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True Self-Care | How to Age in Reverse, Heal, and Improve Wellness

Wendy Hennessey aging in reverse.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” - Maya Angelou

Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity that costs $0

Self-care has been marketed as fancy spa days and expensive products, and while we love a good spa day as much as anyone else, this is not what "true self-care" is all about.

The marketed version we're all familiar with should probably be called something more like external care or body-focused care. Ironically, externally focused action is the last place we want to start because everything flows from the inside out.

Inner beliefs and thoughts lead to our outer expressions and actions. The final result is how we look, so it is no wonder that self-care is viewed mostly as fluff and empty gestures. We are approaching it all backward.

True self-care must address the “Self” in its entirety, not just our body or appearance. The entire Self includes the mind, our emotions, the body, and our spirit. The most paramount of these aspects is our very state of being. Everything flows out from this. There is much more to us than meets the eye because we aren’t just humans… we are human beings.

When you take your car into the shop they don’t just look at the outside of the vehicle, they also look under the hood and at internal workings. If it is a reputable mechanic, they will advise you on ways to improve, maintain, and avoid possible future breakdowns.

Well, consider us your reputable mechanics.

We have been practicing the exercise we are sharing today for many years now, but more than ever they are benefiting us and others who practice. We don’t need to remind you of the state of the world, but in times like these, we need to get back to the basics.

Creating calm in the storm

Even in a storm, you can create calm. Not by calming the storm, that’s out of our control, but by calming ourselves which is completely in our control. When we have the understanding and focus that comes with a new expanded perspective, we begin tapping into what we call “true self-care”.

We can become so used to the storms of our lives that we begin to think chaos and stress are just how things are supposed to be. It is similar to how people from a big city get stir-crazy while spending a weekend in the silence of nature and can't wait to return to the hustle and bustle they have become accustomed to. Our stressful lifestyles can make us feel at home in a place that's actually hurting us.

These are not easy things to do or say especially given what has happened in recent years, and we are not trying to minimize or overlook any of the heartache or terrible events that have taken place either. But it must be known that we will not grow in the pain, stress, or chaos. We grow the moment we decide to move out of the pain and forward with our lives. Each individual is on their own timeline and when you feel ready to move forward, it's time to shift.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” -Brené Brown

Shift happens

We invite you to shift your focus to what is most important in your life right now. When we change our focus, we change our lives. If you're thinking that sounds kinda selfish, well that's because it is. But this is a good thing for you and everyone else on the planet.

"Self-ish" is required for the entire "Self" to thrive. No one else will step up and support you better than you can. How could it be any other way?

What we are misled to believe is that being selfish and taking care of our "Self" first is somehow wrong or negative. Many think it is the same as saying that we don't care about other people or we are purposely ignoring others. This is false. It is of course the other way around, the best way to take care of others is to take care of ourselves first. We can not give what we do not first have. The more wellbeing you enjoy, the more you can give.

Once this shift occurs you will begin to notice how deep and beneficial this concept can become. In today’s world reclaiming our role as our own primary caretaker might be the most revolutionary thing we can do and that can scare some, especially considering the US healthcare system (or lack thereof) is 37th in the world as of this year, 2020. But this is an exciting time as many healthcare professionals worldwide are beginning to expand beyond just our physical aspects. It's time to revolutionize how we see healthcare and it starts with each one of us.

After enough of us begin to shift, a giant wave of wellness will spread first to our families and friends. Then it will ripple out exponentially. Maybe even some will start a blog or company and assist others by spreading empowering ideas... Who knows!

The possibility of change is limitless when our power is shifted back to where it truly belongs which is within each of us.

What is true self-care and where do we start?

Dan Hennessey watching a sunset on the beach in Aruba.

To understand this let's level up with the most up-to-date information and practices we have available to us right now. Ironically, what is most up-to-date today tends to overlap or draw from ancient wisdom and texts that are being rediscovered by researchers around the world.

It can be helpful to remember that science is not a collection of facts or data in a book or on the internet somewhere. Science is a method and a specific approach to exploring all possibilities. It’s a way of seeing and interpreting the world and it evolves just like all things do.

