Perhaps like me you find practicing self-care difficult. Between a full-time job, writing, a busy household and some other endeavours, me-time is usually last on my agenda. And when I do take some time out for myself, I end up feeling guilty about it. During a spa treatment with a friend a few weeks ago the self-care penny dropped. I was only gone for the morning, but I returned home not only feeling physically relaxed but emotionally rested as well. I realized I need to take care of myself and going to a spa once in a blue moon is great, but it is not enough. I need to incorporate self-care strategies into my everyday life. What I have come to realize in the last few weeks is there is no correct or perfect way of self-care. So if you were expecting me to give you the perfect recipe for self-care – ditch that idea. The goal is rather to figure out which self-care strategies work best for you, learn how to use them, and try to implement a few (not all 12) into your regular routine.
“As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for rest, relaxation, self-care, and sleep.”Akiroq Brost
Here are 12 ways to get started with your self-care.
1. Start your day with a ritual
Most of us start the day running and we only stop when we fall into bed at the end of the day. Starting your day with an enjoyable ritual can be very grounding. It does not have to be time consuming or difficult – it can be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee or tea in the garden, some gentle stretching, or a few minutes of meditating.
2. Move it!
Get at least 30 minutes of some kind of aerobic exercise – whether it is a solid gym session, or a lunch time walk. Daily exercise is not only good for your physical health, but also helps boost your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, not to mention making you feel good about yourself. If like me, you struggle to commit to an exercise schedule, the great news is you don’t even have to do it all at once – take three 10 minute walks if you can’t do a full half hour at a time. The most important thing is to find a routine that works for you and your lifestyle.
3. Practicing gratitude
End your day with a list of things you are grateful for. I have found that focusing on what I am grateful for helps me put things into perspective. Practicing a daily Examen is helpful to me. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day. The Examen is an ancient practice that not only helps us become aware of those things we are grateful for, but also helps detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. Read more about the examen at https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/
4. Get enough sleep
I know this one is difficult, but it is so important. During sleep our brains rid themselves of toxins, build neural highways, and consolidate memory…which in short means it is really good for us. Make sure your bedroom is the best possible place for you to get good sleep. Consider removing any distractions such as a television, laptop and cell phone from your bedroom. Room-darkening curtains are also a great idea to prevent the sun from waking you too early in the morning.
5. Take care of your brain
It turns out, like the rest of our body, our brains are subject to the ‘use it or lose it’ theory. This being said it is obvious that we need to take care of our brains by challenging them. According to those in the know, learning a new skill is a great way of exercising your grey matter. If that sounds a little too daunting, you can simply just take a different route to work in the morning.
6. Set a menu for the week
We all know eating healthy and fresh foods is important and it sounds easy until well, life happens! By doing just a little planning you can eliminate those ‘I don’t have time to cook’ purchases (microwave meals, chocolate bars) and the guilty feelings that come along with them. Some of the best self-care foods include fatty fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and blueberries. If cooking is not your thing, consider a meal delivery service of meal kit that can help you cook something healthy.
7. Try to do something you enjoy every day
Sometimes life can feel so mundane. Choose to do one thing a day that makes you smile and gives you energy. Whether it is drinking a good cup of coffee, taking an hour out of your day to read, or drawing yourself a bubble bath at the end of the day. Do it, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty.
8. Say no!
I am talking to myself here. I have (and still do) struggle to say no. Learning to say no is difficult. For some reason many of us feel obliged to say yes when someone asks for our time and energy. Saying yes when you are already overworked and stressed, can lead to anxiety, irritability and burnout. Learning to politely say no is an important part of self-care. You don’t have to start saying no to everything and everyone all at once. Start small. It may take a little practice, but it will be worth is.
9. Schedule your self-care time
I have found if I do not schedule some time in my calendar for self-care it just doesn’t happen. Although it can be difficult to find the extra time, it is extremely important to plan regular self-care. Moments alone keep us grounded and help us ponder the best way to move forward in our life. Be creative and look for small ways you can incorporate it into everyday life.
It is also worth while planning a self-care break every once and a while. It does not have be expensive or even take a lot of time – book a mini Pedi, or drive to the next town and see the sights. The goal is to get away form your normal routine and take some time to do something for yourself.
10. Fill your life with the right people
Surround yourself with people who are stimulating and positive. Take time out to spend time with a friend who cares and listens to you.
11. Get organized.
I have found getting organized has helped me become a healthier me. Just a small change like keeping a to-do list has freed me of the anxiety I sometimes feel, because I am afraid of forgetting something.
Take time to decompress every day. I have found putting my phone away for 5 minutes and concentrating on my breathing has a wonderfully calming effect on me. I use the Himalayan institute’s four skills for proper breathing.
- Nose breathing – practice breathing through your nose instead of your mouth.
- Focus – Focus on your breathing – inhalation and exhalation. By focusing on your breathing, you will breathe deeper and more evenly.
- Breathing diaphragmatically – Learn to breath diaphragmatically rather than in your chest. Chest breathing is shallow breathing and shallow breathing is not good breathing. With diaphragmatic breathing your abdomen should expand when you inhale and fall when you exhale.
- Strengthen your diaphragm – to ensure effective diaphragmatic breathing you need to strengthen your diaphragm with exercises such as sandbag breathing and the crocodile pose. Keep an eye out on my blog for more on this.
Take (self) care!