What is, exactly, self-care and why it matters?
Self-care is taking care of you. Is making sure you take good care of your body, mind and soul. Everyday. Not just when you are sick or already overwelmed by anxiety.
Self-care is not only about bubble baths, getting a massage, a glass of wine or chocolates. Nothing wrong with bubble baths or massages (if they give you joy do it!!) but it’s dificult to have them everyday on a normal busy life. I am talking about developing self care strategies which lead to develop skills to better deal with the daily challanges of life.
Learning how to take care of you, learning how to listen and read the signs your body is sending you, can keep you not only healthy and fit but also resilient. It makes you more focused and increases your energy and self- esteem. It allows you to pause, takes you out of auto-pilot, gives you space to feel and heal, space to breath.
No matter what you choose to do, the main thing is to discover which self-care strategy works better for you, learn how to use them and implement them in your regular routine so you can boost your wellbeing not only that day, but forever!
The benefits of developing a solid self-care routine include:
- Improving self esteem
- Improving our health
- Enhancing self awareness
- Developing confidence
- Curiosity (which gives us the opportunity to try new things, discover new interests and lead to new passions and goals)
- Rest and relaxation
- Promoting healthy relationships
- Lowering stress and anxiety
- Making us stronger and resilient: when our self-esteem and self-awareness improves, it has a positive effect on our overall mindset. This, in turn, enables us to care for our friends and loved ones in a way that we might not have been able to do before.
Note: Self-care isn’t a women’s thing. This is a non gender subject. Taking time everyday to pause can make the difference from a happy and more focused life to a unhappy and stressed life.
If it is so important and has so many benefits why do we often fail at self-care?
Here’s the catch: practicing self-care isn’t always easy. We have busy lifes.
I’m sure you know the feeling of having your attention fractured by job and family, social life, the distraction of electronic diversions, or the chatter of your mind. Even when we are still our mind is not: endlessly regretting the past and worrying about the future.
Real me time is usually last on the agenda. Sometimes we even feel guilty about taking the required time to take care of us, or we fear the reaction of others. We judge others and we judge ourselfs the same way: seeing self-time and self-care has an act of indulgence.
Yes, self-care can be challenging.
In order to be able to establish a daily and strong self-care routine you need first to understand the importance of it, and to realize it’s not a waist of your time but instead it can make you gain, not only time, but energy and joy.
"Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you" Katie Reed
Here are some Self-care strategies that you can adapt to your life:
Clarify why you need to practice self-care: We are more likely to do something when we know why we are doing it :)
Make Sleep part of your self-care routine: Sleep has a big effect on how you feel physically and emotionally. Not having enough sleep can have devastating effects.
If you feel you are having trouble sleeping due to stress or anxiety, you have to start thinking about establish a night routine:
- Set an hour to go to bed and stick to it (no excuses).
- Replace tv or internet by reading a book.
- Don’t eat or drink immediately before going to bed (specially caffeine or sugar).
- Use a guided meditation to help you fall a sleep or to relax before going to bed.
- Make your room a place of rest (no tv and phone allowed)
- Go back to the old alarm clock (once again: no excuses!)
- Do some deep breathings before sleep.
Eat right: What we eat has an impact on our life. It’s commun knowledge but we tend to ignore it. An unhappy gut leads to an unhappy person and vice-versa. Fill your body with nourishing food.
Exercise daily: make exercise part of your self-care routine. It’s good for us. Daily exercise can help us boost our mood and reduces stress and anxiety. It keep us fit. If you don’t have time to go the gym try to walk, bike, try yoga, join a dance class. Get out of your confort zone and discover what resonates with you.
Learn to say No: Another challenge. Saying no to others can mean saying yes to yourself. Don’t feel obliged to say yes when someone asks for your time, specially if it’s going to drain your energy. Learn to say no in a polite way. Make your life simpler by stopping explaining yourself to people and just do what works for you. You will start to have more time for the things you actually enjoy doing and you will feel empowered.
Get out: Spending time outside in nature can help you reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and help you to be more mindful.
Studies have shown that getting outside can help reduce fatigue and overcome symptoms of depression or burnout.
Nature is still the best medicine!
Take a self-care break: Learning to identify when you need a pause it’s important.
One of the main reasons that lead people to retreats are the necessity of a pause.
Taking a self-care trip can make a huge difference in your life. Getting away for a weekend every now and then can help you to disconnect, relax and feel rejuveneted.
The goal is to get away from your normal schedule and take time to do something just for yourself.
Get organized: keep your life organized. Small changes, like having an agenda or a planner, writting down responsabilities and appointments, is often the first step to become a healthier you.
You can also decluter your house, your working space, your closets. It will bring you space andf freedom.
Start journaling: I always carry a notebook with me.
If the uncertainties of the future feel overwhelming, try writing down a wish list. Think about how you want your life to look. What do you want to achieve? Which experiences do you want to have? What kind of person you want to be? Then put pen to paper.
Put down in words what you really want. Expressing your desires in concrete terms helps them to seem achievable. It narrows them down to a list of goals, landmarks in the map of future. And then you can start directing your first steps towards the place you want to go.