True self-care begins with cultivating a genuine and authentic sense of calm even in the storm. It is paramount and the foundation for any level of health at the DNA level.

Why? Let us show you...

First on a scale of 1-5, how stressed are you feeling right now? Five is the most stressed out and 1 is the calmest you could ever imagine.

Now pause and take 3 deep breaths with your eyes closed. Do it slowly and effortlessly allowing the air to flow naturally in through the nose or mouth down into your belly and out smoothly.

Go ahead and try it now.

Ok, what's your score now? Feeling a little calmer?

Stress is the underlying cause of inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of nearly all diseases and illnesses known to mankind. Stress and inflammation alone don’t cause anything to happen in the way most think, instead, they create the environment for diseases, viruses, cancer, and illness to grow.

It’s like growing a garden and having all kinds of things pop up and eat away at your precious plants. If we don't take the time to weed our garden and tend to our plants we are allowing stress to grow and take root, instead of what could be greater health and wellness.

In just 3 breaths, you have already improved your garden!

You have exhaled more carbon dioxide and have inhaled more life-giving oxygen. You decreased your resting heart rate and blood pressure and made a shift throughout your entire body. Hormones are firing differently, cells are communicating on different pathways and your brain is developing different neural connections as your heart gets a much-needed break from your adrenal glands.

You have tapped into the superpower of calm through your intention and focus! That's pretty dope in our opinion.

It is all about how we take care of our garden, this is our internal environment. We get to choose what grows and what doesn't. If we understand how to cultivate calm with focused breathing then we begin to grow healthy tissues, cells, and organs free of diseases.

"Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.” - William Shakespeare

The essence of true self-care is our breath

You and your body are amazing. In just 3 deep calming breaths we can pull a 180 from the inside out! We can literally adapt at the drop of a dime with our conscious intent and focused practice. In fact, we are always doing this, we are now just conscious of it.

This simple 3 breathe exercise highlights something really cool that we can measure and observe…

Our nervous system!

This is really exciting because our nervous system is the key to healing and regenerating our body on the DNA and cellular level. When we use this calming technique we are self-regulating our immune function and this unlocks the next step which is healing ourselves from the inside out.

Our nervous system can be looked at as a spectrum from stressful to calm just like the 1-5 scale we used earlier. We can see ourselves as always sliding one way or the other on that scale. As long as we are alive nothing is fixed and everything is fluid, constantly changing in some way large or small.

At each point in the spectrum, we are secreting hormones that are either breaking down or building up our health internally. When we breathe deeply we slide toward the calm end of the scale. Here we feel more relaxed and internally our endocrine system secretes hormones promoting regeneration, healing, growth, and wellness on a holistic level.

This is why resting and sleep are so important. When we do not get enough high-quality rest and sleep we hang out too much in our stressed state and never fully slide back into calm naturally. We get stuck in overdrive.

Think of this as a dance. We are stressed by something and then we calm ourselves down naturally. We go back and forth, back and forth, but if you aren’t aware of the dance you may get stuck in the stress zone or start to believe doing more and more will help, when in fact, less is more.

Many people think doing less is lazy or unproductive. However, laziness is actually survival for many individuals. In many ways, laziness is the perfect biological response to burnout, depression, fear, anxiety, and other paralyzing life traumas.

When your body becomes traumatized it goes into a coma or shock mode. Occasionally people find themselves literally in a coma for large traumas, but more often it shows up looking like wanting to sleep all day or binge-watch shows.

Our body will stop or greatly decrease all outward interactions and bring our focus within to heal until we perceive the trauma has ended. In the same way, shutting in or even being introverted can be seen as a response to perceived trauma in our lives.

Cultivating calmness is a skill that taps into our innate healing mechanism that already knows what to do. And like all skills, calmness can improve over time, when we create a practice.

How To Age In Reverse

Wendy Hennessey meditating near the Hudson River.

If we can practice experiencing more of the calm state, we actually lose weight faster, increase muscle production, reduce inflammation, and reverse the aging process all while avoiding cancer and almost every other known disease.

