Self-care is extremely important for your health and well-being. Too often, people wait until they are sick or under a lot of stress before they think about looking after themselves. What does self-care mean anyway?
It simply means putting your own needs first. Regularly doing things that are beneficial for your mind and body; every day if necessary!
Prevention is always better than cure and just because you feel good and life is treating you kindly, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t indulge in treating yourself to a little bit of ‘me time’ now and then. If you lead a stressful life or suffer from worry or anxiety, then self-care for you is even more important. Get into the habit of doing things for yourself every day!
For those of you who are not in the habit of putting yourself first, then it’s time you started. Look at it this way – if you don’t take care of yourself, then who is going to do it for you? It’s your responsibility to take care of your own body, mind and spirit.
I have been doing quite a lot of this myself recently because of some minor health issues. I’ve been monitoring my diet, making sure I get regular exercise and getting back to daily meditations. Too much time on the computer is not good! I gave the blogs a bit of a rest because my eyes were in pain. Pen to paper for other writing projects worked better during this time.
Sometimes we don’t realise when we are stressed out. I don’t have a stressful life as such – in fact, I have it quite handy! This I don’t apologise for because it wasn’t always the case for me and bloody hell I’m enjoying life! However, there are the occasional times when things are full-on. Also, I’m a bit of a worrier (usually about silly things) and palpitations are a common thing for me. This causes elevated stress levels and makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack. And so the cycle continues. Tasheenga explains this better than me!
I was delighted to briefly chat with Channon Gray on her blog a few days ago. She posted about incorporating self-care ideas into your bullet journal. Have you discovered the benefits of the bullet journal yet? Channon also has some great ideas on that! See here for her post on starting a simple bullet journal.
I thought it was a brilliant idea and that evening I sat down with my journal and wrote in all the self-care ideas that I feel I need to practice on a daily basis. I wrote down the amount of time that I think I need for that each one. This, of course, will be different for everyone. For example; 10 minutes in a foot spa is sufficient but 10 minutes in the bath for me would not be enough. Running a bath and adding my favourite essential oils, lighting my candles and maybe setting up some relaxing music takes time and effort; so I would need to spend at least 30 minutes in the bath.
I promised myself that I would pick at least two self-care suggestions from my list. One that especially benefits my physical body and one that principally benefits my mind. So far this week I have stuck to my promise.
Walking is my number one exercise. I aim for 30-40 minutes a day. Walking helps to prevent stiffness and is good for the cardiovascular system. Walking is also beneficial for your mind. The fresh air and scenery can reduce stress levels and improve your mood. I always feel alert and refreshed after a good walk. Bear in mind, you don’t have to power walk to gain the benefits. Walk at your own pace.
Yoga is excellent for keeping the body supple. There are different types of yoga and not all types suit everybody. Personally, I practice very simple yoga because I have no desire to be as bendy as a pipe cleaner. I need to stay fairly flexible and simple yoga stretches are fine for me. I also do yoga for relaxation and I find it particularly helpful during bouts of anxiety. When I find myself getting anxious in crowds, especially queues, I mentally put myself into one of my favourite yoga poses. This calms down my breathing.
Dancing for about 15 minutes really gets the heart racing. Never mind if there are other people in the house and they witness you strutting your 80’s moves to ABBA or Madonna (whoever you’re into). Get the kids to join in even if they insist on playing Justin Beiber! Dancing is fun and it makes you smile!
A warm (not hot) bath is one of the most relaxing things you can do. You can use essential oils if you wish but it’s not necessary. Read my essential oil safety guide here if you do choose to use them. Treat yourself to a nice bottle of bubble bath or bath oil. Light candles and play relaxing music. Do NOT bring your phone and a stick a ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign on the door. My sister-in-law reads for about an hour in the bath and she’s like a prune by the time she gets out – but very relaxed. 30 minutes is usually long enough for me though.
A quicker alternative to a bath is a footbath. If you own a foot spa; brilliant. But an ordinary basin is also good. I always add about two drops of lavender or geranium to my footbath. Check here for essential oil recommendations.
Read a book. Start a novel. Get lost in a world of romance, thriller, fantasy, comedy, erotica, mystery or whatever floats your boat. Reading fiction from a hardback book or kindle is far more beneficial than reading gossip and drama from your computer or phone. When you are fully engaged in an interesting story, other things that are going on in your head quieten down. Instead of falling asleep on your phone, which so many people do, read a book instead. You will sleep so much better!
Meditation is one of my favourite things; although I haven’t been practising it as often as I should. Now that I’m back doing it regularly, I wonder how I managed without it. You don’t need to be an expert at meditation to gain the benefits. 15 or 20 minutes of deep relaxation is often more beneficial than having a nap. Naps are nice too though! There are many guided meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing exercise videos on Youtube that are easy to listen to. Or you can download an app such as Headspace or Calm.
Positive self-talk is more powerful than you might think. Have you ever noticed how negative thoughts cause you to feel down? Thoughts create emotions and when you think positive thoughts you will experience pleasant emotions. If you’re generally a person who thinks negative thoughts, it might take quite a bit of practice to train yourself to think positively. The way we think about things becomes a habit and habits are not always easy to change. Again, there are apps and videos available to help you do this. There are lots of Louise Hay apps that deliver daily affirmations to your phone. Practising positive affirmations on a daily basis will get you into the habit of thinking positive thoughts.
Head massage is so relaxing. Ask your partner, friend or your child to gently massage your head. Children might prefer to brush your hair, which is also really relaxing (for most people). Of course, you may have to return the favour!
Freewriting is actually very therapeutic because it empties your head of a lot of chatter. Some people start their day with free writing, which I think is the best time to do it. How long you want to spend writing is up to you. All you need is a notebook and pen. You simply write down everything that’s in your head. Keep writing and don’t stop to worry about spelling, missing words or punctuation. Nobody ever needs to see it. You can burn the pages when you’re done if you want to. Freewriting exercises can set you up for the day. You will be able to focus better because your mind has released some of the unnecessary thoughts that clog up your head. It’s good to write your problems down anyway. Later in the evening, you can look back at what you’ve written and some of it will seem as irrelevant as the paper it’s written on.
These are my self-care treats but yours may be very different. Remember the simple things too; phone a friend, snuggle up for a good movie, have a chocolate treat (it’s only a treat if you don’t indulge every day), take up a new hobby, get dressed up and have a date with your partner.
Just make sure your self-care really is beneficial for your health. For example; shopping may be therapy for you but constantly using unnecessary shopping trips as a stress buster might cause you grief in the end. Are you getting yourself into debt that will cause you stress later in the month? Are you buying things you really don’t need? Meet a friend for coffee instead!
A nightly indulgence of alcohol or chocolate is not classed as self-care. Sorry but it’s not. A glass of wine and a big bar of chocolate is only a treat when it’s occasional. These things may induce a brief feeling relaxation, but they’re not beneficial in the long run.
Don’t have time? Yes, you do. Ask yourself this; how long does it take me to watch one episode of my favourite soap? Will I really care if I miss one episode? What will happen if I miss it? How do I feel after watching it?
There’s always time folks. If you genuinely can’t give yourself even 10 minutes a day, then you might just need to re-evaluate your life. Remember, we are all indispensable. When we’re dead and gone, life keeps going without us. The world doesn’t stop!