In our busy, fast-paced world it’s easy to overlook those small and seemingly insignificant tasks and rituals that make us feel great. You know the ones I mean – the things that keep us mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually well.
I get it. I am often guilty of cancelling the one thing in my day that I’m doing for myself and making time for something else instead. In the moment, that ‘something else’ seems to be the most important thing in the world. Yet experience has shown me (especially when I start to get run down and depleted) that the ‘something else’ was never as important as what I had intended to do for my own sake.
Can you relate to this?
If so, then I can say you’re definitely not alone. A pattern I have noticed is that most people only wake up to the importance of self-care once they’ve entered a crisis. They aren’t coming from a place of prevention, they are coming from a place of cure – however this ‘cure journey’ is always more arduous to traverse!
So what is self-care? Some people think it’s all about facials and massages. While self-care can include pampering yourself, it is actually much bigger, more meaningful, and fundamentally important to how we experience (and enjoy) life.
It’s not much fun being unwell, unhealthy or living with chronic illness.
Self-Care is defined by the World Health Organisation as:
Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.), and self-medication.
It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality is we are not doing self-care very well at all!!!
How do you know this, Kate? I hear you ask.
The World Health Organisation did a study in 2010 on ‘lifestyle diseases’. These are diseases such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes. They discovered that these diseases account for 63% of all deaths worldwide. In industrialised countries the figure is much higher – for example in the UK it accounted for 88% of all deaths. I imagine Australia would have a similar percentage. The WHO also predicted that by 2020 the worldwide figure will have risen by 15% – meaning that 78% of all deaths globally will be from lifestyle diseases.
Here is the clincher though:
80% of lifestyle diseases are PREVENTABLE!!!!
Clearly, we are not taking care of ourselves in a way that promotes good physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
My guess is that we don’t value self-care enough (until we reach that crisis point). Because self-care tasks are normally pretty simple, we humans often confuse that simplicity with its effectiveness. If something is simple and straightforward we tend to gloss over it as unimportant or insignificant.
Let me give you an example: as crucial as it is to our survival, most of us actually don’t breathe properly. Imagine taking a few minutes every day to breathe deeply and concentrate on oxygenating your entire body.
Promotes overall health and vitality? Absolutely!
Dr Andrew Weil, MD, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, says that if he could do one thing for a chronically ill patient that would improve their health it would be to teach them how to breathe properly. That’s how powerful our breath is in maintaining vibrant health.
Yet, so many of us don’t take the time to breathe properly!
So what are ‘self-care’ activities? Basically it’s any activity that fills you up, promotes overall health and vitality, and leaves you feeling better and more energised in the long-term. Based on that, self-care is a very individual thing. Even though there are general activities that seem to work for everyone, what works for me might not work for you. It’s not about a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s about taking the time to tailor a self-care plan that gives you maximum bang for your time and money.
Take a moment to really think about what works for you and schedule that into your diary or phone RIGHT NOW. If you need some ideas, below I’ve included a (non-exhaustive) list of self-care activities that you could choose from.
Self-Care For The Mind:
- Avoid toxic people;
- Learn not to feel selfish when you say “no” – create a NO list;
- Take SLAVE words out of your vocabulary – ie. should, have to, need to, and must;
- Challenge your negative thinking;
- Take another route to work, or do a routine differently. Develop new neural pathways and keep your brain healthy by mixing up your routine in small ways;
- Learn how to make a budget and keep track of your money (this really is a great stress-reducer!);
- Develop an energising morning ritual – take in some water, breathe, meditate, read, move around etc. Or a relaxing evening ritual – reading, mediation, a cup of tea when the kids have gone to bed;
- Discover your stress indicators – ie. mood swings, short temper, or feeling drained, overwhelmed, or angry. Use these “warning signs” as a sign that you need some “me time” and self-care;
- Declutter your life – ie. your wardrobe/kitchen/bathroom cupboard/office. Every month, pick an area and work on that by getting rid of three things a day;
- Check your to-do list for something that’s been there for ages, and get it done.
Self-Care For The Body:
- Stretch your body for five minutes a day, either in the morning or evening;
- Do some simple deep breathing exercises;
- Drink more water and less of those drinks that contain stimulants like coffee, tea and alcohol;
- Exercise at least four times a week and find opportunities to move your body – take the stairs or walk the long way from the carpark;
- Spend 10 minutes in the sun and let it warm your skin. Take your shoes off and walk barefoot on the grass at the same time (my favourite!);
- Go hiking in nature or walk along the beach and notice the beauty around you;
- Choose food that is nutrient dense AND tasty. Ensure that there are lots of colours in your meals and that the food is as close to nature as possible;
- Know your body intimately – find pleasure in it and learn not to judge yourself;
- Stimulate your sense of smell with aromatherapy oils or scented candles in your home or workplace. Add oils to a bath to make it more luxurious;
- Have a monthly massage or floatation tank to de-stress your body.
Self Care For The Spirit
- Make time for meditation every day;
- Help someone in some way. Maybe open a door or carry a bag for someone; or feed a stranger’s parking meter;
- Read some spiritual literature or attend a spiritual service;
- Sit somewhere green and be still and quiet for a few minutes;
- Connect with nature and animals;
- Keep a journal to express your thoughts and feelings;
- Practise mindfulness whilst doing mundane tasks;
- Intentionally find five unexpected beautiful things on your way to work;
- Keep a Gratitude Journal or have a Gratitude Practise;
- Try to understand why others think, feel, and react differently. Put yourself in their shoes and see how you would feel about their actions.
- Order in dinner;
- Create a playlist of songs that soothe and calm you;
- Go on a two-day holiday for the weekend;
- Do some gardening. Dig your hands into the dirt and enjoy the feeling!
- Buy some flowers that delight you;
- Walk somewhere with a nice view of the sunset;
- Read a fictional book purely for pleasure;
- Remove any equipment or appliances that make you feel bad about yourself – such as the bathroom scales;
- Create a Manifesto for your home that makes you feel great;
- Give yourself permission to have a body-shaking cry if you need to – feel free to listen to sad songs or watch a sad movie.
Self-Care is the key to living a long and healthy life: the statistics prove it! But self-care is more than that: it’s the greatest act of self-love you could ever bestow upon yourself.
DO IT 🙂