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We all know the slippery slope. It begins with the best of intentions, researching tools to support our wellbeing. But soon, we’re careening down the craziest mental health rabbit hole on the internet, only to emerge hours later with a massive list of all the stuff you “should” (and “definitely shouldn’t”) do, a self-diagnosis of some sort, and a mounting sense of overwhelm.
Retreat to the couch. Reach for the remote. Back to square one. Or more like... square one minus five.
When the pursuit of mental wellbeing feels like it only piles more tasks onto an already full plate, said research becomes entirely counterproductive. But what’s the alternative? Shouldn’t we all be meditating and doing yoga and participating in that webinar and and and…
Hold the phone. I feel stressed just writing that. Let’s go ahead and ax that list right there.
When people ask me for advice on how to improve their mental and physical health, they’re often surprised when I say, “Just do the bare minimum.”
“Huh?” is the response I usually get. Of course, that sounds weird, especially coming from someone in the wellness industry who has a book all about taking ownership of your life. When most people hear “bare minimum,” they think slacker. Mediocrity. Apathetic. And when it comes to mental health, not enough.
I hear something different: attainable. Sustainable. Realistic. Inspiring. And as it pertains to supporting our mental wellbeing? Those words are downright magic. Because when other stuff in our lives feels completely unachievable or overwhelming, our mental health practices are the first thing that we need to be able to lean on.
So here’s how to realign your standards and create your own set of achievable Bare Minimum goals. It’s straightforward, I promise—no overwhelm.
Let’s get honest: how lofty are your usual goals?
This will require you to be honest with yourself. Like, really, cringe-inducing honest.
Ready? Ok… so how many of your self-care goals or intentions do you actually achieve on a daily basis?
If you’re like a lot of us, the answer is somewhere between not many and none. And let me be the first to say that doesn’t at ALL mean that you’re flaky, unmotivated, undisciplined, or any of those things…
It just means you’re setting your goals wrong.
If you are consistently setting goals that feel unattainable or overwhelming, you’re setting yourself up to fall short repeatedly. Talk about a confidence killer, right? Truth: this style of goal setting can actually be counterproductive to our mental health because we perceive ourselves to be constantly failing.
Set the bar too high = you’ll end up crashing into it, almost every time. Skinned knees and bruised hearts are the results.
Bare minimums are standards that you can meet almost automatically, without a huge amount of effort. And here’s my take on them: they should be treated as non-negotiable. So they have to be totally attainable, because once you set them, they are simply not up for debate: they are becoming your new baseline of care.
You brush your teeth regularly, right? And you don’t feel right if you skip that step in your morning, right? (I mean… I guess I’ll speak for myself!) Your Bare Minimums can easily become just as much a part of your routine.
These are a few of my personal examples, and I suggest you find your own for each of these categories:
Beauty - I put on tinted sunblock, concealer (if I have any zits, which I usually do), and eyeliner and mascara every day. Even if I don’t do anything else, I’m going to do these couple of things because that’s the bare minimum I need to do in order to feel put together.
Nutrition - I eat something with protein at every meal, and I eat veggies every day.
Nature - I go for a walk in nature for thirty minutes at least once a week (with the exception of the really cold winter months). Since quarantine hit, I’ve been doing this closer to every day, it seems to help even on the rainy days.
Fitness - I insist on making it to yoga, barre, or some other type of fun virtual fitness class, at the very least twice a week. Even though I usually do more, I make sure my bare minimum is 100% attainable.
Sleep - I need a minimum of seven hours per night. If I don’t get it, I make sure I catch up on lost sleep within a day or two.
Connection/Introspection - I insist upon connecting with a friend at least once a week, on the phone, or, these days, on a video call. Similarly, I need some time to be alone and reflect, each and every day.
You might note that the bar isn’t very high in these examples. Fitness class twice a week? Deal! A 30-minute walk in nature once a week? Not that hard! Making self-care goals feel easily within reach is key to avoiding the total overwhelm that can send us crashing into the paralysis of doing nothing.
Just like neglecting to brush your teeth… the regrets will come later, and we know it.
And this is that sweet spot where physical and mental health are one and the same: when we feel good about how we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re more likely to make even more positive choices for our wellbeing. No regrets.
Are there any aspects of your wellbeing where you allow other people to drive your decisions? Do you let your partner dictate bedtime, or your kids determine your meals? Have you set the standard that you’ll answer work emails or texts at just about any hour?
