitive...Melancholic

Words that could describe even the best of us, now and then. Blame the times, the weather, or Mercury in retrograde. Some days you feel off-kilter. I know I do! I might as well be writing this post from the VIP section of the Struggle Bus. Nails bitten to the quick, tired, frazzled, disorganized, unappreciative. And the thing is, I know what it takes for me to feel my best -- To feel optimized.


I've experimented with incorporating different modalities and elements into my daily routine. Through (lengthy) trial and error, I've picked up kernels of wisdom -- tips for hacking my own life -- and jotted them down. The list stays posted at my desk as a reminder of the easy elements I can incorporate into every day to start feeling like the best version of myself. While there might be some general overlap, I imagine that everyone has their own expression of this. Let's call them five daily pillars of wellness.


Someone once told me that she remembers everything in groups of five. Such a minor practice, but so interesting. Colloquially known as "chunking", this type of mental trigger - the association with the number five - serves as a way for her mind to group tasks. Humans naturally tends to look for patterns, and chunking allows the brain to store information in easy-to-remember packets.


As a sort of mnemonic memory device that builds on these easy-to-digest sets of five, let's use the Hamsa Hand, pictured above to help keep our pillars in focus. The Hamsa Hand is an ancient Middle Eastern talisman symbolizing protection ((k)hamsa = 'five' in Arabic). This symbol has been used to banish negativity, and usher in abundance, good health, and happiness. Each of the five fingers on the outstretched hand has a meaning, representing the interplay of the chakras:


» Water Element: Sacral Chakra « » Fire Element: Solar Plexus Chakra «

» Earth Element: Root Chakra « » Air Element: Heart Chakra «

» Ethereal Element: Throat Chakra «


In my humble opinion, if you develop your own customized Five Pillars of Wellness, you hold the key to bringing happiness to your day! I'll share mine here, and would love to hear yours! ☼


 

I list this as the first pillar with much intentionality. For me, movement is the keystone to a successful day, the foundation on which the other good habits build. There's no 'right' time to slip some movement into your schedule, but if you're trying to build good habits, I would recommend setting aside the same block of time each day. Studies have shown that elevating your heart rate first thing in the morning can lead to prolonged sustained focus and energy for the day ahead. I personally enjoy an early morning workout because I feel like its when the world is quiet, and others are less demanding of my attention. Knocking out an AM workout or run gets my endorphins going AND I get a nice bonus dopamine reward because I've already accomplished something on my to-do list for the day! If you're a night owl, or find that your lunch break is the best opportunity - more power to you!


I typically get my daily dose of movement in the form of 25-35 minute Tabata-type workouts. They look something like this:

- Set an interval timer (free in the app store): 60-80 seconds of work // 10 seconds of rest

- Pick 10 sets of movement that work the muscle groups that need attention that day:

  1. Jumping Jacks 6. Jump rope

  2. Kettlebell swings 7. Push ups

  3. Goblet Squats 8. Crunches

  4. Walking Lunges 9. Tricep Dips

  5. Bicep curls 10. Burpees

- Work through these movements twice [20 work intervals total]


Elapsed time is only 26:30, and I can adjust down if I have to condense for any reason. (Consistency and quality over quantity.) COVID forced us all to reassess our opportunities for fitness. Gyms are still closed, and group classes are minimal or non-existent. But thank goodness there are an endless amount of virtual groups and video tutorials that provide inspiration for the at-home sweat sesh.

I can work through my routine in the basement with pretty minimal equipment:

- Barbell

- Dumbbells in a few sizes

- Kettlebell (So much versatility with these - Really a must-have.)

- Treadmill (These go for really cheap if you're willing to pick up / move them!)

- Yoga mat

- Jump rope

- Pull-up bar


Back to the days when I used the basement rafter for pull-ups!! ---->


Bottom line: Use what you have and don't be afraid to get creative!


If a traditional workout isn't your thing, find something more appealing. You don’t have to be a gym rat to Move. That. Body. Hop on a bike, take a walk, challenge a friend to a game of basketball or soccer. It doesn't necessarily have to FEEL like work to be effective. Get lost in an activity you enjoy.


The key is elevating your body temperature and making sure that, whatever duration you choose, you're committing yourself to the activity while you're in it. If you're going to half-ass it, then you might as well not do it.