Journaling allows you to figure out exactly what you need to take care of yourself.
Start a gratitude practice: Gratitude rewires your brain : the hypothalamus (the part of our brain that regulates a number of our body functions including sleep, temperature, metabolism) is activated when we feel gratitude. And feelings of gratitude floods the brain with dopamine.
You can start a gratitude journal, find a gratitude partner to change emails every week on what you are thankful for (email me, I’ll be grateful to be your gratitude partner), or just say “thank you for another day” when you open your eyes in the morning.
Gratitude also makes you have more acts of kindness, reliefs stress, reduces anxiety and increase energy and vitality.
Make a list of things that give you joy and repeat them. Document the moments that gave you joy: what you were wearing, who you were with, what you were doing. Recreat and repeat. Joy raises our vibration.
Cook at home: Cooking is an act of love. For yourself and others.
Read a book on self-care: Put your phone down. Read a book. You might be amazed at the difference it can make when you slow down instead of always looking at your Phone. It improves your mood and it helps you to stay more present and mindful. “Miracle morning” by Hal Elrod is an example of a fantastic book to help you put together a self-care mourning routine.
Take responsability: taking life to the next level begins by accepting total and full responsability for your life (and refusing to blame anyone else). Be honest with yourself.
Control your habits: habits create your life.
Silence: It allows you to connect with yourself and understand what is going on inside of you. Allows you to become more present. Start a meditation practice.
Make self-care a priority: schedule your self-care practice and guard that time.
You can start by bringing self-awareness on the excuses your mind is telling you. “I don’t have the time” is an excuse. Not having the time means not having your priorities clear.
When you understand the importance of making time for you, you will find the time.
Write it on your agenda, don’t lieve it for last. Schedule it.
It can be hard for all of us to find the extra time. But it is extremely importante to plan self-care time. After you make it a priority, be consistent, turn it into a habit.
You will start seeing immediate results and that will be all the motivation you need to continue.
How to start a self-care routine
Start by looking for small ways to incorporate it on your daily life.
If you don’t have time during the day start waking up 15 minutes early and sit with a cup of tea and practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins.
If you have a lunch time break take a walk around the block or go to a park and listen to a guided breathing meditation.
Or maybe after the kids are in bed: put your phone away and take 15 minutes in silence for you or to write on your journal.
If you notice that a certain schedule is not working try another one until it feels right. Don’t force it.
After you have establish those 15 minutes for you, be curious and explore.
Discover what activities bring you more peace of mind: meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, a gratitude practice. There are diferent types of meditation, several free resources you can use (try the Calm app for example), find the one that works for you.
Mediation brings silence to your mind, it helps you to concentrate.
Concentration is a steadying and focusing of attention that allows us to let go of distractions. When our attention is stabilized in this way energy is restored to us—and we feel restored to our lives. You may not be convinced that sitting and breathing can lead to personal transformation but it does. Test it for yourself.
Besides the 15 minutes (or more) that you take for yourself daily (to meditate, breathing execises, journaling or just to enjoy a cup of tea in silence) you can add to your routine: a good night sleep, exercise, nourishing food, getting organized and with clear priorities, planning a break, do the things that bring you joy. Once again: test it for yourself. And let me know the results.
The key element for success in putting together a self-care routine that works: doing things that resonate with you. Find that one thing that feels right. Do what you actually want to do rather than what you think you should do. Listen to your body.
When you find it stick to it: repeat it and turn it into a habit.
If you are not used to take time for yourself it will take time to get used to it. Don’t do everything at once, and don’t beat up yourself if you slip. Be kind to yourself.
A self-care routine can calm your anxiety, build resilience and tune you in with your intuition.
Here is an example of a morning routine you can adapt:
- Drink a glass of water or of hot water with lemon, to hydrate and to boost your mood and energy.
- Meditate: cultivate awareness, listen to what silence has to say. Set your intentions for the day
- Create gratitude: write down three things you are grateful for. It will put you in a positive state.
- Nourish your body with healthy food, take time for breakfast.
- Train the breath: calm the nervous system and induces tranquility.
- Journal: thoughts, fears, ideas, insights, emotions, desires.
- Move your body: exercise boost mood, fight stress and promotes brain cell growth.
Once again if you are not used to take the time for yourself, all of this can seem overwelming. You can start small and once you feel the benefits you will, in a natural way, find space in your life and in yourself to your own practice. And remember: you are not alone.
If you need help establishing a self-care practice you can join self-care programs or work with another person who can help support your progress ( it can be an accountability partner or a professional coach).
The reason why most self-care ideas don’t work is because they are missing the point.
Scented candles, chocolates or a glass of wine is not going to solve stress or overwhelm. Some of this things are even counter-intuitive.
We don’t take care of ourselves with any kind of external products.
The point is to make time for yourself and you understand why it is important.
Sef-care is the act of just “be” rather than “do”. The believe that your time is as importante as everyone else’s. And the recognition that giving your body and mind time to pause is as important as being productive.
Self-care is not a reward for a bad day or a bad week. The more you can work real self-care time on your daily schedule, the better you will be able to enjoy your life, grow and succeed.
Take good care of you!