Self care is a popular buzzword at the moment, but unlike most buzzwords, it’s a phrase that we should take seriously. It essentially means making time for yourself. In an age when we are constantly pulled in eleven different directions, we all feel the strain.
But, what exactly is self care?
Without sounding like an ancient Kung-Fu master from a cheesy 80’s film, self care is many things and one thing all at the same time.
Basically, it can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you are making time for yourself. Just like the perfect diet, self care isn’t the same for everyone. If you feel that a 30-minute jog will help you refresh your mind, then we’ll happily hand you your running gear and wave you to the door. If you feel that you’d rather curl up in bed with a good book for those 30-minutes, that’s perfectly okay too. Self care comes in many shapes and sizes.
Why is self care important?
Self care is important because it helps keep you motivated. Whether you need the motivation to meet your fitness goals or you just need help getting out of bed in the morning. By making time for yourself you are recharging your batteries and replenishing your ability to deal with the daily strains that life is so fond of throwing at us.
Self care also helps you avoid burnout. It’s true, if you’re constantly on the go, surviving on cups of coffee and power bars you will not be able to sustain the momentum. You need to take some time to replenish the energy that you’ve lost while stressing over that presentation, or panicking about whether or not ‘Momo’ has infiltrated your kids’ YouTube videos.
When our emotional and physical resources have been depleted for whatever reason, we’re less able to give the required care and attention to our family, friends and our work.
What are the benefits of self care?
Self care doesn’t necessarily have the same, obvious health benefits as a healthy diet and regular exercise, but it’s a critical element for long-term wellbeing. Existing in a continual state of stress is not healthy and will have far-reaching effects on almost all aspects of your life.
When our bodies are stressed, adrenaline and cortisol flood our system and our heart rate increases. Essentially, we have time-travelled back to the time of primitive man as our body enters flight-or-fight response. Self care, on the other hand, triggers our ‘rest and digest division’, which is responsible for calming and relaxing your body.
When you’re relaxed, all the responses that signify alertness, such as the increased heart rate and slower digestive function and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, return to their normal state. Your heart rate decreases and your blood pressure lowers. Think of self care as your ‘off-switch’ that lets your body know you are no longer in any danger and it can calm down.
Want to understand more about your body’s stress response (and how to manage it effectively)? Download our Guide to Stress, Mindfulness & Meditation.
The positive effects of self care on your immune system
The primary benefit of self care is that it helps boost our immune system. As mentioned above, when we’re in a permanent state of stress the hormones; adrenaline and cortisol inhibit our ability to relax and sleep properly.
Stress, sleep and your immune system
When you’re stressed or anxious your quality of sleep is one of the first things to suffer. Stress and sleep go hand in hand, when you’re stressed, you tend to sleep less and when you don’t sleep well, you become more easily stressed. It’s a vicious circle. While we are asleep our body heals itself. If our ability to get a decent night’s sleep is interrupted, our immune system suffers - leading to feeling rundown or getting sick more regularly. Thus, making sure you get a full night’s sleep is the simplest form of self care options available.
Creating a self care routine
Making time for yourself doesn’t have to carve out a large chunk of your time, self care can take up as little as 25-30 minutes of your day. While you’re in the shower you could practice mindfulness meditation. Or, if you are lucky enough to have someone in your life to help you balance mom/dad duties, spend a few hours a week doing something that makes you happy. Go and watch a movie, treat yourself to a cup of coffee at your favourite restaurant or take a pottery class. Try to build self care into your daily life.
If you’re so inclined, journaling is a great way to unwind You could use your time on the tube to reflect on your day. If you have pets, they will definitely benefit from a 30-minutes walk on the weekends or, if you have time, in the evenings after work. A little bit of exercise will be good for you both.
Create a self care checklist
If you’re a self care newbie, you might not know where or how to begin. We’re here to help.
Consider your time. You have 168 hours in a week. Finding a place and time for self care can start there. Look at your diary and pencil in time that you plan to dedicate to yourself.
Be realistic. As we’ve mentioned before, self care can be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep and as ambitious as taking a year off for yourself to live in a Yurt in Tibet. Start small with your self care activities and goals. Otherwise, you won’t be able to maintain your routine and may get disheartened. Not all of us can drop everything and head off to Tibet.
Start with the basics. Small things like eating a healthy, nutritious meal everyday and getting enough exercise can go a long way towards improving our mental health and wellbeing.
Check in with yourself. While life often throws us curve balls, we must always remember to be gentle with ourselves. If we get to busy or time runs away from us, don’t berate yourself too much. Simply take a deep breath and start over.
We know that every so often all of us need to slow the world down in order to reach our goals. Being healthier and happier isn’t only about diet and exercise. It also extends to your general wellbeing. Self care should be a priority because YOU are a priority.
Remember, if you can be anything, be kind to yourself.
For more ideas to help you become a self care guru, download our checklist, Mastering the Art of Self Care.
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