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Early birds, night owls, and soul care containers

I’ve always looked at my ability to wake up without an alarm as a superpower: whether it’s for my usual wake-up time (ungodly early) or from a power nap or just in time for my stop on a bus or train commute (truly, the gods watched over me when I used to take the Red Line into Chicago for culinary school!), I wake up without an alarm.

Imagine my dismay when I recently heard someone say that this is actually a bad thing: it means that my body and mind are so stressed out—permanently in red alert stage—that I am hyper-aware of time passing.

I’m still pondering that, and given that I’m pretty healthy and don’t exhibit other signs of massive stress, I’m probably going to dismiss the theory or at least claim that I’m the exception to the rule. (It did make my husband feel a whole lot better since he’s always envied my superpower.)

early bird

you get up WHEN?

Why do I get up between 4 and 4:30 most weekdays?

Well, for one thing, Daylight Savings becomes irrelevant: it’s always pitch black out, so it doesn’t get any easier or harder based on the season!

For another, it’s my wiring: I have always been an early bird. Circadian rhythms are endogenous, meaning that they are determined from within our bodies, and while they can be altered slightly, they remain largely the same over the course of a lifetime.

If you’re a mother, you’re probably exhausted all the time, so it’s easier to see the pattern in your kids: you’ll probably notice that they have a certain rhythm to their sleep/wake cycles from infancy. And woe to the night owl moms who have early bird babies!

Of course, when they’re teens, it seems they could sleep forever—but eventually, they return to a certain pattern: early bird, night owl…. I seem to have one of each.

night owl

So yes, I’m an early bird—and I know from the time stamp on your emails and social media posts that some of you are headed to bed just a few hours before I pop out of mine! Sometimes I think that I’m actually a night owl: I just happen to be awake on the early morning side of night?

Don’t worry—this post is NOT about converting you to my schedule!

(Although I’ve recently had no less than three friends and clients tell me that they have suddenly discovered the magic of early mornings….)

soul care container

What this is about is what I call soul care—self care that is in total alignment with your personal values, with your soul, which is unlike any other in the world.

The girls of Healthy View Radio, who make me laugh out loud every Thursday, recently aired an episode about this subject, and Lisa Lewtan used the word “container” to refer to this block of time.

The idea is to have a block of time each day—preferably at the same time of day—that you devote to soul care.

My container happens to be (ungodly) early in the morning: I’m awake, nobody else is—and I don’t want to wake them up by banging around the house because there are a very few precious hours when I’m not “Mom” or “Honey” with all the concomitant obligations of those two titles!

Luckily, our workout room is in the basement, and my office is in a far corner of the house, so I can move around fairly freely within those limits.

My container often includes a core workout, PT exercises for my hip, yoga, meditation, coffee with a book (come on already, Diana Gabaldon, where’s book 9?) and a healthful breakfast, all before anyone else stirs.

Even after my son and the dog are up, I can often stay in my “soul care zone,” treating breakfast and lunch prep as rituals rather than habits, fitting in some meal prep for later in the day or week (yes, I do recognize that cooking is not everyone’s spiritual practice), intentionally multitasking by combining quality time with my son with a morning walk, first to the bus stop and then on to finish “my daily 5K” with the dog.

Does that sound like hell to you?

Again, I’m not trying to convince you that this is the “right” way to live!

let’s book it … and keep the appointment

Soul care looks different for everyone: the important thing is to feed yourself on a primary food level—daily if possible!

In my work as a health coach, I help my clients understand what soul care is for them—answers range from a meditation practice to a workout, from quality time with a spouse to the chance to watch something truly mindless on Netflix, from time in nature to time in the tub: it’s different for everyone, and it can change over time, even from day to day.

I like to think about our soul care activities as tools: the soul care container is the time we set aside to use these tools to feed our souls. (Haha—yes, for the food obsessed like me, you can think of your tools as eating utensils and your containers as mealtime!)

And like your tools, your container will be unique to you: it might be the same time every day, or it might vary from day to day … and it’s always somewhere on your daytimer.

The important thing—particularly for those who work and also go by “Mom” and “Honey”—is to block off time on our calendars for our version of soul care and to treat these appointments as sacred: we aren’t allowed to cancel on ourselves—no skipping meals!

Leave me a comment and let me know, what times are blocked off for your soul care container, and what do you do during that time? Need help figuring it all out? Schedule a time to tell me YOURstory, and let’s get started!

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