Pro Tip:

Join forces with a movement buddy! Even if your check-ins are virtual, setting intentions with someone else provides an extra sense of accountability. Shout out to my two favorite partners - Ashlee & Lexie. We push each other in such a positive way! It can be easy to let yourself down or talk yourself out of a goal, but when you involve more people, it's no longer just your own time that's on the line. Plus, things are usually more fun with a friend to share it with anyway. Some good-natured competition or an external source of motivation can go so far to bring up your enthusiasm!


Looking for some inspiration?

If dance is your style, check out Tasha Blank (@tashablank), a DJ + Movement Artist. Along with the Get Down Party NYC (@thegetdownparty), Tasha lays down trippy, empowering tracks to help move your body around. This collective believes that dance is a radical form of self expression. They have a (currently virtual) get-down that someone veeeerrrry special to me (HI ANNA! <3) shouts from the rooftops above (literally).


 

If you're going to have a portion of your day dedicated to movement, it seems only right that there should also be time dedicated to observing some peace. Have you incorporated a yoga or meditation practice into your day? There are so many benefits to taking a moment to still yourself:

  • Feel less stressed:

Being still reduces your stress response. Physiologic stress response is controlled by the (involuntary) autonomic nervous system. When we are stressed, cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones increase heart rate, slow digestion, and increase blood pressure - all to allow greater blood flow to our muscles, heart, and brain to be able to think or act quickly. The body is typically able to recover from acute stress through a natural feedback loop with the brain, but chronic stress can interrupt that loop.

("Oh, Hey, Month 14ish of The Longest Year Ever!"),


Structured relaxation techniques, like Transcendental Meditation, practiced for 20 minutes a day, 1-2 times daily, help stabilize this hormone production cycle. The technique is designed to provide restful alertness and to bring your thoughts to a peaceful level of consciousness & quieter mental state.

  • Check in with your own intuition:

We are constantly barraged with stimuli - how we should look, others' opinions of us, our extensive to-do list, fears, worries, expectations. When we practice stillness, we learn to silence those voices and can more easily tap into our intuition to know what is true for ourselves.


Admittedly, I'm still working on my meditation practice. Its easy for me to slip into a meditative state in the dark peace of the float tank. Outside though, I could use some help! I recently got inspired by watching @DivineFeminineDE. I purchased an inversion headstand bench so that I could find some quiet contemplation while stretching (upside down). Yoga can provide a beautiful blend of movement and stillness. How about letting your mind drift while your favorite music wash over you? Whatever you choose, dedicate a comfy, quiet space to the practice.


Not sure where to start?


Headspace is probably the most recognized name in mediation apps. There are lots of free guided resources, along with some paid membership content. This app really takes all of the guess-work out.


Divine Feminine Wellness has great content around yoga & wellness, including some great tips on how to engage the whole family in daily meditation practices.


Yoga Girl is a podcast that includes quick daily affirmations that you can listen to. Usually around 5-10 minutes, you can put these on as you get ready for work, or during a car ride.


 

I’ll never forget the Joe Rogan podcast episode where he interviewed Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science (UC, Berkley). Walker has dedicated his career to documenting the crucial importance of sleep for the human body. Sleep deficiency -- a state that most Americans almost pride themselves on -- can lead to issues with concentration, memory, and immune-response.

The national recommended average is 8 hours for adults. I've met some people that function optimally with less, but I'm not one of those people. Getting to bed at a set time is my promise to myself that I'll wake up fresh and recharged for the next day.


Here are a few pointers for optimizing sleep:

  • Separating Activities

The bed is for sleeping (and a select few other extra-curriculars). Although it may be tempting to set up your laptop and take your Zoom calls from your mattress, you're setting yourself up for failure at night. Schoolwork and work meetings are activities that require quicker mental acuity. Avoid performing these tasks while perched on your bed, so you're not sending mixed signals to your brain about when you expect to feel alerts vs. when you expect to be relaxed and sleepy.


So pretty much, take your Zoom calls from a desk, watch TV from the couch, screw on the dining room table, and SLEEP in bed! Got it?? Great!


  • Screen time

But seriously, tv in the bedroom is toxic for sleep. On the surface, binging your favorite shows can keep you up much later than you want, and eyestrain can lead to nagging, painful headaches. Even more detrimentally, screen time keeps your brain active as its trying to go into its sleep cycle. Bright screens actually suppress the production of melatonin, aka your sleepy sleep chemical. The primitive part of your brain takes the brightness to mean DAY TIME! WAKE UP! BE ALERT! This totally messes with your Circadian Rhythm, aka your sleep/wake cycle.


