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After Andrea Russell graduated from high school in Verona and finished one semester of college in Milwaukee, she moved into a log cabin with no plumbing and no electricity in the Redwoods of Northern California. “I had this idea that I was going to live off the grid,” she says. During her time there, she discovered holistic living, meditation and yoga. But after six months, her money ran out and she moved back home at 20 years old. Feeling a bit lost in life, Russell started attending a Buddhist meditation group a neighbor of hers hosted weekly. “It was so incredibly supportive for me,” she says. “It helped re-center me — it helped me feel hopeful again.”
Since then, Russell says she has been dedicated to not only living her best life and supporting her own wellness, but also helping others achieve their best selves. Russell — an ayurvedic health counselor, yoga therapist, meditation teacher and neurovascular therapist based in the Madison area — says finding a self-care routine that works for you is important. “Give yourself self-care tools for the time of your life and the season of the year,” she says. Check out the following self-care recommendations, including some Russell and other local wellness experts recommend.
1) Keep a gratitude journal.
In the morning or at night, write down at least three positive things about your day. “Our frame of mind plays a much more crucial role in our happiness than we often realize,” says Dr. Pelin Kesebir, an assistant scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds.
2) Feng Shui your space.
Jane Antonovich says feng shui — a Chinese art of arranging a space — is about more than hanging a few crystals in the corner of your room. The Madison-based feng shui designer and organizational expert of Jane Antonovich Designs says creating a space that promotes productivity, creativity and focus can improve your health, energy and well-being.
3) Drink more water.
The health benefits of drinking water are innumerable. Plus, the city apparently has the best-tasting water in the state. Madison was named the winner for Wisconsin’s best-tasting water in the 33rd annual competition put on by the Wisconsin Water Association. That’s some high quality H20.
4) Read books about mindfulness.
Madison author Mare Chapman’s 2017 book titled “Unshakeable Confidence: The Freedom to Be Our Authentic Selves” explores topics including mindfulness for women, the power of thoughts and healing self-hatred. Chapman is a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher and has been an insight meditation vipassana practitioner for 30 years.
5) Take a walk.
Flip through “Madison Walks” by Harriet Brown and Jamie Young. The book was first published in 2003, but the majority of recommended paths are still up-to-date, and each walk has detailed routes and landmark call-outs.
6) Attend this retreat.
The Kadampa Meditation Center Madison is bringing internationally renowned meditation teacher and Buddhist Monk Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab to lead a three-day event, “Real Inner Protection: A Weekend On Love” Feb. 8-10. The nonprofit meditation center regularly offers classes, drop-in meditations and other group activities and retreats.
7) Manage your energy, not your time.
Self care is really about being mindful of your own energy, Russell says. So on days that you feel energetic, schedule that extra meeting or lunch with friends. On days you feel tired or fatigued, Russell recommends powering down the electronics early or taking a warm bath.
8) Get better sleep.
Andrea Russell suggests going to bed early and rising early to align your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour internal clock) with the daily cycles of nature and sunlight. “It may help improve your digestion and support weight loss,” Russell says.
9) Sign up for a cooking class.
“I look at food as a sacred act of nourishment,” says Russell. Think positive thoughts while you’re cooking — you’re putting energy into your food that is then put into your body. If you’re not confident in the kitchen, consider taking a cooking class.
10) Eat cooked foods.
Russell says people benefit from eating cooked foods. “Especially during the colder seasons,” she says. Let go of salads and smoothies and eat more soups and warm meals, she says. Russell says she’s had clients who have switched to eating warmer meals and find that it helped with digestion and improved their sleep.
11) Work up a sweat.
Exercise eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Here are a few fitness places that readers voted Best of Madison in 2018. FITNESS CENTERS: The Princeton Club, Prairie Athletic Club, MadPower Training Center; ALTERNATIVE FITNESS CENTERS: Flyght Indoor Cycling, MadPower Training Center, CrossFit MadTown; MARTIAL ARTS STUDIOS: Silver Lining Taekwon-Do, Kicks Unlimited and Wisconsin Martial Arts and Fitness Center.
12) Go somewhere that is Wi-Fi free.
Take time to slow down and treat yourself to a cup of coffee or another non-alcoholic beverage at The Victory, an Atwood Avenue café, which doesn’t have Wi-Fi and discourages cell phone use. Another spot that discourages the use of electronics at the table is La Brioche True Food on University Avenue. Take a deep breath, have a conversation or do some reading. It could be just what you need.
13) Try a yoga class.
In 1996, Russell had a back injury that persisted. Then she began practicing yoga, and her pain went away and hasn’t returned since. Yoga is now part of her daily morning routine. See how yoga affects your body — check out three yoga studios voted Best of Madison in 2018: Dragonfly Hot Yoga, Inner Fire Yoga and Kula Yoga & Wellness. Or pick up the newly published book “Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat,” which was co-authored by Madison resident Amy Pearce-Hayden, owner of Tantra Wellness & Yoga in Madison and the founder of the RajaHatha School of Yoga.
14) Unplug for a while.
Americans on vacation check their phones 80 times a day, according to a 2018 study. While the study says digital detoxes are the trend, many don’t want to put down their phones. But if you feel like you’re mindlessly scrolling through the same news feeds, try to create better habits of phone use. If a total unplug for a period of time feels good to you, give it a try.
15) Add in essential oils.
For centuries, essential oils have been known to help with anxiety, aches and other ailments. The Soap Opera on State Street offers more than 250 therapeutic-grade essential oils that are safe for all skin types. A popular essential oil variety is lavender, which has calming and sedative properties.
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