The Bare Minimums might just mean setting some healthy boundaries to plug up the leaks that are draining you. I used to stay up late watching TV with my partner and end up dragging myself out to teach in the morning—but that doesn’t happen anymore. If my partner wants to fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV, that’s fine, he can do that. But that’s not how I roll. I no longer tag along with him as though I don’t have a choice. Instead of letting my bedtime be determined by default, I’ve taken charge of my own sleeping schedule. He can do whatever he wants, don’t get me wrong. Meanwhile, I put myself to bed when I need to sleep, and I feel so much better because of that shift.
So once you’ve identified your Bare Minimums, start plugging one leak at a time. Some of these shifts will be easier than others (hellooooo changing kids’ habits), but every one of them is worth it. Slow and steady, with a whole lot of patience.
Toning up your mental health routine can be all about getting simple and clear. Be kind to yourself, and create the mental health goals that will set you up for success. Those bare minimums will take you far.
It’s safe to say, the way we conquer our daily routines has changed drastically over the last few months. The way we perform our jobs, how we socialize—even the way we workout—have flipped from in-person, group settings to virtual platforms to keep us safe and healthy. There's no denying that navigating this new normal has certainly come with its ups and downs, to say the least. In fact, a recent survey revealed one-third of Americans said this pandemic has caused more stress and anxiety in their lives, which isn’t surprising given the circumstances.
With anxiety levels at a high, people need relaxation, self-care, and movement more than ever. Enter yoga.
Yoga has long been touted for its amazing ability to calm the mind and help folks stay in-tune with their body—which is probably why more and more people are embracing an at-home practice.
Whether you’re looking for a powerful Vinyasa class to help kickstart your morning or yearning for a gentle, evening flow to wind down after a busy workday, taking a yoga class is now more accessible than ever. With 91% of group fitness studios offering or planning to offer live stream and/or on-demand classes, those who are ready to get their asana on have plenty of yoga classes to try all over the country.
While there’s no place like om, most of us could go for a little virtual vacation right now. I know I could! Ready to get a taste of what yoga classes are like all over the country? Here are the U.S. cities with the most virtual yoga classes available.
It seems poetic that Chicago hits our number one spot on this list because it was the first city in America that was introduced to yoga back in 1893. Swami Vivekananda presented yoga at the World Parliament of Religions and made a speech on the concept of body, spirit, and mind. It seems the presentation made a lasting impression on the city.
Try getting your Zen on with one of these studios:
• The Lab Yoga
• Bottom Line Yoga
• Bare Feet Power Yoga
Everyone knows that Washington DC is where you can visit some of the world’s most famous monuments, memorials, and museums. But you may be surprised to learn that it also offers one of the most robust libraries of virtual classes to help yogis sample some classes at the nation’s capital.
Houston is one of the most culturally diverse cities in America—in fact, you can folks speaking 145 different languages and thousands of restaurants serving up food from more than 70 countries. If those facts have you working up quite an appetite, feel free to indulge. They also have plenty of virtual yoga classes available to help you torch some calories.
Did you know one of the first businesses to open in the City of Brotherly Love was a brewery in 1683? If you’re familiar with the ever-evolving trends of yoga, then you have most likely heard of or participated in beer yoga sesh. Get ready to try yoga the Philly way by cracking a cold one and doing some downward dogs in the comfort of your own home at the end of the day.
New York City is home to 8.4 million people, making it the most densely populated city in the entire nation. With that many people, you know there must be a ton of yogis looking to relax from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Start spreading the news and flowing with some of the most dedicated yogis in the U.S.—there are a ton of virtual yoga classes to choose from in the Big Apple.
Get ready to make some virtual yoga neighbors. Did you know that Columbus, Ohio is considered the heart of the country? The reason for that is because nearly half of the America’s residents live within a 600-mile radius of the city. Ready to put your heart and soul into your at-home yoga practice? Then check out what this city has to offer virtually.
San Diego is known as one of the happiest cities in America—mainly because of the beautiful weather, picturesque beaches, and the abundance of yoga classes available. While a vacation to this area may not be in the books for this year, you can certainly flow with the best of them by booking a virtual class at a San Diego studio.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the yoga studios offering virtual classes to help you stay fit, healthy, and calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope these offerings inspire you to either start a new at-home practice or are helping you seasoned yogis continue your path to wellness. Interested in seeing what other cities are hosting a bevy of online yoga classes? The options on Mindbody are endless—literally!