Of course, there are many other lifestyle factors that have an impact on each human in their own way, but none of these factors are more important than our state of being, and our calmness.

This is why the old saying that "your vibe attracts your tribe" is undoubtedly true because our circumstances in life are the result of the vibration you emanate. Your vibe is your state of being. Calm attracts more calm.

This practice will manifest into what many people call a transformation inside and out. This goes beyond just losing body fat or looking good. Our whole outlook on life changes, relationships improve, and we become more fulfilled in life pursuits.

We are in overdrive in modern times and this is a main contributing factor to the increase in obesity, diseases, stress, depression, and insomnia. It has also been linked to an increase in violence and war as well. We are more likely to hurt ourselves and others when we are in this overly stressed state.

When we cultivate our inner calm we are more likely to be nicer, happier, heal, grow, and help others along the way. Our natural state is balanced and healthy and calmness is a practice to keep homeostasis.

“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.” - B.K.S. Iyengar

Dosage, frequency, and measuring progress

Although we can make this shift right now instantly, we need to see the long game of practicing these principles. Think of this as medicine, we need the right dosage and frequency. Although deep breathing is gentle, it is also very powerful.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health. Too much too soon and you’ll burn out or get overwhelmed. Too little not often enough and you’ll get discouraged by not seeing results. Finding the balance point is where the flower blooms.

Deep breathing just like we did here together is the first little practice to master. This can be done anywhere, anytime and all we need is 60 seconds. Test your heart's beats per minute or BPM before and after to see a biological benefit.

How to test your BPM: Place your index and middle finger of either hand directly below the corner of your jaw on your neck where the carotid artery runs. Feel for your pulse with a light gentle touch. Time a minute and count how many beats occur during that minute. That’s your BPM or beats per minute.

Lady checking her heart beats per minute.

While mastering this 60-second deep breathing exercise keep notice of your BPM. If you are anywhere near 60 BPM you are in a very healthy state. If you are a trained professional athlete you should be closer to 40 BPM. If you are near 90 -100 BPM or more while at rest you should schedule a doctor's visit today!

Notice how an advanced level of fitness requires fewer beats from your heart per minute. Fewer beats to do the same job or a better job means that your heart is healthier and stronger and so are you.

Your BPM will also lower even if you aren’t a highly trained athlete. You will see your numbers drop steadily over time if you stick with it, but again 40-60 BPM is optimal for wellbeing and longevity. It is best to test this over the course of a few days to get a more accurate set of data. Remember everything is in constant flux and changing every moment.

For consistency, do this upon waking first thing for at least 7-10 days. This will give a better glimpse into your state of health. Although your BPM is just one piece to a very large puzzle of health, it is a quick way to get biofeedback about your state of being. Consider this as giving yourself a small “check-up” from home as you begin this new practice and measure your progress.

You are here for a reason

After a month or so, this simple breathing exercise will lay the foundation for even more health to flow into your life. You are breathing in more life... literally.

In our opinion, it is no coincidence that we are experiencing a pandemic that is attacking the lungs and our breathing. Also, we believe it is no coincidence that we are marching in the streets with “I can’t breathe” signs in response to such horrific police brutality, systemic racism, and oppression.

We feel the universe always reflects back to us what we need to see in order to grow more harmoniously together. So let's do this harmoniously together!

Breathe and breathe deeply, confidently, and proudly. You are alive and you are here for a reason. We all need each other to be as healthy as we can be right now and this deep breathing practice helps us all tremendously.

Now when you feel unsafe, worried, scared, or just flat-out exhausted, deep breathing will be your friend, your lifeline, and your refuge.

Feel free to increase past a minute but you truly never need more than about 10-15 minutes in total per day of focused deep breathing. Most will only need a minute or two to start feeling the benefits.

Before you know it your everyday breathing will naturally soften, deepen, and provide a consistent flow of wellness throughout your day. After all, this is our natural way of breathing, we are just connecting back to it.

Thanks for visiting our virtual wellness beach house, we hope this helps you as much as it has helped us!

For more of our true-self-care practices watch this:

All the best to you,

Wendy + Dan


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