The phrase Self Care is incredibly popular within the media these days and as the number of people suffering from poor mental health, stress and exhaustion is growing year on year it is an important topic to be discussed.
Nevertheless, I personally believe this popular phrase should be rephrased. Self Care sounds a little woo-woo and airy fairy. Instagram images of face masks and soaking in lush bubble baths immediately springs to mind. Self Care should in fact be known as Self Preservation. Self Preservation is the act of doing several different activities which light you up and spark joy, in order to preserve your mental health.
As the saying goes you cannot pour from an empty cup. If you constantly give to your friends, family, job etc without taking time for yourself it will inevitably result in a burn out. Burn outs are not good for us or our mental health and can be avoided by implementing some simple techniques into our daily routine in order to look after ourselves. By filling yourself up with a little love and care you will be more effective at looking after those around you. You are less likely to snap at someone or lose your cool in an instant. You are less likely to feel drained and exhausted at the end of each day and you are more likely to feel empowered and fulfilled within yourself. Anxiety and stress can not coexist alongside relaxation.
Take A Minute To Breathe
A common excuse people use for not looking after themselves is “but I don’t have time.” What that insidiously really means is it is not a priority to them. Self preservation should be a priority- especially when it can take as little as a minute of your time a few times per day.
When you feel pressure and stress mounting and taking control then I recommend using the following breathing technique to calm the mind and take charge of your feelings and emotions.
1. Stop whatever you’re doing and either lower your gaze or close your eyes completely.
2. Place your softly hands on your lower abdomen.
3. Take a cleansing deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
4. Adopt the box breathing technique. Breathe in the nose for the count of four; hold the breath at the top for four; exhale for four and hold for four.
5. Repeat this pattern 3/4 times
This is an incredibly simple breathing technique which calms the central nervous system and stops your fight or flight instinct from kicking in. Simple breathing brings you back into the present moment and gives you something to focus or rather than getting caught up in the mind chatter.
Make A Commitment To Yourself
In the past when I was feeling outta whack I would make a ridged schedule and put so much pressure on myself to stick to it. “I must practice an hour of yoga every day,” I would tell myself, and when I didn’t manage I would feel shame, guilt and failure. The polar opposite of looking after myself and taking positive steps to feel good.
Nowadays, I don’t make strict schedules anymore. I try and tap into my intuition and listen to what my body needs each day. Some mornings that involves taking to my mat and stretching out my body through a yoga flow. Other days it involves hitting the snooze button my alarm and savouring an extra half an hour in bed. By listening to exactly what your body, mind and soul needs you are more likely to finish the day feeling like you’ve achieved some form of balance within yourself and less defeated by not meeting an unrealistic target.
Countless scientific studies explain that moving the body through exercise aids positive mental health and helps maintain a healthy body and mind. It is important to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping!
Some of my favourite ways to get moving are to walk back to work on my lunch hour; go climbing with my boyfriend; take a pole dancing class; head over to YouTube and take an online yoga class; throw on a podcast and head out for a run. The list is endless really. Try different activities and see what you enjoy and makes you feel good!
Finally, take time to cook something bright, colourful and tasty. We don’t just use our tastebuds when we eat. Your brain is also stimulated by a variety of smells, colours and textures. I often notice that when I’ve been eating poorly and neglecting my body by feeding it a poor diet I feel sluggish, lethargic and more irritable than usual. I also understand that if you are cooking for one it can feel difficult to put in the effort and cook a proper meal for yourself- I often struggle with this mentality. My solution for this is to invite a friend or my boyfriend over and cook for them too! This gives me more accountability and pride to do a good job so the other person gets to enjoy a healthy, wholesome meal too. I also ensure that I make a meal plan for the week and keep it visible in the kitchen to remind myself of all the tasty treats I have to look forward to each day.
These are a few of the most basic techniques that I will always come back to when I need to take care of myself better. Self preservation takes time and a level of discipline in order to form strong habits. It’s easy to forget these skills and techniques when life feels good and we don’t think we need them. However, it is important to maintain them in daily life in order to look after our mental, physical and spiritual selves. I hope these are beneficial to you and you pass them on to friends and family as new tools to add to their mental health toolkit.
By talking to one another about mental health we can help improve the overall mood of this country and look after one another. Communities who share skills, knowledge and information with one another will thrive and grow.