When you hear the word self-care what comes to mind? Do you imagine yourself lounging in a bath, watching Netflix, sipping wine and wearing a face mask? Whilst this is a form of self-care there are numerous other things we need to be doing in order to really care for ourselves.
When thinking about self-care it’s important to work on your mind, body and soul. Once we learn to care for and support all aspects of ourselves, we will truly be able to start giving more.
Self-care for the body
Taking care of our body is essential. When we have poor physical health, it impacts other aspects of our wellbeing, including mental health. Looking after our bodies consists of what we eat, how we move and how we indulge.
How we fuel our bodies has a huge impact on our health. If we don’t eat a wide range of nutrients we can, amongst other things, feel lethargic and have reduced motivation and focus. What we eat is so important that it has been linked to influencing our mental health.
In an average day, try to avoid highly processed foods. It’s easier and more enjoyable to cook your own meals using whole, fresh ingredients than you think. There is a tonne of resources out there providing easy to follow and tasty recipes (check out Deliciously Ella and From My Bowl for some inspiration).
I know not everyone is down to eat vegan food all the time, I get it, cheese is good. However, eating vegan food is not only better for the environment but it is also healthy. Try incorporating a meat-free meal into your diet once or twice a week. Pack the meal full of nutrient dense veggies, tempeh and some sweet potatoes and you won’t even miss the meat. You’ll also be feeding your body incredibly bio-available nutrients. After a while, your gut biome will adapt and you’ll notice a difference in your cravings and energy.
When it comes to food we can’t forget treats. I try to live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I fuel my body with delicious but highly nutritious meals. The other 20% is dedicated to ice cream, waffles, chocolate and tasty meals out. Whilst it’s important to eat well, it’s also important for our soul to indulge without feelings of guilt.
So don’t forget balance. Self-care involves both fuelling our bodies with healthy and healing foods as well as the occasional treat.
This one is pretty obvious, yet isn’t practised all that much. I for one am prone to rolling out of bed, throwing on any old clothes, tying my hair back and heading out of the door. Having a self-care routine honestly makes a difference to your mood and confidence.
A self-care routine can be as simple as picking out an outfit you feel confident in and moisturising each morning. It’s about taking time each day to care for your appearance. This doesn’t mean placing your self-worth on how you look but taking care of yourself so you feel confident, happy and healthy in your skin.
This is the one that everyone is familiar with. Rock that face mask, make a nourishing hair mask, shave your legs and wear silky pyjamas. Treat yourself like the king/queen that you are. Create your own spa days and really take time caring and loving yourself. Afterwards, you’re going to feel much more relaxed, calm and confident.
Move your body in a loving and compassionate way. If this looks like dancing then that is brilliant. If this is working out at the gym or going to a yoga class – great. It’s just about getting your heart rate up, moving your body and releasing those feel good hormones. Your exercise regime doesn’t have to look a certain way and it doesn’t have to include certain types of exercise it is just about doing what makes you feel good. Movement should be because you love your body not because you are punishing it.
Self-care for the mind
Hands up if you’ve ever gone out even though you really didn’t want to? Or how about, committed to something that you have absolutely no time to do? I think most of us can say we have done at least one of those things, if not both. We often forget that looking after our mental wellbeing is equally as important as our physical. There is only so much we can give, and we need time to reset.
It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to say yes. It’s ok to change your mind. And it’s ok to sit in bed reading instead of going out to the bars. Society creates a go go go mindset in us all. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I have a hard time relaxing. When I sit down to take some me time, my brain kicks into over drive and I’m thinking about all the stuff I “should” be doing. This means, I’m neither doing those things nor enjoying my relaxation.
Don’t feel bad if you have to cancel plans because you’re too tired. Admit to yourself when you need to a break and most importantly, don’t be hard on yourself for relaxing. It’s actually more optimal to work in time chunks with breaks. This may seem strange at first because our minds trick us into thinking we are wasting time. In the end, though, you’ll be more efficient and productive.
Make time for yourself
Take the time to do what makes you feel happy and alive. If you love to read try to do it every day even if that’s just for 10 minutes.
Journalling is another useful tool. It allows you to rant, come up with creative ideas or just simply empty your mind. Journaling can seem kind of daunting or childish: “Is this like a dear diary kinda thing?” The great thing about journaling is it can be whatever you want it to be. It’s your safe space to release anything you’ve been keeping in – imagine it as your best friend who you can tell absolutely ANYTHING to. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, just 5 minutes a day, or whenever you need it can be enough.
Turn off your phone.
Take a break from the constant onslaught of Instagram stories and iMessage notifications. You don’t need to do this every day but set one night a week where your phone is off. Try Sunday night. It’s the end of the week and this gives you time to reset for the week ahead. After dinner, switch it off, put it out of sight and really think about what you want to do for you.
Self-care for the soul
How often do you slow down, focus on your breath and just live in the here and now? I’m guessing not as often as you’d like to. Practising meditation and yoga is a great way to tap in with yourself, reduce stress and feel more content. Don’t get me wrong, meditation is hard for me so you’re not alone. Meditation is a practice, and with time it becomes easier and you start to see the benefits. In fact, there are tonnes of studies suggesting meditation is good for increasing immune function, increasing positive emotions, decreasing anxiety, depression and stress, changing the structure of your brain so you are better at regulating emotions and improving memory. This list of benefits is nowhere near exhausted.
If sitting still really doesn’t work for you, try yoga or walking meditation. In yoga, you focus on moving your body in time with your breath. During walking meditation try to focus on your surroundings, listen to the birds, smell the flowers. It’s a great way to connect body, mind and soul.
Practising gratitude changes your perception. Every day think of one thing you are grateful for. It can be anything from the flowers you saw on the way to work to the love you receive from your family. It doesn’t have to be something huge, the small things are just as important. Once you develop a gratitude mindset you’ll be able to deal with negative life events more easily and feel more joy.
How to make the time for this?
You might be thinking “how am I going to fit this into my already crammed schedule?” It’s not about doing everything on this list every day. Pick what works for you, and trust me, you can squeeze in at least 10 minutes for yourself each day. Spending time caring for yourself is going to make a huge impact on your mental, physical and emotional health. You’ll be able to adapt to life’s challenges and feel happier and content. Even if you start by picking one thing and doing it once a week, you’ll feel better. You are the most important person in your life, not work, not your family and not your friends. If you’re not looking after yourself properly, you’ll not be able to look after anyone else properly. You come first, even though our minds trick us into thinking otherwise.
Let me know how you practice self-care in the comments 🙂