You hear the term "self care" being thrown around a lot these days by wellness influencers, but what exactly does it mean? I think that the definition of self care is very personal to each individual, but in general it should help you to feel recharged, nurtured, refuelled, loved, nourished and balanced.
Taking care of yourself shouldn't be optional. It is vital to our wellbeing. It's not just for people who have lots of spare time or lots of money for fancy massages and spa treatments. Don't wait until you are feeling depleted and exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically before you take action. Self care is not selfish and YOU deserve to be happy and well!
You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to be giving and compassionate towards others, it is important that you apply the same compassion towards yourself. I hope you can find some inspiration in the following self-care ideas. Be proactive and pencil some of these into your schedule this week!
1) Mindfully eating nourishing foods
Shopping, prepping and cooking wholesome and nourishing meals is a powerful form of self care. Eating well helps you to stay mentally and physically well. It’s important to care about what you put into your body because those nutrients are literally the building blocks to your body. This doesn’t mean you need to be restrictive with how you eat. It’s important that you are eating from a place of love and nourishment rather than out of punishment. Being mindful of what you are eating and how it makes you feel is a good way to start practicing self care.
2) Have a gratitude practice
You can choose to focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. Counting your blessings & saying thank you for what you have helps you to feel better about what you’ve got right now. Practicing gratitude by consciously thinking of things that you feel grateful for or writing them down, has a measurable and lasting effect on your brain. You can keep a gratitude journal on your nightstand and write 3 things that you are grateful for each morning and each evening before bed. You can write a handwritten letter to someone you are feeing grateful towards. You can go around the dinner table and have each family member say one thing they are grateful for that day. Actively practicing gratitude can help you feel less stressed & help you to sleep better.
3) Paying attention to self-critiquing thoughts and moving towards something more positive
Pay attention to what you say about yourself to yourself. Each time you catch yourself thinking something bad about yourself, write it down. This will help you pay attention to how often you do it, so you can start to change this habit. Next to each bad thought, write something positive about yourself instead. Hardly anyone is good at looking back and seeing their accomplishments. Write out a list of all your accomplishments that you feel proud of to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
4) Getting ample regular sleep & rest
Sleeping is one of the most important elements of self care, especially if you're going through something big like a loss, a break-up, illness, or anxiety. I've written a blog post about optimizing your sleep here. Other ways to make going to sleep early a pleasure rather than a chore include investing in soft silky bedsheets or pyjamas, diffusing lavender essential oil in the bedroom or drinking chamomile tea before bedtime. I would also avoid vigorous exercise late in the evening as it can get your adrenaline going. You can also try doing a big full body squeeze & release by lying on your back in bed with your legs stretched out. Make fists with your hands and scrunch up your face and squeeze all your muscles tightly creating as much tension in your body as possible. Then let everything release and let your body drop heavily into your bed. Do that 3 times.
5) Having quiet alone time
Learn to enjoy your own company and let go of ideas of being embarrassed or ashamed about being on your own. Maybe you don’t like solitude because your thoughts become loud and it feels like there’s too much going on inside your head. Try to stay with that discomfort & eventually it won’t feel so weird.
6) Being out in nature
Walking in nature and being outdoors is great for your wellbeing. Try to do this without your phone or any distractions. Focus on everything that surrounds you, including the sights, smells and sounds. Spending time with Mother Nature in the great outdoors helps to reduce stress, find clarity, and refresh your mind while invigorating your body. Try going for a hike, take the dog out, or walk on the beach barefoot and get grounded.
7) Taking a relaxing bath or shower before bed
Taking a peaceful bath is a great way to relax at the end of the day. You can have an Epsom salt bath, which is rich in magnesium and wonderful for relaxing your muscles and getting your body ready for bed or try adding 3-4 drops of relaxing lavender or chamomile essential oils to your bath. For a skin-calming bath, put some oats in a cheesecloth or a sock and knot it up. Tie the buddle to the tap and run the bath water through it. You may even want to light some candles and put on some soft music to help you unwind.
8) Have boundaries
It’s important to give to others, especially your loved ones but giving too much may make you resentful. A lot of people fear setting boundaries as they think it makes them selfish. It can be especially challenging for people who identify as “people pleasers.” However setting boundaries is simply asking for respect. If we say yes to everything and everyone, we can feel stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out. It’s helpful to remember that when you say “no” to things, it frees up your time to focus on the pursuits that truly energize and excite you.