Try to kill the screen an hour or more before bed. Put in place a delicious bedtime routine that you look forward to - read your favorite book, journal about your day, have a chat with someone special, stretch, take a hot shower. If you've done your Movement for the day, and eaten properly, your body will feel READY to lie down for the night and your brain will thank you.


If you need a little extra motivation, tell your smartphone when you'd like to wind down for the night and set some controls for it to go dark at a certain time.


I need 8 hours, and anyone that's seen me first thing in the morning after a sleep-deprived night will tell you that's true ("Back, Demon!!" So sorry to my coworkers who have been the victims of my nasty 8am side-eyed glare). For a week, set the intention of getting an adequate amount of sleep. You'll feel so good, you may just hold on to the habit. You can watch Netflix another night, I promise!



 

You are what you eat. If I let my hedonistic side rule all of the time, I'd be living on a diet of red wine, Doritos, and whole balls of mozzarella. It's a common stress response to eat for comfort. And man, do I love comfort food. There's a reason my dog was named Cheese (Although it did fit him. He was such a Cheese. Photo below for verification. I digress... ). But my body THANKS me when I do the following:

  • Chill out on the dairy (pretty much altogether).

It took me until I was 30 for an aesthetician to tell me during a facial that the reason I had breakouts and skin irritation below my cheeks was because I had too much dairy and sugar in my diet. We live in SUCH a beautiful age there are endless alternatives to cow's milk. See what works for you! I've found that oat milk is a fun complement to my matcha or morning coffee. Violife makes an awesome melty 'Just Like...' product that I use as a cheese substitute, and tons of other brands on the market to try.


Couldn't resist adding a photo of Cheee-eeeese. Ironically, a dairy-free dog!

  • Limit sugar drastically.

Sugar is basically poison. And its in almost all of our processed food, in one of its many sneaky forms (corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, malt syrup, sucrose, glucose syrup, etc.). See the note above about how sugar was messing with my skin. Look, a jolt of energy can be beneficial before a race or when you need a quick boost for a strenuous activity, but the average American consumes 17 teaspoons (71.14 grams) every day. Sugar sends signals to your brain that hunger has not been satiated, causing you to want to eat more than you need. Sugar can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels -- all contributing factors for heart disease and other ailments. On top of that, it leads to a crashing feeling for which I just don't have the time!


  • Limit or remove alcoholic beverages.

"Alcohol makes you sad". I had to write this on my cheat sheet after too-often convincing myself that a night out with friends could ONLY be fun while tipsy. This one can potentially be hard to break because our society is so alcohol-permissive. If you have major fear of missing out, still go and be social! Brands like Seedlip are on the rise, and they offer high quality non-alcoholic versions of the sprits you love. And if the people around you give you a hard time for trying to be the best version of yourself, maybe you should look around for a better tribe....


  • Eat my greens!

Eating clean and packing my diet full of nutrient-rich veggies gives me SUCH good energy. I'm a big fan of "Eating the Rainbow", getting a variety of vitamins and antioxidants by eating vegetables and fruits in a variety of natural colors. To keep things fresh, get fresh produce every 5-7 days. Try to get what you know you will use that week. If you find that its going bad, you're probably just getting too much at a time, or choosing a type you don't really like.


During the quarantine closures, I began to use a local subscription type service in my area.

Second Chances Farm delivers fresh beautiful hydroponic microgreens to my door every Weds. I fell in love with the organization's philanthropic attitude and propensity for embracing the community. I have been loving my weekly delivery for the last year! They are local to the Delaware area, but their might be a similar initiative near you! I used their greens in the smoothie recipe below.


A few other quick tips:

- Experiment flavoring your dishes with spices as opposed to different oils and fats


- Eat clean - try to buy whole foods that need to be prepped / cooked, Try to avoid processed, packaged, and highly preserved synthetic 'foods'.


- Drink your water!


- Check your poop. Wait, what?! Seriously, you can a learn a lot by checking the bowl. It's a quick and easy daily way to see what's going on in your body. Check out the notes at the bottom of the page for a Poop Queen I know! Snapchatting photos to your friends is optional, weirdo.


- For the love of all that is good, please use caution when considering fad health-shakes. I really dissuade from these shakes, especially if you have no idea what's actually in them. They can be packed with an unhealthy amount of soy.


