By Christelle Rautenbach
Self-care is quite self-explanatory – or is it? When most people think of self-care they see a pampering session and some me-time. But is that all it is? What does it really mean? What does it mean to you?
The Dictionary says this: The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
What it means to me
Creating sustainable, healthy habits, rituals and routines that result in a calmer mind, a body that functions better and a spirit that feels alive.
It means adding to your life, not restricting. To focus on creating balance, from physical to mental, emotional, spiritual and beyond. It means making hard choices with the intention of love, for yourself and your life. It means respecting your own values and choices. It sometimes means pushing through and sitting with the discomfort of these choices. It means creating a space where you can be calm and self soothe when you need it. It means working on self-awareness and saying no (and sometimes yes). It means working towards your goals, and sometimes taking a break from it. It means asking for help when you need it.
How do you go about achieving this?
Everyone is different and everyone’s needs are different. But there are some basic ways to achieve a more balanced life:
A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your mental and physical health. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. It regulates hormones – which directly affects your mood, processes memory function, repair cells…the list is endless.
There are some things you can do to help yourself sleep better :
Create an evening routine that includes soothing and calming activities – try to start your bed time routine at the same time every night. You may start with a relaxing candle lit bath, followed by a gentle and slow self massage and moisturizing session (with the soy wax candle used during your bath. The essential oils in the candle will further promote calm and healing).
Do some stretching or yoga followed by meditation to slow the body and your breathing. Reflect on your day and practice gratitude with a daily journaling practice while sipping on a soothing herbal tea. Exercise during the day will promote quality sleep, but avoid before going to bed as the idea is to slow down. Choose calming and soft music instead of loud noises (tv or youtube) and avoid bright lights and screens. Create a cosy space for yourself with soft blankets and comfortable pillows. You can even try some self-hypnosis for good measure!
MOVE YOUR BODY
We all know how important exercise is, but why is it so difficult to maintain? Because you don’t enjoy and you don’t prioritize it. Find something you love to do, it doesn’t have to be the same thing every day. You don’t need to become a gym fanatic, simply move your body MORE – the what doesn’t matter.
There are many activities that will make you forget you are exercising…dancing, gardening, playing the drums (I learnt to play the drums at the age of 29, never having ever played a musical instrument before), playing with your kids, walking the dog, going to the beach, play in the pool, yoga…
If picking a time slot every day is not sustainable for you…pick things you CAN do that all add up at the end of the day…park further away, take the stairs, walk around the block or house even, stretch for a few minutes, learn some dance moves, start a DIY project…
The point is to MOVE YOUR BODY – celebrate what your body can do, don’t punish it for not being YOUR version of perfect.
NOURISH YOUR BODY
Ah! Food. Delicious nourishing food. Food fuels us heals us and helps the body function. It also makes us happy. It comforts us. When you start the process of listening to your body rather than forcing rules upon it, punishing it, starving or ignoring it, you start making choices from a place of love and respect for your body. Awareness is the key to working towards a stronger and healthier body and mind.
To meditate simply means connecting to and becoming more aware of your breath. It takes you out of your head, thinking about your to-do list or that difficult client or what to make for dinner, and into the present moment. You can use breathing exercises when you feel anxious or stressed but making meditation a daily habit will transform the way you feel, respond to difficult situations and calm your always busy mind. You will feel more creative, productive and at ease. There are many different types of meditation, but a simple connection to your breath every day is a great place to start and will bring many benefits.
Laughter can benefit your physical and mental health. It relieves physical tension and stress, triggers the release of endorphins and boosts your immune system not to mention your mood. Learn to laugh at yourself every now and then. Life can be scary and difficult, and humour certainly lightens the load. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh.
We all need support. I truly realized how essential it is to have a good support system when dealing with the loss of my brother, then becoming a first time mom a year later. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, lean on your friends and family, they want to help you, let them. Make sure to give support in return. We have a way of getting in our own heads and so busy with our own lives and problems, we sometimes forget to check in with loved ones.
Social connection is highly beneficial for your health and happiness. Make an effort to keep in touch and try to make new friends every now and then. That said, toxic and draining connections are detrimental to your mental health, take stock and let go of the friendships that no longer serve you. You deserve better.
FIND A HOBBY
Finding and making time for activities you enjoy is a great way to improve your mental health and overall emotional well being. Why? Hobbies decrease stress by relaxing you and taking your mind off the stresses and routine of daily life. Here’s the best part – you don’t have to be good at it. If you enjoy it, go for it. It doesn’t matter if your crafts are not Pinterest material, the benefits far out weigh the results. Pick something and go for it!
On a more serious note, it is vital to your well being to create boundaries in your friendships, relationships as well as work life. Creating emotional boundaries is the process of separating your emotions and feelings from those of another.
CREATE A SPACE FOR YOURSELF
Create a calming space for yourself where you can disconnect and enjoy time alone. Put real effort into the elements of the space and make it yours. Plants, candles, art, books, wine…what ever brings you joy, there are no rules.
SHOW UP FOR YOURSELF
Cultivating awareness will help you to notice old patterns and behaviours that no longer align with who YOU are. It will enable you to objectively evaluate your thoughts, emotions and actions and manage these more efficiently. What better way to show up for yourself and create a more fulfilling life.
Why Self Care?
Just as you nurture others, you need nurturing yourself. You need compassion and love and protection. And sometimes you also need a good talking too. Learn to treat yourself with love and respect, and the rest will follow.