Self-care 101

Photo by Laura Marques on Unsplash

Self-care is not a new topic and unless you’re living under a rock you probably know by now how important it is to keep yourself feeling nurtured and fulfilled. But even in knowing how vital self-care is, as we approach the end of the year and diaries inevitably get fuller and fuller it is invariably the first thing to fall off the list. Because this time of year is so busy and so full of giving time and energy to others, this is the most important time of the year to be giving to yourself.

The thing is, the more you give to yourself the more you can give to others.

You may have heard of the cup & saucer metaphor – imagine a cup of water sitting on a saucer. If the cup is full and overflowing, you have plenty of water in your saucer to give to others. If your cup is only half full or even empty, then you don’t have much to share around. You are the cup, and it is up to you to fill yourself to the brim with water so much so that you are overflowing and have plenty to give to other people. No one else is going to do that for you, that’s on you.

There is plenty of research out there that shows how vital self-care is. Some interesting and perhaps surprising facts include:

  • Self-care that relaxes you supports the digestive system, cardiovascular health and helps your body manage hormones that keep you mentally and physically well[i] [ii]

  • Research shows that spending time with loved ones supports the growth of good bacteria in your gut, which will help optimise digestive health[iii]

  • Studies suggest that a good self-care plan will also address more spiritual aspects of your wellbeing. Even something as small as practising gratitude can help remind you or how connected you are to the world and bring out the best parts of yourself[iv]

Perhaps what is more important about self-care though, is the impact it has on others. Just like we saw with the cup of water, if you take some time out to recharge yourself everyday, the more energy you will have for those around you. Think about how different it feels when someone asks for help from you if you are tired and stressed, compared to relaxed and resourceful. Your perspective on life is so much different and you are able to give from a much more loving and generous place.

So now that we know just how wonderful and important self-care is, what can we be doing at this time of the year, especially when we are so time poor?

Below is the 101 of Self-Care. The most important thing when it comes to self-care is that you can play around with it. Self-care is meant to relax you and feed your soul, not feel like a burden or chore.

  • Start small. Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean putting 5 hours aside per day to spend at the spa. It can be as simple as taking some deep breaths. For example, for me self-care is taking 5 minutes each morning to really enjoy my first cup of green tea. If I can, I will sit outside on the balcony and take some time out. This doesn’t take very long and then I am free to go about my day feeling more rejuvenated than if I didn’t take that small block of time out.

  • Make it intentional. The actual act of self-care is one thing, but perhaps more important is the meaning and intention you are bringing to the action. It won’t count for much if it is feeling like a burden or a chore. So choose something that resonates with you and that you find relaxing and rejuvenating.

  • Take care of your body, mind and spirit. Self-care is about caring for the entirety of your human-beingness – this includes your body, your mind and your spirit. It’s important to make time (where you can) to develop a better relationship with all aspects of yourself, and nurture these aspects. Remember, the better the relationship you have with yourself, the better relationships you can have with others.

If you’re struggling to think of some ways you could build more self-care into your day, below are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude diary. Spend 5 minutes in the morning listing out 3 things you’re grateful for and why. Simply expanding your mind into more resourceful and positive territory in the morning sets you up for a more resourceful and positive mindset throughout the day. It also make you realise just how abundant your life already is.

  • Get outside. Spend a bit of time at your local park or take a walk by the water. Spending a bit of time in nature helps you connect with the environment more, as well as get all the benefits of some fresh air

  • Savour your morning coffee/tea. This is my fav thing to do and it’s a really lovely way to start the day. It doesn’t steal too much space out of your diary either so if you are pressed for time this may be the option for you.

  • Download a mindfulness app (Headspace is a great app) and practice 10-20 minutes of mindfulness each day. There is so much research on the benefits of mindfulness to almost every aspect of life. The effects it has on the physical body, including the way it physically changes your brain (actually), to the effects it has on creative thinking, stress management, focus, performance etc. The benefits are endless and really, it’s a no-brainer.

  • Eat wholesome, nutritious foods. Your diet is directly linked to your relationship with yourself. If you don’t prioritise yourself, you won’t prioritise feeding yourself the best foods that you can. That doesn’t mean you have to spend your life savings on eating only organic foods, or that you have to start making your own homemade sauerkraut. The way you eat should be optimised to take into account your entire lifestyle. There are always things you can do to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet and keep your microbiome happy so find something that works for you and go with it.

  • Make time to move. Move in a way that resonates with you. Exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous and doesn’t have to make you sweat out your body weight. If you want to exercise like Rocky, go for it. If not, you’re allowed to enjoy a light walk too.

  • Spend time with those you love. The positive impact socialising has on your health is astounding. Studies have shown that having more physical touch gives our body a boost and improves our mood. This doesn’t have to be with a romantic partner, this could be as simple as giving a friend a hug, or getting a massage.

Finally, probably the most important self-care muscle of them all, and the one worth working on day in and day out; Be kind to yourself. We’re all human. We all have flaws, insecurities, dreams, wishes, ambitions, failings, winnings, regrets and so much more. So create some space for yourself to be human, it’s the most beautiful thing about you.

[i] Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Parry, N. M., Galley, J. D., Schauer, D. B., & Lyte, M. (2010). Stressor Exposure Disrupts Commensal Microbial Populations in the Intestines and Leads to Increased Colonization by Citrobacter rodentium. Infection and Immunity, 78(4), 1509-1519. doi:10.1128/iai.00862-09

[ii] Desbonnet, L., Garrett, L., Clarke, G., Bienenstock, J., & Dinan, T. G. (2008). The probiotic Bifidobacteria infantis: An assessment of potential antidepressant properties in the rat. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43(2), 164-174.

[iii] Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69(1), 5-21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002

[iv] Emmons, R. A., & Mccullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,84(2), 377-389.