- An easy way to get veggies in your diet first thing in the morning is through egg scrambles & smoothies:

Float Girl Green Smoothie:

1 banana

6 oz water

3oz oat / almond / or coconut milk (optional)

1/2 cup leafy or micro greens

1/2 tsp peanut butter powder

1 TBSP chia

1 TBSP Flax Seed

1 scoop vanilla pea protein

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cinnamon

* Blend & Serve :)


 

Raise your hand if you're a Flintstone's Kid. I definitely take my vitamins, though my tastes have matured a little over the years. As I've said, my 20s were a long walk in trial and error. For instance, on a trip to DC, I was feeling pretty lethargic. My sleep, diet, and activity levels were on point, so I couldn't understand why I still felt so sluggish. My hostess happened to be a nurse with a vast knowledge of herbs and holistic wellness. We went through some questions about my health history, and she let me try some liquid iron for the duration of my stay. It helped perk me right up. (I later confirmed through some bloodwork that I'm slightly anemic and vitamin D deficient.) Needless to say, I ran out and bought my own bottle when I got home. The situation really showed me how important supplementation can be -- realizing this helped me turn a major corner to feeling my best. Vitamin deficiency is real!


Here's what my daily vitamin intake looks like:

(**Supplement consumption is NOT the same for everyone!! This is just an example.**)

  • (1) Multivitamin [Vitamin A, D, E, K, Thiamin, Niacin, Zinc, Selenium, B2, B6, B12, Biotin]

  • (2) Vitamin D3 -- aka the Sunshine Vitamin; crucial to immune support.

  • (2) B6/Folic Acid/B12 Sublingual Tablet -- Adults have a hard time absorbing B-Complex orally, so Trader Joe's offers great sublingual tablets

  • Liquid Iron - 10 mL

  • (2) Ashwagandha (So fun to say...) - 1,000 mg

  • (2) CBD Gummies

  • Gallexier Herbal Bitters - 1 mL

  • (1) Grape Seed Resveratrol - [Vitamin C + Resveratrol]

Vitamin regimens are so personal. What works for one person most certainly won't be the right formula for the next. Its really important in this space to consult with professionals -- nutritionists / herbalists / dieticians / holistic healers to see what your body actually needs before dumping money into random supplements.


I do still eat my daughter's daily vitamins every now and then...What? They're good!

 

And there you have it! My 5 Pillars of Wellness. I went full-on Wikipedia explanation style on you, but I'm telling you, it all fits on one nice little sheet:


Its a working document, and I've given myself permission to add or change it as I grow and evolve.

Let's also take a minute to acknowledge some alternate (and totally worthy) pillars that didn't make this brief list, but may very well be on yours:


• Adventure // Creative outlet // Faith // Affection // Family // Community involvement •


I polled a couple friends, and their answers were so VASTLY different than mine. It filled me with so such gratitude to see how multi-faceted we can be:


Jake's Five Pillars of Wellness:

1. A morning coffee ritual

2. An idea-generating environment / time to brainstorm

3. Learning something new

4. Productivity / progress toward a goal

5. Relationship maintenance - checking in with someone in my life to make sure they feel appreciated


Wow. What an amazing perspective! See how these pillars don't have to be physical / corporeal at all!


Melissa's Five Pillars of Wellness:

1. Routine in the morning, including a "Gratitude Prayer"

2. Fresh air and a walk with my dog

3. Eat a salad for lunch

4. Enjoy everyone who comes into my shop as if they are a friend rather than a customer

5. Talk with my closest favorite person (by text or phone), my daughter


Such a beautiful way to spend our most precious resource: Time.


No matter what makes your list, try to remember this:

As you wake up each morning, don't forget to send up some gratitude for getting a whole new chance to try again!


Please share in the comment section what your pillars are! Any meditative practice tips for this aspiring Inner-Peace Practitioner?? Do you also love to say 'ashhh-waah-gaaaanda?"


Thanks for reading & and thank you for being YOU!

A

 

Notes // Gratitude // Shout-outs

Intro:

Ashley Allen, who gave me the Gift of Five


Movement:

My Favorite Accountability Partner: Ashlee Truluck, IG: @elliotshomemade

My Swole Sister For Life: Lexie Credille, TikTok: @fitbikermama4

Enlightened Dancing Soul + Hypnotherapist, Anna Krishtal, https://www.annakrishtal.com/


Stillness:


Sleep:


Diet:


Supplementation:


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